Universiteit Leiden

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Middle Eastern Studies (MA)

About the programme

Discover the newest insights from established scholars.

The MA in Arabic Studies offers a multidisciplinary programme spread over two semesters. You have the opportunity to explore a wide range of topics covering the history and society of the Middle East and North Africa.

You take three courses during your first semester. One course is taken jointly with students from the other Middle Eastern Studies specialisations. Two other courses offer the opportunity to engage in-depth with sources in Arabic.

During your second semester you choose one more course from two courses on offer in the Arabic Studies programme at Leiden University. You also work on your master’s thesis. Throughout this process you are guided by a thesis adviser.

Guest speakers from other universities and organisations regularly come to Leiden to share their thoughts on their work. Their talks cover a wide range of topics: from academic work on premodern Middle East societies to hands-on, in-the-field experiences regarding contemporary issues. 

  • Seminars
  • Self-study
  • Internship (optional)
  • Papers
  • Peer feedback and assessment
  • Essays, reports
  • Oral presentations
  • Final thesis

The aim of the master in Arabic Studies is to introduce you to the concepts and academic approaches current in Arabic Studies, including various disciplines: linguistics, literature, and history. You will learn to use these concepts and approaches in researching and analysing source material in Arabic. Your thesis work will give you the opportunity to apply these methods in your own research.

The development of in-depth knowledge of the field, and the ability to think critically and analytically are key goals of this programme. Opportunities are provided for students to broaden their world experience and professional skills in preparation to excel in their chosen career.

During the first weeks of your study, you will meet with the coordinator of studies to discuss your programme. The coordinator of studies can also 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. 

Detailed programme

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.

Tsolin Nalbantian

Researcher and University Lecturer

Tsolin Nalbantian

“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.”

Long-term commitment

“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.”

Mark Rutgers


Mark Rutgers

“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.”

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