Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Cambridge
Broaden your horizons
Within the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (AMES) course, the area we study stretches from Japan in the East to Morocco in the West, and from classical times to the present day. To study one of these cultures through its language is not only to develop a set of practical skills and knowledge that can be used later in many different ways, but also to engage with different ways of understanding our shared world.
We don’t require you to have studied specific subjects at school; the best preparation is for you to explore for yourself what interests you in the culture you choose to study (see the Faculty website for suggestions).
Flexibility: our range of options
Our course is flexible and numerous options and combinations are available. You should indicate which language(s) you’re interested in studying in your Supplementary Application Questionnaire (SAQ) – the choice isn’t absolute and some students change direction before they start or as they progress.
- You can study Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, Japanese or Persian.
- You can combine Arabic, Hebrew and Persian with each other, or with a modern European language (if you have an A Level/IB Higher Level or equivalent in the European language) from Year 1; or with Hindi or Sanskrit from Year 2 (no more than two languages can be studied at one time).
- Chinese and Japanese cannot be combined, with another language. However, those studying Japanese can take Korean as an option in Year 4.
Chinese gives you China in its own words. You encounter a sophisticated civilization and the most vibrant economy in the world today. You delve into its 3,500 years of recorded history, poetry and philosophy to understand how they shaped the tumultuous changes of modern times, and to engage with contemporary society.
In Japanese, you master the spoken and written forms of modern Japanese and also get unique training in reading pre-modern Japanese. You gain a comprehensive understanding of Japan, its history, culture, politics and society, and learn about the wider East Asia region too.
Arabic is the language of the Qur’an and of a rich literature covering fields as diverse as the sciences, history and religious studies, and poetry. It’s the key to a medieval culture which kick-started the European Renaissance. Our course gives you access both to this and to the modern societies, cultures and thought fed by this heritage.
Persian is another great language of Islam with a world famous poetic tradition, and vibrant literary heritage. Our course introduces you to both the classical tradition and contemporary Iranian culture. Hebrew offers classical (Biblical) and/or modern Hebrew and its literature, and the history and culture of Israel and the modern Middle East. You can also study Aramaic.
Good knowledge of the language(s) is central to our course. Part I (Years 1 and 2) gives a strong grounding, and in Part II (Years 3 and 4) you study advanced language so that by the end of it you can speak fluently and read confidently. Alongside the language(s), there’s a wide range of topics on offer (depending on language), from which you can choose according to your interests – history, literature, religion, anthropology, linguistics, film.
Living and learning abroad
The third year is spent abroad – a great opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture you’re studying and improve your language skills.
Various Faculty-approved institutions are available. Chinese and Japanese students study at a university in the appropriate country. Arabic, Persian and Hebrew students have some choice of which country they go to and what they do. Students generally take an approved language course or study at a local university, and some combine this with voluntary work..
Additional course costs
Additional course costs relate to the year abroad and vary according to the destination. See the Faculty website for details about these costs:
Please also see the Finance pages about tuition fees during the year abroad.
It's possible to change course after Year 2 (Part I). In recent years, undergraduates have successfully changed to Modern and Medieval Languages, Law, and Human, Social, and Political Sciences.
To be able to change course, you need the agreement of your College that any change is in your educational interests, and you must have the necessary background in the subject to which you wish to change – in some cases you may be required to undertake some catch-up work or take up the new course from the start/an earlier year. If you think you may wish to change course, we encourage you to contact a College admissions office for advice. You should also consider if/how changing course may affect any financial support arrangements.
Versatility: your choice of careers
The range of career options open to graduates is vast. Besides those who go into research, many graduates use their subject directly in subsequent employment. Examples include the media, business and commerce, tourism, teaching overseas, the Civil Service (especially the Foreign Office), NGOs, or international scientific agencies.
Even if you choose not to stay in a related field, employers are often impressed by your choice to study a difficult language. Our graduates have also gone into banking, marketing and law.