Why New College?

As a subject, Arabic is both old and new at New College.

Arabic was taught here for many years and produced numerous distinguished graduates, notably D.S. Margoliouth (d. 1940), one of the most famous British orientalists of the twentieth century. Margoliouth was not only a master of Arabic, but also other Middle Eastern languages, including Syriac, Persian, and Hebrew. He was both a student and later a fellow of the College. 

The teaching of Arabic at New College was discontinued for many years, but in 2023 it was revived. This is an exciting development for the College, especially given its long association with the study of the Middle East and its reputation for excellence in languages and other humanities subjects. 

Along with Arabic, New College has an outstanding group of tutors specialising in European languages. They work alongside tutors in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies to teach a Joint School that is both rigorous and rewarding. 

Places available

4 in total for Arabic and Joint Schools. 

What we look for

When considering applications for EMEL, we look for students who combine an aptitude for languages with a curiosity about history, politics, literature, and religion, especially of Europe and the Middle East. We also look for those who can think critically and independently and who are open to learning about new cultures. For the Arabic portion of the degree, we do not expect applicants to have necessarily studied the language before applying nor do we expect them to have studied the Middle East in a formal way. You will on the other hand need to have studied or be studying a modern European language to A-level (at New College, this means one of French, German, or Russian); for more on requirements on the Modern Languages side, see the relevant subject pages. 

In preparing for your interview, it is important that you find time for a little independent reading (material in translation is fine, or indeed literature in English) so that you can determine whether the Oxford course is right for you. 

The Oxford course in EMEL fosters a range of transferrable skills. It teaches students to evaluate and master evidence; to analyse arguments; and to express their thoughts precisely and persuasively. We look for students who can excel in such a course, regardless of what their long-term goals may be. 

Tutors' research interests

Professor Christian Sahner: Professor Sahner is a historian and Arabist specialising in the late antique and medieval Middle East and neighbouring regions (ca. 500-1500). His work concerns the rise of Islam, relations between Muslims and non-Muslims (chiefly Christians and Zoroastrians), conversion, and the history of sectarianism. He is currently writing a book that explores the history of religious change and imperial power in certain hard-to-govern regions, including the mountains of North Africa, Syria-Lebanon, and Iran. 

Along with Professor Sahner, students of Arabic at New College are taught by a wide array of postholders in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies who are affiliated with other Oxford colleges. 

For information on the Modern Languages tutors and their research interests, see the Modern Languages subject page.

Joint Schools

Applications for EMEL should be exclusively with French, German, and Russian. 

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