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Postgraduate Study - PhD and Research Degrees

Arabic and Islamic Studies


Degree types explained

  • MPhil/PhD Arab and Islamic Studies
  • MPhil/PhD Ethno-Political Studies
  • MPhil/PhD Kurdish Studies
  • MPhil/PhD Middle East Politics
  • MPhil/PhD Palestine Studies

Degree duration details

Start date

September or January

Location Streatham Campus
Study modes

Study mode details

Full time or part time


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

  • Centre for Gulf Studies
  • Centre for Persian and Iranian Studies
  • Centre for Kurdish Studies
  • European Centre for Palestine Studies
  • Centre for the Study of Islam
  • Centre for Islamic Archaeology
  • Centre for Middle East Politics
  • Centre for Magic and Esotericism

View 2024 Entry

How to apply

Apply online

Ask a question

Largest purpose-built Middle East centre in the UK

Home to Europe's most important research collection on the Arab world

Our Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies research is No2 in the UK for world-leading research.

Based on 4* research submitted to REF 2021, Submitted to UoA25 Area Studies

Part of the South West Doctoral Training Partnership (SWDTP) – a hub of world-class social science research

Research overview

The Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies is an Area Studies department grounded in multidisciplinary approaches to research and training. Within a purpose-built space, it brings together anthropologists, archaeologists, literary scholars, linguists, political scientists, historians, sociologists and scholars of religion. Researchers collaborate within the Institute, as well as within disciplinary networks at Exeter, alongside their contributions at national and international levels. We strongly believe that the presence of a variety of disciplines, along with geographic and temporal specialisms, within one building enriches the work we produce as a collective.

Staff and postgraduate research students are affiliated to one of our research centres, where they can share their research findings, participate 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.

Founded in 1978, Exeter’s Centre for Gulf Studies is an inter-disciplinary team of international researchers in humanities and social sciences interested in all aspects of anthropology, sociology, modern and contemporary history, politics and international relations, political economy and material culture of the Arabian Peninsula. The Centre provides a world recognised environment for research, hosting PhD students, visiting researchers and externally funded projects. For a decade, it has been the fertile incubator of new critical Gulf Studies contributing to drastically reshape research on the region.

The Centre has been hosting the longest-running conference series on the Gulf region and Arabian Peninsula since 1979. One of the largest in the world, Exeter's Gulf Collection totals over 100,000 items on Yemen and the Gulf monarchies and is housed in the University's Arab World Documentation Unit.

In addition, our staff plays an active role in advising on the Gulf political and economic affairs and the preservation of cultural heritage.

Find out more

The Centre for Persian and Iranian Studies was founded back in 2008 and has been active in research on modern Iranian history from 1800 and in the broad areas of Persian literature and its relationship to Sufism. In order to avoid the assumption that Persian and Iranian can be conflated into one, we have insisted on keep the two categories distinct in our name and practice, albeit while recognising their overlaps. We have hosted a number of major international conferences such as Hafez and the Religion of Love in 2012, Iran in the 18th Century in 2015, and Sufis and Mullahs in 2016 all of which resulted in published volumes that have shaped the field. The Centre also hosted important projects such as poets in the Timurid period and the Golha project digitising songs and music from Iranian radio in the 1970s.

Unfortunately following the loss of the founding directors, Leonard Lewisohn and Michael Axworthy in 2018 and 2019 respectively, and then with the lockdown, we have been less active but are in the process of rebuilding, especially with the work on contemporary Iran led by the new director. We have had an important community of research students working primarily in Iranian intellectual history and look forward to developing it with the revival of our MA programme in Iranian Studies as well as a renewal of interest in innovative research topics and approaches to modern Iran and other Persophone contexts and the study of Persian and Iranian literatures and cultural studies with further workshops, invited lecture, and online engagements and events. We also welcome students looking to study the connected histories and practices that link Iran to other Persian speaking communities and beyond in what sometimes has been described as the Persian cosmopolis.

Find out more

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.

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The European Centre for Palestine Studies (ECPS) was the first of its kind in the world. It is dedicated to researching and teaching the modern history and current affairs of Palestine and the Palestinians. Professor Ilan Pappe and Dr Ghada Karmi founded the ECPS in 2009, building on the work already done in the university, by the Palestine Studies Trust founded by Dr Uri Davis in the early 1980s.

It focuses on post graduate studies and offers special programs, lectures and workshop on Palestine in the past and in the present. It is now part of a network of similar centres around the world, all working together to build a solid scholarly infrastructure on Palestine and the Palestinians that has already benefited anyone involved in the search for peace and justice in this part of the world.

ECPS draws upon the expertise of a distinguished group of scholars in Middle Eastern Studies, both from IAIS and from various departments in the university.

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The Centre for the Study of Islam is perhaps the leading collection of researchers in Britain in Islamic studies covering a range of areas with a strong focus on intellectual history as an approach and the study of Islamic law and legal theory, philosophy and theology, Sufism, classical Islamic history and belles-lettres as areas of inquiry. It is a well-established area of research at Exeter dating back to the study of Islam in the Theology department in the 1970s with major figures like M.A. Shaban, Aziz al-Azmeh, Ian Netton, and Gautier Juynboll. We approach the study of Islam broadly beyond the traditional Arabic and Persian contexts and welcome research students working on other parts of the Muslim world, with interests both in history and in the contemporary world. As such our students often have a broad supervision with our colleagues in other centres and indeed in other departments. The centre has hosted a number of research projects especially in Islamic law, life and practice in the contemporary Muslim world, the nature of the seminaries, and philosophy in the Muslim world.

