Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

What makes the Cambridge Asian and Middle Eastern Studies course so special?

The teaching provided by the Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies covers a wide range of ancient and modern languages which have flourished in Asia and the Middle East during the last 5000 years or more (Akkadian, Ancient Egyptian, Arabic, Aramaic, Chinese, Coptic, Hebrew, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Sanskrit and Sumerian) and also the literature, history, politics, philosophy, religion and art of these widely differing cultures. 

The intensive language learning throughout all four years encourages a high degree of fluency in the dedicated student. The required time abroad during the third year allows students to develop their language skills and to immerse themselves in a different culture and environment. The final-year dissertation (a requirement for most, but not all courses) allows students to develop their interests, engage with primary sources and produce original work. 

Why Newnham for Asian and Middle Eastern Studies?

With small student numbers in the Faculty, each College will have only a few students in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, probably spread across all the different languages offered. This means there is a strong group ethos within the Faculty and within each language course which adds a layer of cross-College contact and interaction to the student experience. Newnham Library has good holdings in most of the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies subjects. The greatest advantage Newnham has over other colleges for Asian and Middle Eastern Studies is proximity; you will have no excuse for missing a 9am lecture or forgetting your dictionary, since the College and Faculty are a mere two minutes’ walk apart! 

How many students take Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Newnham and what options do they choose?

Newnham usually admits one or two students per year in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies; Arabic is currently the most common subject among our students, but we admit students for the full range of courses, and equally welcome applicants for East Asian Studies as well. 

How will I be taught at Newnham?

Course lectures and seminars are Faculty based. For College supervisions, given the small student numbers, you are likely to be in a small group (two or three) including students from other Colleges. Supervisions may take place at Newnham, in the Faculty building, or at one of the other Colleges. 

Can you tell me more about the AMES Fellows and Senior Staff at Newnham?

For information on the current teaching staff and Fellows for Asian & Middle Eastern Studies, please visit our teaching webpages.

What jobs do Newnham Asian and Middle Eastern Studies students go on to do?

Recent graduates have gone on to Masters’ degrees and PhD research, and into business, advertising, and journalism. 

Are there any A-level subjects that are particularly useful?

Although many successful students have studied history, literature, classical or modern languages at school, in Asian & Middle Eastern Studies, students can start from scratch in Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Persian or Hebrew language; therefore, we do not expect incoming students to have already studied these languages at A-level. Applicants wishing to combine with a European language should have an A Level in the European language they wish to study.  Otherwise, any combination of three A-levels is normally acceptable. 

Since Middle Eastern and Asian languages are not generally taught in schools, all the courses start from the beginner’s level.  Motivation and willingness for hard work are essential:  the courses are intensive, and the learning of complex languages and unfamiliar scripts requires concentrated application and regular attendance at lectures. 

Can I take a gap year?

Yes; students can benefit in many ways from a gap year. Time spent in a country in Asia or the Middle East can be beneficial, and should give you a slight advantage in language learning during the first year at university. 

How should I prepare for interview at Newnham?

Be yourself; don’t try to memorise answers to possible questions, but think about why you are enthusiastic about Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and be prepared to discuss this with the interviewers. Given the range of subjects in the Faculty, you will probably meet with two interviewers, one a specialist in the subject you wish to read, the other the Director of Studies (who may be in a different subject). 

Is there an Admissions Assessment for Asian and Middle Eastern Studies?

For 2024 entry, there is no admissions assessment for Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.   

Are there additional requirements to apply to read a modern language as part of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Tripos?

If you apply to take a modern language as part of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, you will be required to submit examples of written work, sit a College-registered MML admissions assessment, and attend an interview by a specialist in the language.

You will find further information about applying and about the format of the assessment, with sample papers, here:

You will find further information about submitting written work here:

Where can I find out more?

For the most recent course information, see the Faculty website ( 

For details of courses in the Ancient Near East and Egypt, see the Department of Archaeology website ( 

The Asia and the Middle East Subject Overview on the ‘My HE+’ website also provides information and resources for exploring your subject.

Recommended Reading for AMES?

The following are the preparatory reading links for each subject area: 

Eastern Asian Studies 

Middle Eastern Studies 

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