Arab and Islamic Studies

  • MPhil/PhD Arab and Islamic Studies
  • MPhil/PhD Ethno-Political Studies
  • MPhil/PhD Kurdish Studies
  • MPhil/PhD Middle East Studies
  • MPhil/PhD Palestine Studies
Duration MPhil: Full time 2-3 years; Part time 4-5 years
PhD: Full time 3-4 years; Part time 6-7 years
LocationExeter (Streatham)
Start date September or January

Research overview

Research circles

Our research is focused on a number of specialist research centres and more informal research circles. Our research culture is collaborative and democratic, drawing together doctoral researchers, staff and students to produce cutting-edge new knowledge about the Arab and Islamic worlds. 

Staff and postgraduate research students are affiliated to one these clusters, sharing research findings and participating in seminars, lectures and research projects.


Find out about the individual staff members in the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies, their research interests, publications and current projects in our staff profiles area.

Research centres

MPhil/PhD students work alongside researchers within the following research centres:

Kurdish studies

Those interested in studying the MPhil/PhD Kurdish Studies will work alongside researchers from the Centre for Kurdish Studies. Exeter is the only British university to have developed a strong research focus in the field of Kurdish Studies, with the two main Kurdish dialects being taught. As such, we are the leading centre of research in the field in the UK, and one of the global centres of excellence. The Centre has built cooperation with scholars worldwide and aims to develop further this current collaboration and to launch further research initiatives. With our programme of international conferences, workshops and seminars, we also provide a forum for the discussion of topics relevant to Kurdish Studies.

Our focus on Kurdish Studies places the Kurds at the centre of our research and teaching activities, and offers a chance to consider Kurdish society, culture and politics holistically in all its complexity and variation, across and within established nation-states and the global diaspora community.

Palestine Studies

The MPhil/PhD Palestine Studies draws on the expertise of academic staff in the European Centre for Palestine Studies. Led by Professor Ilan Pappé, and affiliated members of the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies (IAIS), the Centre acknowledges the academic importance of the Palestine issue and is the only such centre in Europe.

If you are interested in pursuing an MPhil/PhD in Palestine Studies, we can provide supervision and expertise in the following subject areas:

  • Palestine studies
  • Arabic historiography
  • Diaspora and migration studies
  • Middle East politics, economics, society, history and culture
  • Social anthropology of the Middle East
  • Women and gender studies

In my research I explore how British Muslim NGOs and other social actors of Muslim faith-based activism within British Muslim civil society articulate Islamic perspectives on global issues such as poverty, sustainable development, fair-trade, and eco-sustainability.

I have chosen to conduct my research at the University of Exeter because the Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies represents a niche of excellence in Europe with regards to this study area.

My favourite thing about studying for a PhD is that I can independently drive my own research according to my interests, and use this opportunity to develop my professional skills and become an expert in an area that I enjoy studying. For example, I’ve been taking part in activities offered by the University, such as outreach projects, the SWDTC placement scheme, and the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences.

Also, as I’m passionate about teaching, I was excited to participate to the Learning and Teaching in Higher Education courses, which informed my teaching approach, and enriched my teaching skills and techniques.

Davide Pettinato, 2nd year PhD Arab and Islamic Studies student.


The Institute building was constructed in 2001 in an architectural style evocative of the Middle East, and houses superb facilities including:

  • computerised language lab
  • computing and audio-visual equipment
  • lecture theatres and seminar rooms
  • lounge with satellite TV for viewing Middle Eastern channels
  • a postgraduate centre
  • cafeteria

The University of Exeter Library is the location of the Arab World Documentation Unit, one of the major Arab and Islamic Study research collections in the UK. It provides reference materials covering the Gulf Region; Middle East economics, politics, and history; the history of the Gulf wars and the Arab-Israeli conflict; and the history of British and international involvement in the region, from the 18th century onwards.

If you are considering study at Exeter we strongly encourage you to visit the impressive facilities and meet with staff and students in your area of interest.


Arab and Islamic Studies postgraduates have progressed on to a wide range of careers in the UK and internationally, helped by the reputation of the Institute. These positions span both the public and private spheres and have included academia, journalism, security and political roles.

As a postgraduate at Exeter, you will be able to take advantage of the wealth of business contacts, support and training offered by our Career Zone.

This includes our Postgraduate Researchers' Programme for research students which covers a range of topics to help you to succeed during your PhD and to act as a springboard for your research career.

Graduate destinations

Below are some examples of initial jobs undertaken by Arab and Islamic Studies postgraduates who studied with us in 2011/12.

Please note that, due to data protection, the job titles and organisations are listed independently and do not necessarily correspond.

Job titleOrganisation
Acquisitions Team Member: Arabic BBC Media Action
Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies Bristol City Council / National Centre for Social Research
Assistant Project Manager Caritas Italia
Curator Devon and Cornwall Constabulary
Deputy Country Director Embassy of Switzerland in London
Interpreter Indonesian Embassy
Production Executive International House
Research Fellow Subh-e-Sadiq Welfare Society
Teacher of English as a Foreign Language The British Library
Translator Zayed University
Voluntary International Service  

Entry requirements 2018

Our online learning resource 'Considering a UK PhD?' provides lots of helpful advice and information from staff and students about the PhD experience at Exeter.

You may wish to read our research programme application process page, which gives tips on how to put together a successful research degree application.

Applicants for research programmes are also advised to visit the College's webpages to check for specific advice (see further information link). Here you will be able to find out about staff research interests and make preliminary enquiries about supervision. We advise that you do this before applying.

Requirements for international students

If you are an international student, please visit our international equivalency pages to enable you to see if your existing academic qualifications meet our entry requirements.

English language requirements

IELTS (Academic)

Overall score 7.0 with a minimum score of 6.5 in the writing component and all other sections no less than 6.0.


Overall score 100 with minimum scores of 25 for writing, 21 for listening, 22 for reading and 23 for speaking.

Pearson Test of English (Academic)

65 with no less than 58 in all communicative skills.

Other accepted tests

Information about other acceptable tests of linguistic ability can be found on our English language requirements page.

Pre-sessional English

Applicants with lower English language test scores may be able to take pre-sessional English at INTO University of Exeter prior to commencing their programme. See our English language requirements page for more information.

Finance: fees and funding

Tuition fees per year 2018/19

  • UK/EU: £4,400 full-time; £2,200 part-time
  • International: £16,400 full-time


Our Postgraduate Funding webpage provides links to further information. If you are considering a PhD in the future, in addition to University of Exeter funding, we have been successful at securing postgraduate funding for PhD research through our Funded centres.

Current available funding

Contact us

The College of Social Sciences & International Studies has a dedicated Graduate Research School which is committed to supporting its vibrant postgraduate research student community.

The Graduate Research School helps to support both intellectual and social contact between graduates of different disciplines and from different backgrounds and countries. Our team supports both prospective and current postgraduate research students.

Phone: +44(0) 1392 724490
Web: Enquire online