Why study Middle Eastern Studies (research) at Leiden University?
Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at Leiden University has a reputation for a breadth and depth of expertise that is unmatched in Europe. You can explore subjects that span virtually the entire Middle East both in time and geography.
This two-year research master's degree in Middle Eastern Studies allows you to freely combine subjects from seven focus areas: Turkish Studies; Arabic Studies; North African Studies; Persian Studies; Islam; Eastern Christianity; and Modern Middle Eastern Studies.
You can decide to focus on a region such as the Arab world, North Africa or the Persian world, or on a discipline such as history, politics, literature or languages. A key feature is our comparative approach to learning, which includes intra-Middle Eastern comparisons.
Additional courses develop your academic skills to an advanced level, and you will have the opportunity to conduct field research in the Middle East or attend courses at another top university, here or abroad.
Middle Eastern Studies (research) at Leiden University is an accredited degree programme. After successful completion of this programme, you will receive a research master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies and the title Master of Arts (MA).
Why Leiden University
Leiden University offers ambitious students the latest knowledge and the freedom to develop their own area of expertise.
Leiden University's Humanities department consistently ranks in the top 30 Humanities faculties worldwide. At Leiden University, the oldest university in the Netherlands, learning incorporates the latest research and resources found nowhere else in the world, such as those of the famous Leiden University Library and its collections of original manuscripts, periodicals, and photos.
Unique courses and small classes
At Leiden University, you will be able to choose subjects from an expansive curriculum, including specialised subjects not available elsewhere. All classes are taught by accomplished scholars. Small classes give students valuable time interacting with instructors.
Spend a semester in Morocco
The Middle Eastern Studies department has close links with the Netherlands Institute in Morocco (NIMAR) and offers students of the Middle Eastern Studies (Research) programme the opportunity to spend one semester at the institute in Rabat for study or research.
A head-start to your career
Your qualification from Leiden University is respected by organisations worldwide. But that's not the only advantage of studying at Leiden. We challenge you to think harder, analyse more deeply, and devise new, creative solutions. Our graduates are equipped to solve the challenges facing society now and in the future.
The Leiden Experience
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Learn the newest insights from the researchers who uncover them.
During the Middle Eastern Studies research master’s programme you will take three compulsory core courses:
Theory and Issues in Area Studies provides you with the theoretical tools used in the field of Area Studies.
Mixed Methods, in the second semester, introduces you to a variety of methods you will find useful to deploy yourself, or with which familiarity will be useful in making use of the work of others.
A final core element during your third semester focuses on developing your research and academic writing skills in Areas Studies.
Core courses are complemented by courses specific to either Asian Studies or Middle Eastern Studies. You have the possibility of combining courses from both.
Your research MA is concluded with the writing of a thesis which, in summarised form, could be published in an academic journal. Your thesis is central to your formal examination, during which you will present and defend your thesis.
We also offer the one-year Middle Eastern Studies programme.
The aim of the two-year master's in Middle Eastern Studies (Research) is to provide you with in-depth and specialised knowledge within the field of Middle Eastern Studies with the added value provided by a comparative, area studies approach.
The acquisition of advanced academic skills in the interpretation of texts, the analysis and solution of conceptual problems, and the ability to independently conduct scientific research are other key goals of the programme. Opportunities are provided for students to broaden their academic skills by conducting field research or by studying subjects at another university.
For a detailed programme, see the e-Prospectus. Please note that this guide applies to the current academic year, which means that the curriculum for next year may slightly differ.
Researcher and University Lecturer
“Students of this master's are surrounded by faculty who are as diverse in their backgrounds as they are in their teaching and research interests. This diverse academic environment encourages students to pursue their own interests, all while being exposed to a wide variety of new experiences and ideas.”
Many career paths
“When it comes to the careers of our graduates, the sky is the limit. Our alumni go on to become journalists, NGO workers, teachers, academics, consultants, and diplomats, to name a few of their many career paths.”
“We aim to nurture in our students a long-term commitment to the region and its people. The training our students receive at Leiden provides them with the skills to connect with the people, customs, experiences, and history of the Middle East: skills that are of increasing importance in a great many organisations today.”
“Many of our master’s students discover the quality of our programmes only after they join us. In the Netherlands, self-promotion is not a big part of our culture, yet Leiden University’s Humanities Faculty ranks alongside the most prestigious universities in the world, and is the established leader in continental Europe. What can our students expect from this programme? An education on par with the world’s best, with teaching by top researchers.”
Alumni: close-knit global community
“Your graduation from a master’s programme marks a new chapter in your relationship with Leiden University. Our alumni community is highly active in terms of network-building and development. They are valued by the university, and we support them with personal and professional development and free use of our facilities such as the Leiden University Library. This close-knit global community offers life-long support for all our former students in terms of reaching goals, maintaining friendships and expanding networks.”
Research: encouraging you to think beyond your own discipline
“Some of the most high-profile humanities research produced today is conducted at Leiden University’s Humanities Faculty. These faculty members are among a handful worldwide who can lay claim to such a depth and breadth of academic expertise. One example is our centre of excellence on Native American cultures, languages and history – a research group that is one of the best in the world. At Leiden, we can offer students expertise in most niche areas of interest. Our faculty members often work together across disciplines, and encourage students to think beyond the limits of their own discipline, which is where the future of innovative research lies.”
Careers: opportunities to develop your talent
“Decisions made during your studies have a big impact on your future. We offer you many opportunities to develop your talents both within and outside of the classroom, including internships, study trips abroad, student committees, and minors. These opportunities help define your objectives for after your studies, and equip you with additional skills and experience.”
Get the most out of your studies at Leiden University by taking part in our extracurricular activities.
Throughout the year activities are organised by both the Middle Eastern Studies department and the Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam and Society (LUCIS). This includes for example the LUCIS What’s New!? lecture series which focuses on current research on Islam and the Middle East.
Coordinator of studies
During the first weeks of their study, students are expected to meet with their coordinator of studies to discuss their programme. The coordinator of studies can help you if you have specific questions relating to the academic content of the programme, exam regulations, courses and study scheduling (and delay) of your studies.
Uhlenbeck scholarship programme
For research master’s students, the Faculty of Humanities has set up the Uhlenbeck scholarship programme. If you would like to spend a period of time abroad for field work, research or a study exchange, you can apply for a (supplementary) scholarship.
Leiden Leadership Programme
Are you interested in developing your leadership potential? The Leiden Leadership Programme (LLP) is an Honours Programme specifically developed for ambitious master's students at Leiden University and the Delft University of Technology who recognise the importance of leadership abilities. The LLP offers in-depth training sessions, assessments, seminars, and the creation of a Personal Leadership Roadmap – a five-year plan for reaching and developing your leadership potential.
Create a world of opportunities with a master's degree from Leiden University.
The MA in Middle Eastern Studies (Research) prepares students for a wide number of careers in which in-depth knowledge and advanced conceptual, analytical and interpretative skills are essential.
Examples of the diverse roles of our graduates include:
Freelance writer/translator/project coordinator at a translation centre
Lecturer at a Dutch university
Translator and executive secretary at an embassy in the Netherlands
Policy officer for education and funding at a national student union
PhD candidate at a university in Spain
PhD candidate at Leiden University
Policy officer for Sahel region at a ministry
Production assistant at a Swedish museum
Teacher of English/Islamic religion at an educational institute in Saudi Arabia
Middle East representative at a shipping and forwarding company.
Our graduates have pursued successful careers in the public, private and non-profit sectors. Graduates have also gone on to pursue a PhD and a career in academia. If you wish to pursue an academic career, your Master's is excellent preparation for a PhD programme or a career in a research agency or the research department of a company or government organisation. Your strong analytical and problem-solving skills can also be applied in a wide range of other vocations.
A Leiden University degree
Leiden University master's graduates are sought-after employees at (inter)national organisations. Our graduates are known for their combination of robust academic training, in-depth and relevant knowledge, and critical, multidisciplinary approach to problem-solving.
Brigitte van de Pas
Graduated in Research MA Middle Eastern Studies
"I enrolled in the research master’s programme Middle Eastern Studies because I wanted to do a second degree that had a bit more immediate relevance for today’s world than my first degree, History. I am fascinated by other peoples and cultures, and this programme allowed me to study the Middle East as a whole, without having to choose one particular country to specialise in."
