Middle Eastern Studies

University of California, Berkeley

About the Program

Bachelor of Arts

Note: The Middle Eastern Studies Major has been retired and folded into Global Studies.  We are no longer accepting Middle Eastern Studies declarations.  Please visit the Global Studies website or the Global Studies page on the Berkeley Academic Guide for more information. 

Since 1981, the interdisciplinary major in Middle Eastern Studies (MES) has provided UC Berkeley students with the opportunity to study a region of great historical and cultural importance whose political, economic, and social development is closely linked to that of our own society. The MES major covers the Arab world, Turkey, Iran, and Israel, intertwining history and culture, geography and ecology, politics and economics, with an emphasis on the modern and contemporary Middle East. Its broad and balanced program of study draws on a wide variety of Middle East-related courses offered by faculty from more than 20 different departments and schools in the University. Students in the MES major also learn at least one of the major Middle Eastern languages of today: Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, or Turkish. MES graduates have gone on to work in industry and government, both in the United States and abroad. About half pursue graduate studies. Many then go on to academic or professional careers.

The MES major falls under the academic supervision of the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES). The CMES organizes public lectures, publishes a newsletter, maintains a small library, and promotes scholarship on the Middle East at all levels. Students are encouraged to utilize the Center's many resources. The MES major is administered through the International and Area Studies (IAS) Office. The IAS office provides information on all administrative aspects of the major including advice on when and how to declare, fulfilling requirements, and timely program completion. Academic advising, including planning a course of study to suit individual needs and interests, identifying a thesis topic and adviser, and career counseling, is offered by the MES chair.

Declaring the Major

Declaring a major in MES follows guidelines established by the College of Letters and Science. Students wishing to declare Middle Eastern Studies must satisfy the following criteria:

  • Have completed or are currently enrolled in one Middle East-related course at UC Berkeley, preferable one of the lower division requirements: NE STUD 10, HISTORY 12, M E STU 10
  • Have completed or are currently enrolled in a modern Middle Eastern language course (Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, or Turkish).
  • Have a major and cumulative GPA of 2.0 or higher.
  • Have attended a major declaration workshop (check the calendar at 101 Stephens hall or the IAS website for dates).
  • Must not be in their final semester of undergraduate work.

To be declared students must submit:

  1. The application Form and Program Worksheet.  
  2. A current Cal Central transcript with student’s name printed on it. Please highlight all courses that apply to the major. For double majors or minors, please indicate which classes will overlap with the other major (maximum 2) or minor (maximum 1).
  3. Official and sealed transcripts from other colleges attended. If a student intends to count coursework from other colleges toward the major requirements, official transcripts from those colleges must be submitted with the MES application. We do not have access to transcripts in the Admissions Office, and students are responsible for requesting official transcripts from their other schools. Only official transcripts will be accepted.
  4. The “Petition to Declare a Major” signed by the student. If MES is a second major, the Double Major Application must be filled out and submitted when declaring MES.
  5. The Personal Statement—a typed, double-spaced, one-page essay describing the student’s interest in MES. The purpose of this essay is to give MES advisers a clear picture of the student’s academic interests. In the statement, students should describe their interest in the major, their career aspirations, any plans for a higher degree, future goals, and anything else relevant to studying Middle Eastern Studies.

Applications are available in the IAS office at 101 Stephens Hall or the IAS website.  Fill out all the application materials and meet with an IAS adviser.

Honors Program

To graduate with honors in Middle Eastern Studies, students must enroll in the two-semester honors seminar, IAS H102 (fall only) and M E STU H195 (spring only) and must obtain a grade point average (GPA) of 3.6 in the major and 3.5 in overall University coursework. The honors seminar (M E STU H195) is taken in addition to a student's regular course work for fulfilling requirements for the major and culminates in the writing of a senior thesis. To qualify for M E STU H195, students must be recommended by the IAS H102 instructor. The thesis is read by the M E STU H195 instructor and at least one other faculty member who is selected by the student in consultation with the thesis instructor. Eligibility for participating in the honors program is determined by the IAS office.
There is no guarantee that students accepted into the honors program will graduate with honors. Honors recommendations are made after graduation and are based on a number of factors including (but not limited to) major GPA, grades received for IAS H102 and M E STU H195, and faculty adviser recommendations.

