Universiteit Leiden

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Middle Eastern Studies (MA)

Leiden University’s Master’s in Middle Eastern Studies programme is a one-year, full-time Master’s programme that is taught completely in English. Building on a tradition of more than four centuries of studying the Middle East, we offer highly relevant and up to date insights into a wide variety of fascinating and inspirational topics.

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Why study Middle Eastern Studies at Leiden University?

The MA Middle Eastern Studies at Leiden University offers one of the most interdisciplinary programmes in the Netherlands, stretching the breadth of humanities and social sciences and involving multiple languages of the Middle East. Our research and teaching covers periods from the late antique and medieval to the premodern and contemporary times, and with a regional diversity stretching from North Africa and Central Asia, including the Levant, Asia Minor, the Arabian Peninsula and the Iranian Plateau, and their transnational and global interactions. Courses are offered and faculty members conduct research in a wide range of fields including history, politics, religion, anthropology, political economy, international relations, heritage, material culture, literature, philology and cultural production, among others.

Our research and education are further grounded in Arabic, Hebrew, Ottoman Turkish, Turkish and Persian studies. You will develop research projects supervised by faculty across this range of specializations, as evidenced by the wide variety of thesis topics submitted every year. Our MA programme alumni are successful in many academic and professional fields, and have gained admission in leading PhD programmes around the world.

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MOOC: The Cosmopolitan Medieval Arabic World

In this MOOC by Professor Petra Sijpesteijn, you will learn everything about the fascinating history of the Arabic Medieval World. Learn more about this course and enroll for free.

Some of the many good reasons to choose this programme

  • Leiden University has one of the largest Middle Eastern Studies research and teaching faculties in Europe.
  • The MA Middle Eastern Studies is a highly diverse and flexible programme.
  • Cutting edge research informs our teaching, and active connections are sought between research and teaching.
  • The Leiden University Library hosts a superb collection of source materials from and about the Middle East.
  • Leiden University's Faculty of Humanities is consistently ranked among the top humanities faculties worldwide in the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Ranking.

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Study abroad

Thanks to our partnership network we can help you to study at a university or institution in the Middle East, where you can immerse yourself in your chosen language and culture. Language courses taken at our partner institutes in Cairo, Rabat and Istanbul can count in part towards your degree, while other courses taken at one of these institutes may form an extracurricular addition to your MA degree.


The Middle Eastern Studies programme facilitates and supports extracurricular internships. For an overview of  organisations where students have held internships in recent years, check the About the Programme page

Middle Eastern Studies: the right master’s programme for you?

This programme is definitely for you if want to take a deep dive into the diversity, nuance, beauty and challenges of studying this large, intercultural regional space and its rich history. Not only will you have the opportunity to learn from renowned, internationally-respected academics, you will also follow in the footsteps of alumni who have built careers that require specialist linguistic, cultural, social, and political knowledge of the Middle East in the diplomatic services, cultural institutions, non-profits, NGOs, immigration, international organizations, travel industry, development cooperation, as well as in academia.

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Middle Eastern Studies Degree

Middle Eastern Studies at Leiden University is an accredited degree programme. After successful completion of this programme, you will receive a master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies and the title Master of Arts (MA).

Persian wall poem in Leiden

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There are hundreds of writing systems in the world. Some of these are commonly known, like our Latin alphabet, the Arabic script, Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese characters. But what do you know about the Persian-Arabic script? Check out Dr. Tijmen Pronk's introduction to the writing system of a poem in Persian. The poem is part of the famous Leiden Wall Poems.

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