"I am currently working as a researcher for the Benelux markets at the market research company Statista in Hamburg, Germany. Although the research I am doing now has little to do with the Middle East, the research skills learned at university are applicable to other types of research as well. Critical thinking, analysing information and presenting it the way non-experts would also understand it is vital to my job."
Prepared to work in an international environment
"The international atmosphere of the Leiden Institute of Area Studies as well as my study abroad period in Turkey and my internships in Kuwait and Egypt furthermore prepared me to work in an international environment, with people from all over the world. During my studies I never once considered the possibility of working with statistics, but as the saying goes: life is what happens to you when you are busy making other plans!"
The graphs below are based on alumni data from the research programmes of the Faculty of Humanities
In which sector do students find jobs?
8.0 %Government and semi-government organisations
6.0 %Publishing and the book industry
3.0 %Culture, sports and recreation
How successful are they in finding a job?
68.0 %found a job within two months
79.0 %found their first job at academic level
Knowledge and skills
The development of in-depth knowledge in the field, and the ability to think critically and analytically, are key goals of this programme. The Middle Eastern Studies (Research) programme will introduce you to the concepts and academic approaches current in Middle Eastern Studies, including disciplines such as: linguistics, history and social siences.
You will learn to use these concepts and approaches in researching and analysing source material. Your thesis work will give you the opportunity to apply these methods in your own research.
Humanities Career Service
Our staff can help you identify both the career that is right for you, and the necessary steps to get you there. Our team at Humanities Career Service provide all Leiden University humanities students with professional advice and guidance on everything from internships and career planning to job applications. Humanities Career Service also organises regular workshops on topics such as effective interview skills and creating a successful CV.
Humanities Career Event
Each year, the Faculty of Humanities organises a Humanities Careers Event. This all-day event is your chance to learn everything you can about how to find the job you want and successfully attain it. The event includes workshops on a wide range of topics as well as opportunities to network with alumni and potential employers and attain tips, information and potential job leads.
Check out the video of the Humanities Career Event 2018!
Admission and Application
Do you want to apply for this master’s programme at Leiden University? Find out how to apply for your programme by following the step-by step guide in the application and admission section.
The guide will give you the necessary help and guidance in submitting your application.
You completed your secondary or higher education in the USA, the UK, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia or Canada (except French-taught programmes in Canada).
At the discretion of the Board of Admissions, you are a Dutch student with pre-university education (VWO) level English.
In exceptional cases, students who otherwise qualify for an exemption but whose application documents cast doubt on their English proficiency may be asked to sit an English exam.
Submitting your exam results
All English exam results must be uploaded to the online application system.
Your English exam results must be checked for authenticity by the Admissions Office before the deadline for applying for a visa/residence permit (if applicable), or before the start date of your programme. To make this possible, please do the following:
TOEFL exam: tell ETS to send your original results report to Leiden University Admissions Office – institution code 0504.
Cambridge certificate: send your ID number and your “secret number” (check the Candidate Results Online service) to the Leiden University Admissions Office.
IELTS: a scanned exam result is sufficient - no further steps will be required.
Starting in February
If you need a visa or residence permit the deadline is 15 October*.
If you do not need a visa or residence permit the deadline is 1 December.
*For all students with a application deadline of 15 October: due to the problems with Studielink the deadline has been postponed to 1 November. But we strongly recommend you to complete your application as early as possible.
Starting in September
If you need a visa or residence permit the deadline is 1 April.
If you do not need a visa or residence permit the deadline is 15 June.
If you need to apply for admission make sure you initiate your application in Studielink a week before the application deadline. After this first step you will be sent log-in details for our online application portal (uSis) where you can apply for admission. This can take a couple of days. So please take this into consideration when planning your application and don’t wait till the last minute.
Make sure that you submit your complete application before the deadline. If your application is not complete before the deadline, it will not be processed.
On top of that, you may have to take an additional entrance exam or submit additional documentation. If you apply at the last minute, you risk missing deadlines, such as those for housing or visa applications.
Late applications will only be considered in exceptional cases, and at the discretion of the faculty Board of Admissions.
Please read the explanation of the application procedure carefully.
If you want to apply for housing through the Leiden University Housing Office other deadlines apply. Our advice: as housing cannot be guaranteed, apply for housing and pay the housing fee as soon as possible. Deadlines for payment of the housing fee are: 1 June (September intake) and 15 November (February intake), but don’t wait!
Scholarships, grants and loans
Do you want to apply for a scholarship, grant or loan? Please note, these have different application deadline. Read more
If you want to be sure of getting a room, you are advised to submit your housing application and fee well in advance of the deadline. You do not need to wait until you have been admitted to start your housing application! The housing application deadlines are:
1 June - fall semester
15 November - spring semester
Please be aware that the Housing Office cannot guarantee accommodation to all students who request housing.
Along with your application, you will need to submit the documents below.
Required application documents
Please upload a copy of the passport page(s) with your personal details and photograph. If you come from the EU/EER, you may also send a copy of your identity card.
If you are already staying in the Netherlands with a Dutch residence permit for study or for another purpose, please upload a copy of both sides of your Dutch residence permit.
Your CV must be written in English. Other than this, no standardised format or template is required. Your CV should clearly outline your educational and professional history up until the present date, as well as basic personal facts. Please provide the average mark (Grade Point Average) in your bachelor, calculated until March 15, 2018 (for start in September) or September 15, 2018 (for start in February 2019).
A personal statement must be submitted explaining why you want to follow the programme, why you have chosen to do so at Leiden University, and what makes you think you are a good candidate. The statement should be between 700 and 1,500 words.
Digital copies are required initially. Once you have been admitted, we will tell you how to submit certified copies to the Admissions Office.
Documents must be in the original language and accompanied by official translations if they are not in English or Dutch. If you have not yet completed your study programme, state your expected graduation date and submit copies of all transcripts obtained to date.
If you are applying for an LLM Advanced Studies programme: all documents must be available in English (or translated into English).
You can apply to a programme before you obtain the results of your language exam (if you already have your results you can upload them directly in our online portal). If you are admitted, it will be on the condition that these results will meet the required levels specified.
Always check first if your programme requires you to send in letters of recommendation. If you need to submit more than one letter, at least one letter must be from an academic staff member.
The letter must be printed on letterhead paper, signed and bearing the full contact details of the referee (for verification purposes).
Your referee should describe your skills, qualities and competencies.
Recommendation letters - submission information
Letters of recommendation can be scanned and uploaded as part of your online application. Alternatively, your referee can send them directly to us, making sure your name and student number are clearly indicated.
By post: Leiden University Admissions Office
“Gravensteen” Pieterskerkhof 6
2311 SR Leiden
Additionally please complete the attached format and upload this in your application.
Applicants are requested to include in their application a “Research Proposal” of approximately 1,000 words outlining the topic or field of research that interests them most and that they wish to pursue at Leiden University, combined with an annotated bibliography of at least five (5) works.
Two letters of recommendation
This programme requires two letters of recommendation:
At least one letter must be from an academic member of staff.
The letter must be printed on letterhead paper, signed and bearing the full contact details of the referee (for verification purposes).
Your referee should describe your skills, qualities and competencies.
Letters of recommendation can be scanned and uploaded as part of your online application. Alternatively, your referee can send them directly to us, making sure your name and application number are clearly indicated.
By post: Leiden University Admissions Office “Gravensteen” Pieterskerkhof 6 2311 SR Leiden The Netherlands
Additionally please complete the attached format and upload this in your application.
If you have any further questions, you can look them up at the Student FAQ page.
The application procedure consists of three steps.
Part 1. Apply for a programme in Studielink
All students applying for a programme at Leiden University will need to start in Studielink. Apply in Studielink for the master’s programme of your choice. Studielink will be open for applications from 10 October.
For all students with a application deadline of 15 October: due to the problems with Studielink the deadline has been postponed to 1 November. But we strongly recommend you to complete your application as early as possible.
Please follow the instructions given in Studielink. After taking the first step, you will receive an email with the following information (but bear in mind that it can take a few days):
confirmation that you have started the application process in Studielink
login details for Leiden University’s online application portal (uSis)
In the online application portal, Leiden University will let you know whether you qualify for automatic admission and will guide you through all necessary steps to complete your registration, as well as informing you about what you have to do after applying.
Part 2. Online application at Leiden University
In our online application portal you can finalise your application by uploading the necessary documents and answering a few questions. The portal provides an overview of what you need to do to complete your application at Leiden University. Please follow the instructions carefully.