Visit Program Website

Major Requirements

In addition to the University, campus, and college requirements, listed on the College Requirements tab, students must fulfill the below requirements specific to their major program.

Repeat Rule

Students who earn a grade of F, D-, D, D+ or NP may repeat the course only once. Regardless of the grade the student receives for their second attempt (including F, D-, D or D+), the student may not repeat the course a third time.

General Guidelines

  1. No more than three upper division courses taken outside of the College of Letters & Science, including courses taken at other universities, EAP, study abroad, and other colleges on the UC Berkeley campus, may count towards major requirements.
  2. No more than three upper division courses may be taken from the same department. The one exception is for MES courses, of which an unlimited number may be taken, including multiple MES 130 and MES 150 courses (MES 130 and MES 150 are special topics courses. Check with an MES adviser to confirm that course content is appropriate for the major).
  3. A course crosslisted with MES should be taken through MES.  Students who intend to enroll in a cross-listed course and apply the course toward an upper division major requirement should see an MES adviser prior to enrolling.
  4. Courses cannot be double counted within the major.
  5. All courses taken to fulfill the major requirements below must be taken for a letter grade. The two exceptions are MES 109 (taught as Pass/No Pass only) and the foreign language requirement: only the fourth semester must be taken for a letter grade. The first, second, and third semester language classes may be taken Pass/No Pass
  6. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 must be maintained in both upper and lower division courses used to fulfill the major requirements.

For information regarding residence requirements and unit requirements, please see the College Requirements tab.

Summary of Major Requirements

Lower Division Requirement: One course
Foreign Language Requirement: Proficiency equivalent to four college-level semesters
Upper Division Requirements: Nine courses
Core Courses: Three courses
Concentration: Four courses
Methodology: One course
Senior Thesis: One course

Lower Division Requirement

Select one of the following:4
NE STUD 10Introduction to the Near East4
HISTORY 12The Middle East4
M E STU 10Introduction to Middle Eastern Studies4

Foreign Language Requirement

All Middle Eastern Studies (MES) students must be able to demonstrate proficiency equivalent to four college-level semesters in a modern Middle Eastern language: Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, or Turkish. The first semester language course must be completed or be in progress at the time of admission to the major. The remaining three courses may be completed at any time before graduation. The language cannot be started in the senior year and finished in the postgraduation summer.

There are three ways students can fulfill the four-semester language requirement, depending on their background and ability:

  1. Through coursework: A combination of college, summer program, or college-level study abroad programs could satisfy the language requirement. At a minimum, students must complete the fourth semester of a language with a grade of C- or better. The first, second, and third level of language may be taken on a Pass/No Pass basis. However, the fourth semester must be taken for a letter grade. Language courses need not be taken at Berkeley. Courses taken at a community college or any accredited school or university are acceptable. Advanced Placement Language Test scores of 5 complete the requirement. However, transcripts and score reports must be provided. See an IAS adviser concerning language study abroad.
  2. With a proficiency examination: Students whose language skills are at a fourth semester or beyond and who do not wish to take language courses can opt to test out of the requirement by requesting a language exam at the time of admission by an appropriate language instructor in the Department of Near Eastern Studies (see language directions in the Department of Near Eastern Studies for certification requirements). Language certification forms are required and may be obtained through the IAS office. Students whose exams reveal only partial ability to read, write and converse must take additional language courses to elevate their level, as determined by the examiner. These courses may be in any of the four Middle Eastern languages. Students who are able to show advanced or native ability in one Middle Eastern language are encouraged, but not required, to begin study of a second Middle Eastern language.
  3. Being a non-native English speaker: Non-native speakers of English may use their native Middle Eastern language to satisfy this requirement. This requires a language proficiency exam. See an IAS adviser for details. 

