Asian and Middle Eastern Studies


The Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Tripos covers many of the languages of Asia and the Middle East, both ancient and modern. The Faculty is divided into the Department of East Asian Studies (DEAS) and the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies (DMEIS). A particular course of studies will fall into one of several broad areas: East Asia (mainly Chinese and Japanese); the Islamic world (Arabic and Persian); Hebrew Studies (ancient and modern Hebrew, Syriac and Aramaic).

In the past, Ancient Near Eastern subjects were offered in the Faculty. They are now offered through the Department of Archaeology, but the languages of ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia can be borrowed to be combined with Arabic or Hebrew. Please consult the University website or the Cambridge Admissions Office for up-to-date information.

Within each of the two departments there is a wide choice of courses: it may be possible to study one language or two, to emphasise the modern or the classical, to focus on history and politics or on culture, etc. In some cases a modern language – most commonly Arabic – may be combined with one of the European languages taught in the Faculty of Modern & Medieval Languages.

Most of the first two years is devoted to intensive language study. In the second, third and, sometimes, fourth years there is greater scope for the study of subjects such as history, religion, archaeology, politics, literature or film. Students of the modern languages are strongly encouraged to spend time in and, where possible, to study in the relevant countries. For some languages this is a requirement. Those offered places at Trinity may be eligible in special cases for introductory language training before starting the course here.

No prior knowledge of the selected language(s) is assumed. Motivation and determination, along with some facility in language learning, are perhaps the most important ingredients for success. All courses of study are demanding. The rewards – competence in one or more difficult languages, and detailed knowledge of societies of both historical and contemporary importance – are correspondingly substantial.

Trinity Fellow Professor Mikael Adolphson (Japanese History) teaches in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies and is the Director of Studies for students in the Faculty.  Recently retired Fellows are Susan Daruvala (20th century Chinese literature and cinema) and Mark Morris (Japanese and Korean cultural history).

Anyone with a serious interest in applying to Trinity to read Asian and Middle Eastern Studies may want to seek more details directly from the Faculty. At first glance, the number and variety of possible courses may seem rather complicated. The structure and demands of the programmes are described in leaflets available from the Undergraduate Administrator, Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge CB3 9DA. Please mention your particular or even broad area of interest. Further information is found on the Faculty website. The Faculty may also be able to offer recommendations about preliminary reading intended to help guide your decision or ease the transition to university-level study. Similar queries can also be directed to the Director of Studies in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies here at Trinity.

Applicants for Asian and Middle Eastern Studies will have one interview with the Director of Studies and another with a second member of the College teaching staff or with an appropriate teaching officer in the Faculty. The number admitted in a given year depends on the strength of the field, but is usually in the range from three to five. The standard conditional offer is A*AA; comparable conditions are set for those taking the IB and other school-leaving examinations.

Teaching Staff

  • Professor Mikael Adolphson
  • Dr Susan Daruvala
  • Dr Mark Morris

Admissions Assessment

All applicants are required to take the pre-interview written assessment for AMES at an authorised centre local to them (for a lot of applicants, this will be their school/college).

Assessment format

  • Comprehension (60 minutes)
  • Essay/text response element (60 minutes)

PDF icon Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Admissions Assessment Specification

You must be registered in advance (separately to your UCAS application) to take the assessment – the registration deadline is 15 October 2016. Your assessment centre must register you for the pre-interview assessment; you’re not able to register yourself. See the written assessments page for information about assessment centres and registration.

The pre-interview written assessment for AMES will be taken on 2 November 2016.

Please note that your performance in the pre-interview assessment will not be considered in isolation, but will be taken into account alongside the other elements of your application.


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