Lions and chrysanthemums

Asian & Middle Eastern Studies

This is a broad-ranging course that includes the opportunity to study the language, culture, history and politics of your chosen subject.

Diasporic Brush by Fiona Gilsenan

Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (AMES) covers the major languages and civilisations of Asia, from the Middle East (Arabic, Persian and Hebrew) to the Far East (Japanese and Chinese). Intensive language training provides a key to discovering these exciting cultures.

Lee Seng Tee Library

Students for Asian and Middle Eastern Studies follow one of three pathways

  • East Asian Studies: Students choose either Chinese or Japanese language.
  • Middle Eastern Studies: Students choose either Arabic, Hebrew or Persian as a single subject or a combination of two of these languages.
  • Middle Eastern Studies with a modern language: Students choose either Arabic, Hebrew or Persian in combination with one language offered by the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages (MML).

Students studying Asian & Middle Eastern Studies attain a high level of competence in the language and a thorough grounding in the culture of the area(s) studied.

All the courses in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies are four-year courses including a year abroad. The whole third year of the four-year course is spent abroad in a relevant country to improve fluency in the chosen language and knowledge of the culture.

Arabic mosque by Annie Spratt/unsplash

No particular subjects at A level (or equivalent) are required for the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies course. A language at A level is not essential, however we do look for evidence of ability to learn languages, since this is such a central part of our courses.

All languages are taught from scratch. Our courses may not be suitable for people who already have a thorough knowledge of the language in both its spoken and written forms. However, this should in no way discourage potential applicants from spending some time in the relevant country, and/or learning some of the language.

See also the university entrance requirements for general requirements for entry, qualifications and offers.

Candidates will need a clear head for grammar, the recognition of linguistic patterns and the learning of vocabulary. Although an experience of language learning is extremely useful, several students have excelled in this Tripos despite differing backgrounds.

Apart from language learning, all available subjects involve writing essays on a wide range of topics. An independent approach for learning together with evidence of wide reading will be expected. Enthusiasm is also essential, as is the ability to work in small groups.


Candidates who are invited to interview will be asked to submit two marked essays or other written work. This should be in a related discipline which the candidate is studying/ has studied. No prior knowledge of the subject will either be expected or required.

At present, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies applicants receive two or three interviews (depending on choice of subject) on the same day, with either two or three interviewers. Interviews are intended to inform us of your motivation and your overall ability and potential. One will be with the Director of Studies, usually joined by a specialist in the candidate’s chosen subject.

The Director of Studies is Wolfson Fellow Dr Sally Church and Prof Barak Kushner

Find out more about AMES on the faculty website and the University Undergraduate Prospectus. Specific information on the available courses within AMES can be found on the specific subject sites: Chinese Studies, Japanese Studies, Arabic Studies and Persian Studies, Hebrew Studies.