Asian Middle East Studies
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Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (AMES)

The Cambridge courses in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies - formerly 'Oriental Studies' - offer an intensive grounding in the major cultures of East Asia and the Middle East. 

Number of students

We typically admit one or two undergraduates per year.

The course

Cambridge's traditions in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies go back to the 16th century, and there are extensive library and museum holdings. The Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies itself, where there is a pleasant working library and where all lectures are held, is on the Sidgwick Site of the University, close to the Faculties of Classics and Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics, and to the University Library. Formal lectures are the responsibility of the relevant department, not the College, but the organisation of small-group teaching ("supervisions") and general academic guidance is in the hands of the College's Director of Studies in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies. Being a small subject, students in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies will visit teachers in a number of colleges in order to gain specialist supervision.

Subjects offered by the Faculty:

East Asia
  • Classical and Modern Chinese
  • Classical and Modern Japanese
The Islamic World
  • Arabic
  • Persian
Hebrew Studies
  • Biblical and Medieval Hebrew
  • Modern Hebrew
  • Aramaic

It is possible to take some of these as half-subjects in recognised combinations. It is also possible to study East Asian and Middle Eastern languages combined with a modern European language from the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages, for example Hebrew and Russian, or Arabic and French. (N.B. The Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies is the lead Faculty for administrative purposes with these combined courses.)

The Asian and Middle Eastern Studies course (or Tripos) is divided into three parts, known as Part IA, Part IB and Part II. Examinations in Part IA are taken at the end of the first year, Part IB at the end of the second. Part II normally lasts for two years, with the third year spent abroad in an appropriate country. Students who have chosen to combine Asian and Middle Eastern Studies with a modern language (e.g. French) will follow a course which is divided fairly equally between the two. The Tripos System can offer the student great flexibility: some students come to the Faculty to take Parts IA and IB after having already completed Part I of another Tripos (e.g. Classics, Economics, etc), and some complete Part I of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and then transfer to another Faculty; both lead to a normal Honours degree.

The benefits of AMES at Fitzwilliam College

We are fortunate to have an internal Director of Studies who is also a Fellow of the College, Dr James Aitken. Dr Aitken is also the Acting Director of Studies in Theology, Religion, and Philosophy of Religion.

Entry requirements

Our standard conditional offer for this subject is usually A*AA at A-level or 40-42 points overall and 7, 7, 6 at Higher Level in IB. We may modify offers to take account of individual circumstances.

Since East Asian and Middle Eastern languages are rarely taught in schools, the first year teaching assumes no prior knowledge of the subject. Although most applicants have taken a language at A-level, those with a maths or science background can be equally successful. However, some formal language training (in any language) would be beneficial, as the language classes at the Faculty are very intensive. For applicants wishing to study a modern language as part of the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies degree, an A Level (or equivalent) in the chosen modern language is required.

Applicants are required to submit two pieces of recent written work as part of their application.

Applicants are also required to sit the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies admissions written assessment prior to being called to interview. More information can be found on the University website.

Please note that all applicants to the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies will be interviewed at both the College and the Faculty.

The admissions process 

If you are selected for interview in December, candidates should normally expect two interviews. Applicants are not expected to have any standard background in AMES, the interview aims to assess your motivation, enthusiasm and potential.

Director of Studies

Dr James Aitken

More information

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies >>