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Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

The Course

The Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (FAMES) consists of two departments — the Department of Middle Eastern Studies and the Department of East Asian Studies. Each department offers a ‘pathway’ in the AMES Tripos.

Our courses cover the major languages, history and culture of the Middle East and East Asia. The Department of Middle Eastern Studies offers Arabic, Persian and Hebrew language and literature courses and departmental-wide courses in history and anthropology. The Department of East Asian Studies offers Chinese and Japanese language, literature and history courses, and some departmental-wide courses in history and film.

The AMES Tripos is a four year course which is divided into two parts. In Part I (two years), students receive intensive language training and introductions to history, literature and culture. In Part II (two years) students spend a year abroad practising their spoken language, taking courses and sometimes doing research towards their final year dissertation. They then return to Cambridge for a final year of more specialised courses.

In the Middle Eastern Studies pathway, it is possible to combine two Middle Eastern languages or study one Middle Eastern language combined with a modern European language such as French, Spanish or German as long as students have an A level in the European language. Students must apply for this option through FAMES not Modern and Medieval Languages. Hindi is offered as a language option from Part IB onwards. Students following the East Asian Studies pathway can only choose Chinese or Japanese. Combining Chinese or Japanese with another language is only possible as an option in Part II (third and fourth year).

Most teaching takes place in the Faculty building and is complemented by weekly language supervisions, and approximately bi-termly supervisions for essay-based courses in which students review their own work in small groups with their instructors.

Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at Pembroke

Pembroke has a long association with AMES, particularly in the field of Middle Eastern and Islamic studies, and the College is keen to maintain this reputation. There is an internal fellow in AMES and the College often hosts seminars and lectures that enhance our students’ learning experience. In recent years Pembroke has had a strong academic record in the Tripos. The College aims to take two or three undergraduates a year, or more if the quality of the field allows. Applicants are accepted for Chinese, Japanese, Hebrew, Arabic and Persian.


We are seeking to admit students from all backgrounds, who have in common an interest in the subject. No prior knowledge of any of the languages offered is assumed (though it helps if applicants have learned the alphabet of the language before coming into residence); knowing too much in advance is sometimes a disadvantage, so check before deciding to spend your summer with your nose in a grammar book! A foreign language at A Level (or equivalent) is particularly desirable, suggesting a proven ability to cope with language work. Other useful A Levels (or equivalent) are History and English, though applicants have been accepted from a wide variety of academic backgrounds.

The admissions process consists of a pre-interview written assessment (see University of Cambridge website), followed by two or three interviews at Pembroke and in the Faculty. Interviews consist mainly of general questions and discussion of applicants' A Level (or equivalent) work.  As part of the admissions process applicants will be asked to submit two essays of their choice written for their A Level (or equivalent) courses.

Go to the Asian and Middle Eastern Studies faculty website