Asian & Middle Eastern Studies

The languages and cultures outside Europe are a vital part of our world – and of increasing global importance. On this Cambridge course you learn about areas stretching from East to West, from classical times to the present day. As you explore different perceptions of our shared world, you develop valuable practical skills sought after by a wide range of employers.

A supervision at Christ's College, Cambridge

Why Study Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Christ's?

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Christ’s has a long tradition in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (AMES), formerly known as Oriental Studies.

Sir Ralph Lilley Turner MC, an English Indian languages philologist and well-known Orientalist, was elected Fellow of Christ’s in 1912, Honorary Fellow in 1950 and knighted for his many achievements. Thanks to his warnings that the forces lacked enough personnel trained in Asian languages during the Second World War, SOAS went on to train servicemen in Chinese and Japanese for intelligence work.

The College library has eight Sanskrit manuscripts dating from the 18th and 19th centuries, plus a large collection of Arabic manuscripts, described in Edward G. Browne’s 1922 A Supplementary Handlist of the Muhammadan Manuscripts. We update our collection annually to meet current study needs.

Former Christ’s students have gone on to work in areas including journalism, television, management consulting, teaching and academia and the diplomatic service.

"I’m working in television at a small documentary production company in London specialising in Middle Eastern programmes. As an Assistant Producer my role is a mix of practical production organisation tasks, research and contributor outreach, and translation from Arabic to English. I began working in TV in 2017 after two years in finance, following a Fulbright-funded master's at Georgetown in Washington, DC." Anna, Christ’s graduate

Course content and structure

This degree offers an intensive grounding in one or two of the major languages and cultures of East Asia or the Middle East. You don’t need to have prior knowledge of the languages – just imagination, perseverance and a strong sense of adventure! We offer:

  • Arabic
  • Chinese
  • Japanese
  • Hebrew (Biblical and Modern)
  • Persian

The AMES course (or ‘tripos’) is a four-year degree. If you’re studying a modern language, you spend your third year abroad in a relevant country.

Please visit the University website for full details of the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies course content and structure. In addition to language studies, the courses also cover history, literature, religion and a range of other subjects such as politics, economics, sociology, archaeology, or film, depending on the language being studied.

NB: if you want to study Assyriology and Egyptology, please apply for Archaeology.


Christ's Director of Studies in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies is Dr Qian Kan. A linguist who taught Chinese at the Faculty for 11 years, Dr Kan is currently senior lecturer and head of Chinese at the Open University. She guides you through your course and arranges your weekly teaching ‘supervisions’. These are individual or small group tutorial sessions that help you benefit from personally-tailored tuition.

Christ’s is close to the University Language Centre (which has resources in 180 languages) and a 17 min walk from the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies where lectures and language classes take place.

How to apply

Visit How to Apply for full details and a timeline of the application process. We welcome applicants from all backgrounds and school types, all over the world. If you're applying from outside the UK, please read our international students section.

You should apply for Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (AMES) through UCAS. You’ll then be asked on the additional questionnaire(s) to state which language(s) you wish to study.

Please note: If you want to combine AMES with a modern European language, your UCAS application should be for AMES.


If you are applying this year for October 2022 (or deferred Oct 23) please go to the information in the current applicants section.

Subjects: what do you need?

You should be able to demonstrate some formal evidence of an aptitude for language-learning. If you apply for Arabic, Hebrew or Persian with a modern European language, you must study the European language at A-level, IB Higher or equivalent.

Written work

After we receive your application, we ask you to send us two essays you feel accurately reflect your abilities and interests. We don’t request specific content – these should be work written during the normal course of your studies and already marked by a teacher. One essay must be produced under timed conditions, and at least one must be written in English. We recommend you keep copies for your own reference, as we may discuss them at interview.

We publish full guidelines on written work in the Current Applicants section on 20 September each year.


If we invite you for interviews, these usually take place in early December. Those invited for Cambridge interviews are normally interviewed for 35-50 minutes in total. At Christ’s, we usually split the time into two interviews with academics in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

If you want to combine AMES with a modern European language, you also have an interview and an assessment for the European language (see below). Read about studying Modern Languages at Christ's. Take a look at the information and short films on Cambridge admissions interviews to find out what to expect.

We also hold interviews in various locations overseas for international students, however please check the eligibility information for your chosen location to ensure that they can interview for Asian and Middle Eastern Studies in that location (some specify that they cannot).

MML Admissions Assessment

If you want to combine AMES with a modern European language from the MML course, you also take a written MML Admissions Assessment on the same day as your interviews. (If you don’t plan to study an MML language, you don’t need to take this.)

It lasts one hour and we arrange it automatically when we invite you for interview, so you don’t need to register.

Details of Cambridge at-interview Admissions Assessments (including example questions and subject content) are updated each March.

If you are not planning to take a European Language then you will not have an Admissions Assessment taken at interview.


Asian and Middle Eastern Studies is an increasingly popular subject but a relatively small department, with an average annual intake of 50-60 students across the University. At Christ's we don’t have fixed quotas for places but in AMES we typically admit at least two students each year.

You need to be academically ambitious: our typical conditional offer for Asian and Middle Eastern Studies is A*AA at A-level, or for IB students 42 points overall with 7,7,6 in Higher Level subjects, but the majority of Christ’s students arrive with higher grades. If you're taking another qualification, we expect you to be working at or close to the top of the mark range (thus Option Internationale du Baccalauréat candidates are asked to achieve at least 17/20 overall, with 17 or 18 in relevant subjects, and candidates taking the European Baccalaureate need at least 85% overall, with 9/10 in relevant subjects, for example). Read about offer levels in other exam systems and international entrance requirements.

If you will have finished school when you apply, read about post-qualification applications

Helpful resources

Reading lists

Click on the name of the department for a list of recommended books:

Enrichment website HE+ Asia and Middle East
Cambridge University Language Centre Open Courseware for Arabic, Chinese, Japanese
Resources for European Languages If you plan to combine with a European language, please also see the resources section on the MML page.
Variety of materials online

The Wellcome Library including Arabic manuscripts and the Asian Collection.

Visiting a museum If you are able to, you may like to consider visiting a museum with an East Asian collection. Examples of museums include the British Museum in London, the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, and the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford.
FutureLearn courses

Explore what is available. For example:
Understanding the Complexities of Chinese Culture

CamGuides Introducing the academic and information skills that you will need during your studies, as well as how and where you be working.

Student Q&A film
  Watch the Christ's student Q&A film

Come to an Open Day or Online Event

Online events: Our open days and events page advertises online opportunities as well as events you can attend in Cambridge, and we encourage you to watch the Christ's student Q&A film,

One way to find out if the course is right for you is to come along to a Christ's College Open Day. You can get a feel for the College and discuss the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies course with current students and staff.

Need more information?

For a fuller picture of what the course involves, take a look at Undergraduate Asian and Middle Eastern Studies admissions on the University website and visit the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies too.

If you have any other queries at all, please contact us at and we’ll be happy to advise.


Undergraduate Admissions main page / Back to the subject list / How to apply / Why choose Christ's?