Apart from regular weekly research seminars for the research community in Exeter, workshops and conferences relating to the projects of the faculty, the CSI also runs lectures with leading visiting academics in the field and hosts a termly research afternoon where we convene to discuss an issue of research relevant to us with an invited keynote speakers and early career researchers. One of our most interesting recent developments – running into the third year – is the hosting of a visiting Al-Qasimi Professor of Islamic Studies who plays a critical role in the life of the centre but also acts as the interface with the wider world through outreach activities. CSI has played an important role in the digital strategy of the IAIS taking our research and its dissemination online through the effective use of social media and streaming platforms to bring cutting edge conversations on the nature of Islamic studies to a global audience. Our faculty have consistently been engaged in advising institutions outside of academia on matter relating to Islam in the world and in Britain in particular and continue to play an active role in the media in shaping our debates on Islam.

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Founded in June 2017, the Centre for Islamic Archaeology in the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Exeter is a centre for teaching and research on all aspects of Islamic archaeology and Islamic material culture studies across the World, and for all periods. Adopting an anthropologically informed and historically aware approach, staff expertise encompasses epigraphy, maritime archaeology, ethnography, and archaeology. Cross-disciplinary research and teaching is a core strength of the Centre through active links with university departments in Europe, Africa, Egypt, and the Arabian Peninsula, as well as across the University of Exeter. Fieldwork is one of our core activities, and in which many students participate either through their own projects, or as part of staff-led fieldwork.

The Centre hosts several major externally funded research projects and a thriving PhD student community. Public engagement and presentation of research results is a further key activity of the Centre, through Exhibition curation in the Street Gallery in the Institute, and elsewhere, and via conferences such as Indian Ocean World Archaeology (Exeter, 2020) or Islamic Archaeology in Global Perspective (Bahrain, 2017) lectures, and seminars.

Find out more

An interdisciplinary centre at the University of Exeter, the Centre for Magic and Esotericism explores topics related to the history of magic, occult, and esoteric literatures using a ground-breaking approach by studying many different cultures and languages all in dialogue with one another.

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The Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies hosts a diverse and thriving research community

The Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies hosts a diverse and thriving research community, and the Centre for Islamic Archaeology where I am situated has been particularly dynamic and prosperous since its founding in 2017. The Centre is home to an inclusive and motivational Ph.D. community, supervised and supported by Prof. Timothy Insoll and Dr. John P. Cooper, who are active in working collaboratively with each other as well as local stakeholders and archaeologists in the regions in which we research.

I have found the Centre and IAIS to be encouraging of my research endeavours and uniquely resourced, providing and facilitating opportunities that I would not have found elsewhere, resulting in a truly holistic doctoral experience.

Read more from Hannah


PhD in Islamic Archaeology

How to apply

Entry requirements

Before you apply you must meet the Entry requirments of this programme:

Applicants are normally expected to have, or be working towards, a Master's degree at Merit level or above in a subject area that aligns with the expertise of our staff. We also consider applications from candidates who can demonstrate professional or other relevant experience that would make them suited to undertake an MPhil/PhD with us.

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

International students need to show they have the required level of English language to study this course. The required test scores for this course fall under Profile E: view the required test scores and equivalencies from your country.

PhD and Research Programme application process

The information below applies to self-funded PhD, MPhil and Masters by Research applicants, but if you are applying for a funded PhD studentship, please follow the specific instructions related to that application.

  • Pinpoint your PhD research area
  • Investigate whether this area is available at Exeter
  • Ensure that you meet our English language entry requirements (international students only)
  • Construct and refine your PhD research proposal
  • Approach your potential supervisor(s)
  • Apply online

PhD studentships pages can be accessed in our Funding lists on Finance tabs under each research topic page, and are also available from the Postgraduate Research search results pages on this site, on the PhD projects tab.

Full details of the application process can be found on our Apply now webpage.


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Fees and funding

Tuition fees per year 2024/25

For those studying for more than one year, our fees are expected to increase modestly in line with Consumer Price Inflation measured in December each year. More information can be found on our Student Finance webpages.

Tuition fees per year 2023/24

For those studying for more than one year, our fees are expected to increase modestly in line with Consumer Price Inflation measured in December each year. More information can be found on our Student Finance webpages.

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


You can expect:

  • High-quality research supervision to develop and nurture your potential
  • A tailored supervision approach to help best suit your requirements
  • Accessible supervisors who are enthusiastic about working directly with postgraduate research students
  • Regular timetabled meetings with your supervisor
  • 'Open door' policy to all postgraduate students - instant access to world-leading researchers who will share their expertise and ideas with you
  • Regular meetings with your supervisory team, other members of your research group, and mentors

› Arabic and Islamic Studies staff profiles 

You will only be able to pursue a research degree with us if we can offer appropriate supervision. Your supervisors will provide the necessary support and guidance and so need to have expertise in your chosen research field. You may join a research team or work with specific members of staff.

We strongly recommend that you informally approach your potential supervisor(s) with your research proposal before submitting a formal application to study. This will enable you to find out if they feel they would be able to supervise you and whether they believe your research proposal needs further refinement.

Visit our how to apply page for detailed information on the application process.

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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.

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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 2016/17.

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

Job Title Organisation
Acquisitions Team Member: 
Research Fellow
Executive Director 
University Lecturer 
Language Instructor 
Interviewer, protection officer
Research Fellow 

Arabic BBC Media Action
Indonesian Embassy
Iraq Energy Institute
Iraqi Parliament
Islamic University in Medina
St Andrews
United States Department of Defense
The British Library
Indonesian Embassy
UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

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