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

Students looking at books in the Old Library
The manuscripts are in our Old Library

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

Visiting Christ's
  Book College tours and/or online events

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.
 

Teaching

A guide to supervisions
Click here to watch the supervisions film (3.5 mins)

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 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.

News
  • On interviews: students who apply in October 2022 and are selected for interview will be interviewed online - you will not need to travel to Cambridge. For more detail see the interviews section below.
  • For candidates combining an AMES language with a modern European language there is a written assessment which is College registered. That means that you do not need to register for it. If you are invited for online interviews, we will organise it for you automatically. See the Written Assessment section below for more information.


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.

Interviews

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. Take a look at the information and short films on Cambridge admissions interviews to find out what to expect.

If you want to combine AMES with a modern European language, one of your interview will be for the European language. Read about studying Modern Languages at Christ's for more information about this interview and note that there will be a text to read just before the interview.

MML Written Assessment (if relevant)

If we invite you for interview and your language choices combine an AMES language with a modern European language from the MML course, we also ask you to take the MML Written Assessment towards the end of November (it won't be on the same day as your interviews). If this is relevant, you don't need to register as we will arrange it for you automatically.

The MML Written Assessment lasts one hour. Further information including the format and sample questions is available in the university course information for MML (entry requirements tab). You will be able to complete the assessment remotely - you will not need to travel for it. Details of how the assessment will work will be given to students selected for interview by email.

If your language choice(s) do not include a European Language then you will not have a written assessment.

Offers

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

Language tasters The METIS collection of Language taster films includes Arabic, Persian and Mandarin Chinese.
CamGuides Introducing the academic and information skills that you will need during your studies, as well as how and where you be working.

 

Attend an Open Day / Webinar

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

Our open days and events page advertises regular online opportunities as well as events you can attend in Cambridge. If you can, sign up for a College Open Day (our October, February and September events normally include a meeting with a subject specialist). Between February and August we run regular webinars:

  • Subject Matters: The importance of post-16 subject choices (this one is also run Sept - Nov)
  • Cambridge for Beginners
  • Christ's College: A look at the Grounds and Facilities
  • Personal Statements and preparing for an application

Further subject-specific opportunities you might wish to consider include Subject Masterclasses organised by Cambridge Admissions Office, and subject-specific talks in the July Cambridge Open Days. If you are a UK student from a background where there is little tradition of entry to Higher Education, you can apply to attend a Sutton Trust Summer School in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies or to shadow a current undergraduate studying AMES via thCambridge SU Shadowing Scheme (do be aware that there's a high proportion of applicants to places for both of these last two opportunities so please don't be discouraged if you don't get a place).
 

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 admissions@christs.cam.ac.uk and we’ll be happy to advise.

 

Undergraduate Admissions / Subject list / How to apply / Why Christ's?