The Master’s Degree Program in Near & Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Basel deals with historical, cultural, social and political topics concerning the eastern Mediterranean area «from Sarajevo to Cairo», which is strongly influenced by Islam. Accordingly, a key feature of the master's program is the inclusion of Southeast Europe, the present-day Republic of Turkey, and the Eastern Arab world (including Egypt). Compared with similar programs of study in Switzerland and at German-speaking universities in general, the focus in Basel is therefore on «Near Eastern Studies». Study focuses on developments from the early modern period, starting around 1500, to the present day. The philology of modern Arabic and/or Turkish serves as the starting point for a historical and sociological approach to Islamic culture and religion.

Focal areas of teaching and research

In Basel, the historical geographical term «Near East» was deliberately chosen as a descriptive complement to the regional research field of «Middle Eastern Studies» in order to reestablish teaching and research on the connections between Southeast Europe, Turkey and the eastern Arab world in the eastern Mediterranean that broke down at the end of World War I.

The focus is on the political and intellectual history of the Middle East in the 19th and 20thcenturies. The master’s program deals with the primary political and ideological currents of this period, such as nationalism, Islamism and confessionalism, as well as the rise of modern nation-states in the Middle East and Southeast Europe. The program also includes modern cultural and social studies of the region, as well as current politics and international relations in the Middle East. 

Study is based on methods, models and theories from the social sciences, which are combined with the working methods of humanities disciplines such as history, philosophy and literature.

An example of the research agenda of the Master’s Degree Program in Near & Middle Eastern Studies is the topic «Islam in Southeast Europe»: In light of the accession of Southeast European countries with Muslim populations to the European Union, Islam is set to attract increased attention in Southeast Europe in the future. A large portion of Muslims living in Switzerland already originate from countries in Southeast Europe.

The department is involved in numerous collaborations at the University of Basel, such as the «Cultural Topographies». It has close ties with the departments of Eastern European Studies, Religious Studies and Political Science, as well as the Faculty of Theology.

Program structure

A master’s is a second degree that a person can earn after completing a bachelor’s. The master’s program requires a total of 120 credit points (CP). The Master's Degree Program in Near & Middle Eastern Studies is combined with a second degree subject, each worth 35 CP. The subject in which students write their master’s thesis (30 CP) is considered to be their major; the other subject is their minor. Free electives (20 CP) are also included. One ECTS credit point equates to approximately 30 hours of work.

Master of Arts (120 CP)
Major of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
65 CP (35 CP + 30 CP for the master thesis)
Minor of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
or extra-faculty
35 CP
Free electives
20 CP
Two degree subjects

Combination of subjects

The Master’s Degree Program in Near & Middle Eastern Studies allows many interesting combinations with other fields of study in terms of content, methodology and future professional activity in the Middle East region. Students are free to select a second master’s degree subject that meets their specific interests. Students can choose a subject offered by the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences or a subject from another faculty. 

Students are free to choose any free elective. These courses allow students to deepen their knowledge of their degree subjects, gain an insight into other degree subjects offered by the University of Basel, or acquire language skills.

Career opportunities

The Master’s Degree Program in Near & Middle Eastern Studies differs clearly from the bachelor's degree in terms of academic level. The advanced academic instruction provided by this program qualifies students for work in science, research and teaching, or prepares them for subsequent doctoral studies or a career as a Middle East expert in political or journalistic institutions. 

The extensive linguistic, historical and cultural knowledge provided by the program, often combined with experience abroad, opens up excellent employment opportunities in numerous non-university areas, although such opportunities often require practical training in the respective professional field. Prospects include careers in the following fields: intercultural cooperation, integration/migration, aid agencies and international organizations (International Red Cross, Caritas, etc.), diplomatic service, journalism (newspapers, media), civil service, business and banking, museums, the publishing sector, libraries, archives, documentaries, or translation/interpreting (additional training required).

Master’s admission requirements

Admission to master’s programs is regulated by the university student regulations and the stipulations of the individual degree program descriptions. More details of the general master’s admission requirements are provided here.

For students to be admitted with no additional requirements, they must hold a bachelor’s degree worth 180 CP from a higher education institution recognized by the University of Basel.

Subject-related requirements are defined in the admission requirements (section 3) of the study program for the relevant subject. The guidelines may also contain further useful information that is key to successful studies.

Registration dates

Students must register for their bachelor’s or master’s degree program within a specified timeframe – even in cases of delayed registration.

Information events

The University of Basel organizes regular information events for bachelor’s and master’s programs. Details can be found on the <link de fakultaet aktuelles external-link-new-window internen link im aktuellen>events page of the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. 
Some subject areas also offer their own separate information or welcome events. Please consult the page for the relevant subject area for event dates and locations.

Teaching committee

Master Near and Middle Eastern Studies

The Master of Arts major in Near and Middle Eastern Studies at Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Basel is an area study in history and social science that deals with historical, cultural, social and political issues of the Ottoman and post-Ottoman Eastern Mediterranean region in modern and contemporary history.

The geographic focus of the MA program is set on Islamic-Ottoman Eastern Mediterranean region, covering Southeast-Europe, Anatolia, Mesopotamia, Levant, Hejaz, and Egypt. The common Ottoman history in the Eastern Mediterranean region is regarded as the connecting element between the Balkans, Turkey and the Eastern Arab world. The two languages, Modern Standard Arabic and Modern Turkish, are highly complementary and form a stable foundation for the learning of Ottoman-Turkish, which is also taught at Middle Eastern Studies. The Ottoman language, the official language of administration in the Middle East from the early modern period to the 1920s, opens the access to the extensive Ottoman archives, which contain important documents on the political and social history of the eastern Mediterranean region. Master's students may also specialize in only one language, either Arabic or Turkish.

The four semesters lasting MA program is a double-major program covering in total 120 credits, divided into two majors (each 35 credits), the MA thesis in one of the majors (30 credit points ) and a complementary area (20 credits). Near and Middle Eastern Studies is a MA major at the Department of Social Science of the Faculty of Humanities and needs to be combined with another BA major. Language of instruction is German and English. 

To be admitted to a master's degree, a first degree (Bachelor's, or another Master's degree) is required. Profound and certificated knowledge of either Arabic or Turkish is required for acceptance.