All students with an international degree have to pay a non-refundable €100 application fee. This fee cannot be refunded and entitles you to apply for up to three programmes/specialisations within the same academic year. After we have received your application fee, we will start processing your application. Please do not delay paying the fee as this will delay the application process. The online application system describes how you can pay the fee.
Can I be exempted from paying the application fee?
You do not have to pay the application fee if:
You submit a copy of a bachelor’s degree or current bachelor’s transcript from a Dutch institute of higher education (hbo or wo).
You were previously registered as a foreign exchange, bachelor’s, master’s or pre-master’s student at Leiden University.
You have refugee status in the Netherlands (residence permit for asylum).
You have applied for a CEU Praesidium Libertatis scholarship (this only applies to students who have been nominated by the Central European University).
You have previously been admitted to a degree programme at Leiden University, but you decided to postpone your studies. This does not apply if you wish to apply for a different study programme or specialisation.
Exemptions cannot be granted on any other grounds.
After submitting your application, the online portal will, if applicable, ask you if you want to apply for student housing, a visa or a scholarship. Make a careful note of the deadlines for applying for a scholarship, student visa/residence permit and student accommodation.
Upon receipt of your application fee (if applicable), the Admissions Office will check whether all the necessary documents have been uploaded and will inform you by email whether your application is complete or if there are any omissions.
Your application will then be forwarded to the Board of Admissions at the faculty and they will decide whether you meet the entry requirements of the degree programme of your choice.
The Board of Admissions will make a decision within four to six weeks after the University has received your application.
The Board of Admissions will send you its decision by email within four to six weeks after Leiden University has received your application.
There are two possible options:
You are conditionally admitted; in other words you will be admitted, provided you meet certain conditions.
The condition(s) will be given in the decision letter. Important: the decision letter will always contain the condition, that, in case that more than 100 candidates are admitted, a qualitative selection procedure will decide on your placement in the master.
You are not admitted, because you do not meet the programme’s entry requirements.
The reasons will be clearly stated in the decision letter.
The Admissions Office will ask you to inform them whether you will accept the offer of conditional admission. Please go to the online application portal (uSis) to accept the offer. You have the following choices:
Accept, but start later
Part 3. Student registration
You’ve been admitted? Congratulations! Follow the steps below to register as a student of Leiden University:
Check in the online application portal (uSis) whether you need to submit any documents to meet your conditions of admission, if applicable. Instructions on how to do so will be provided in uSis.
Arrange tuition fee payment before the official start date of your study programme. You will receive instructions and information on payment methods by email.
International students should also go to our prepare your stay pages to find out about all the practical matter you should take care of before and upon arrival. For example arranging housing, applying for a visa/residence permit and taking out insurances.
The tuition fee for a programme depends on a number of factors. Your nationality, study programme and previous Dutch higher education qualifications determine the tuition fees you are required to pay.
The tuition fees for the academic year 2018-2019 are:
Dutch, EU/EEA, Swiss and Surinamese students: €2,060 per year
Non-EU/EEA students €16,800 per year
Second Dutch master’s programme: €15,100 per year
More information about tuition fees
The tuition fee for this programme is €2,060 for the academic year 2018-2019 (statutory fee).
The tuition fee for this programme is €2,083 for the academic year 2019-2020 (statutory fee).
This tuition fee applies if this is not your second master’s programme and you are a national of the Netherlands, or one of the following countries:
The fee applies for both full-time and part-time study.
The tuition fee for this programme is €16,800 for the academic year 2018-2019 (institutional tuition fee).
If you are not a national of an EEA country, Suriname or Switzerland you must generally pay an institutional tuition fee. However if, on the basis of your Dutch residence permit, you are eligible for student finance from the Dutch education agency (DUO), you are entitled to pay a statutory tuition fee. Information on qualifying residence permits can be found in the DUO nationality chart.
This fee applies for both full and part-time study.
Please note: If you study at Leiden University via a cooperation agreement the fees stated in the agreement apply.
The tuition fee for this programme is €15,100 for the academic year 2018-2019 (institutional tuition fee).
If you would like to enroll in a second Dutch master’s programme, you will generally have to pay an institutional tuition fee.
