Harvard’s graduate programs in Middle Eastern studies are coordinated by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES). Established in 1954 to support research and teaching on the Middle East, CMES has produced generations of scholars with a profound understanding of and active engagement in the region. At the core of the Center’s mandate is the pursuit of firsthand knowledge about the Middle East based on literacy in its languages and a deep understanding of its diverse politics, cultures, and histories.

Taking a broad interdisciplinary approach encompassing the humanities and social sciences as well as the arts and natural sciences, CMES engages with faculty from across Harvard University whose teaching and research focus on the Middle East, and with other regional studies centers and Harvard libraries and museums holding exceptional and unparalleled collections related to Middle Eastern and Islamic studies. This dynamic academic community includes over 40 faculty, a diverse cohort of more than 50 graduate students, and an annual contingent of 12 to 15 visiting researchers.

Degree Programs

CMES offers a master’s degree in Regional Studies—Middle East and three joint doctoral degrees with the departments of anthropology, history, and the history of art and architecture.

AM Program in Regional Studies—Middle East

The master’s degree in Middle Eastern studies (AM) is a rigorous two-year academic program designed for entrepreneurial students who wish to develop new academic interests or pursue professional skills. Students have diverse profiles and come from the United States and around the world. They share a capacity for rigorous, scholarly exploration of the Middle East region in all its richness and complexity.

Graduates of the program pursue careers in diplomacy, business, media, human rights, and non-governmental work. Some continue for further graduate study in law school, medical school, or PhD programs.

Master’s students make valuable contributions to the intellectual community at CMES, their academic home while in the program, and are encouraged to participate in a range of CMES activities, programs, and workshops.

PhD Programs

Students of the joint PhD programs complete both the requirements of the related department and the language and area studies requirements established by CMES. In addition to coursework and comprehensive exams, PhD students develop a high proficiency in at least one Middle Eastern language and complete a dissertation based on original research.

Joint PhD in Anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies

The joint program in anthropology and Middle Eastern Studies is designed for students interested in enriching their program of study for the PhD in anthropology with firsthand knowledge about the Middle East based on literacy in its languages and an understanding of its cultural traditions. Students are full members of the Department of Anthropology cohort, but also have an intellectual home at CMES and access to CMES faculty, facilities, and resources.

Joint PhD in History and Middle Eastern Studies

The joint program in History and Middle Eastern Studies is designed for students interested in enriching their program of study for the PhD in History with firsthand knowledge about the Middle East based on literacy in its languages and an understanding of its history. Students are full members of the Department of History cohort, but also have an intellectual home at CMES and access to CMES faculty, facilities, and resources.

Joint PhD in History of Art and Architecture and Middle Eastern Studies

The joint program in History of Art and Architecture and Middle Eastern Studies is designed for students interested in enriching their program of study for the PhD in History of Art and Architecture with firsthand knowledge about the Middle East based on literacy in its artistic traditions. Students are full members of the Department of History of Art and Architecture cohort, but also have an intellectual home at CMES and access to CMES faculty, facilities, and resources.

Admissions Requirements

CMES welcomes applications from students with a demonstrated interest in Middle Eastern studies. Strong recommendations and a compelling statement of purpose are vital to a successful application. The GRE is required of all applicants; however there is no minimum score or minimum GPA. The admissions committee takes into consideration all elements of an applicant’s background in their evaluation of applications. Prior language training in a Middle Eastern language is not a prerequisite, although it is advantageous to one’s application.

Prospective students should read the program descriptions (AM and PhD) carefully before submitting their applications. Students should also consult the CMES Prospective Student FAQs for answers to common questions about applying to CMES.

 The GSAS Student Handbook provides more information about program requirements.

Theses & Dissertations

Theses & Dissertations for Middle Eastern Studies

Middle Eastern Studies Faculty