This tuition fee also applies if you obtained a Dutch Bachelor’s, doctoraal, ingenieurs or HBO (Bachelor’s in professional education) diploma after 1991, and you are a national of the Netherlands or another EEA country:
Did you commence a bachelor’s programme at Leiden University before 2010, and will you continue directly onto a second master’s programme in the year you complete your bachelor’s programme, or during the following year? If so, you are entitled to pay the statutory tuition fee in accordance with a transitional ruling (also see ‘Exceptions’).
Please note! Other fees apply for students who are not nationals of an EEA country, Suriname or Switzerland. Please refer to the information in the section ‘Non-EU/EEA nationals’.
In some cases, nationals of EEA countries, Suriname or Switzerland may be permitted to pay tuition fees set at the same amount as the statutory tuition fee for their second degree programme.
If your second degree programme is in the field of healthcare or teacher training you are entitled to pay tuition fees set at the same amount as the statutory tuition fee.
If you begin your second bachelor’s or master’s programme whilst you are still studying your first bachelor's or master’s programme you may pay tuition fees set at the same amount as the statutory tuition fee for your second degree programme – on condition that you remain continuously registered as a student.
If you start a second bachelor’s or master's programme at Leiden University in the academic year directly following the year in which you obtained your first bachelor’s or master's degree at Leiden University you may pay institutional tuition fees set at the same amount as the statutory tuition fee.
Less than 45 EC
If you plan to study a pre-master or conversion programme after completing a bachelor’s programme, you must pay €34,- per study credit (EC) if the programme is less than 45 ECs.
45 EC or more
For programmes of more than 45 ECs you must pay the statutory tuition fee. If the pre-master or conversion programme is more than 60 ECs – and therefore longer than one year – or if you will study courses that are not part of your conversion programme, you must pay the institutional tuition fee for the programme in question (see ‘Second Dutch master’s programme’). These fees apply to students of all nationalities.
Your time at Leiden is about more than just studying. Some of your best experiences will stem from being a part of our lively and diverse student community, as well as from life in the beautiful city of Leiden.
Life in Leiden
Picturesque and the perfect size, Leiden is the ideal place to spend your university days. The Faculty of Humanities is located within the heart of the city, where dozens of cafes, shops and bars line its historic laneways and leafy canals. Small enough to run into familiar faces, but big enough to keep offering surprises – you will treasure your time at Leiden. And for adventures further afield, the major cities of The Hague and Amsterdam are a short train ride away, along with Schiphol Airport, which is just half an hour away by train.
Our study and student associations organise a huge variety of social, cultural, and study events to keep you busy all year round. You can also join the University Sports Centre, which offers scheduled group sports and fitness classes, amongst other activities.
Welcome and orientation programme
In August and February each year, Leiden University hosts the English-language Orientation Week Leiden (OWL), which welcomes both international and Dutch students. The OWL is an excellent way to get to know Leiden University, the city, and other students.
Leiden University’s Faculty of Humanities has a number of study associations run by students and related to a particular department or programme. Study associations organise social activities such as informal gatherings, sports events, and parties, as well as study-related activities such as excursions and study trips.
Leiden has several student organisations that specifically cater for international students. These associations organise regular social events and activities that help create the strong sense of community that exists within our international student body. The main two organisations are:
International Student Network (ISN) ISN Leiden is an international student organisation which hosts a range of activities and programmes. They also have a buddy programme which provides new students with the right support to assimilate into Leiden and the university.
AEGEE Leiden AEGEE is a leading European student association with sister organisations in over 40 countries across Europe. AEGEE organises many activities in Leiden, from dinners and pool nights to boat trips and guest lectures.
The Humanities Master’s Buddy Programme has been set up by the Faculty of Humanities to help all students who are new to the university to integrate quickly and easily into university life. Through the programme you will learn everything you need to know about the university, the student community, and the practical side of life in Leiden.
Come and meet us at the Leiden University Master’s Open Day!
About our Master’s Open Day
Are you thinking about joining a master’s programme at Leiden University? Come and visit our Master’s Open Day! This event is your opportunity to learn everything you need to know about our master’s programmes and how they can help you reach your goals. Attend presentations, meet our lecturers, learn about the careers of our alumni and hear first-hand the experiences of students and graduates on life at Leiden University.
If you have a question, there are various ways to get in touch with us.