Upper Division Requirements

Core Courses (three courses)
Select three courses from the following, in three different departments:
ANTHRO 181Themes in the Anthropology of the Middle East and Islam4
ASAMST 132Islamaphobia and Constructing Otherness4
ASAMST 190ACCourse Not Available
GWS 111Special Topics1-4
HISTORY 100Course Not Available4
HISTORY 109AThe Rise of Islamic Civilization, 600-12004
HISTORY 109BThe Middle East, 1000-17504
HISTORY 109CThe Middle East From the 18th Century to the Present4
M E STU 109Model Arab League3
M E STU 130Cross-Listed Topics1-4
M E STU 150Advanced Study in the Middle East4
MUSIC 132Music of the Middle East4
NE STUD 140Topics in Islamic Thought and Institutions3
NE STUD 142Shi'ite Islam4
NE STUD 143AIslam in Iran3
NE STUD 143BIslam in Iran3
NE STUD 144Sufism: The Mysticism of Islam4
PACS 135Special Topics in Regional Conflict 13
POL SCI 142AMiddle East Politics4
SOCIOL 189Selected Topics in Comparative Perspectives4
Concentration (four courses)
Select four courses to form a disciplinary concentration (see below for further details)
M E STU 102Scope and Methods of Research in Middle Eastern Studies4
Senior Thesis
M E STU 190Senior Thesis1-4
or M E STU H195 Honors in Middle Eastern Studies

Only applicable when course focuses on Middle East. Requires approval by the MES chair. 

Additional Information: Concentration Requirement

Four courses are selected to form a disciplinary concentration, requiring students to pursue advanced study of a selected topic in Middle Eastern Studies following a particular disciplinary approach. In order to ensure disciplinary depth, at least two of the four courses taken to fulfill the concentration requirement must be from the same department. The remaining two courses must be thematically related to the selected topic. The concentration must be designed in consultation with the MES chair and pre-approved by an MES staff adviser in the IAS office. Students may choose their concentration courses from the list of core courses and from any courses listed as having at least fifty percent Middle East-related content. Students may also petition to count up to two courses listed as having thirty-three precent Middle East-related content toward their concentration.

Minor Requirements

Note: The Middle Eastern Studies minor is being retired.  The deadline to declare the Middle Eastern Studies minor is Friday, December 8, 2017.  Please visit the Global Studies website or the Global Studies page on the Berkeley Academic Guide for more information.  

Students who have a strong interest in an area of study outside their major often decide to complete a minor program. These programs have set requirements and are noted officially on the transcript in the memoranda section, but they are not noted on diplomas.

General Guidelines

  1. All courses taken to fulfill the minor requirements below must be taken for graded credit.
  2. A minimum of three of the upper division courses taken to fulfill the minor requirements must be completed at UC Berkeley. All transfer courses must be approved by the MES Faculty Committee. Please see and IAS adviser for details. 
  3. A minimum grade point average (GPA) of 2.0 is required for courses used to fulfill the minor requirements.
  4. Courses used to fulfill the minor requirements may be applied toward the Seven-Course Breadth requirement, for Letters & Science students.
  5. No more than one upper division course may be used to simultaneously fulfill requirements for a student's major and minor programs.
  6. All minor requirements must be completed prior to the last day of finals during the semester in which the student plans to graduate. Students who cannot finish all courses required for the minor by that time should see a College of Letters & Science adviser.
  7. All minor requirements must be completed within the unit ceiling. (For further information regarding the unit ceiling, please see the College Requirements tab.)

MES Minor Course Requirements

One introductory lower division course from the following: M E STU 10 , M E STU 20* , NE STUD 10,  HISTORY 12, *MES 20 is applicable to the MES minor only.

Five upper division Middle East-related courses selected from the list of core courses. Any substitutions must be pre-approved by an MES adviser.

Minor Rules

  • Since the MES minor is interdisciplinary, the five upper division courses must be taken in at least two different departments.
  • The study of modern Middle Eastern languages is encouraged; however, there is no language requirement for the MES minor nor do language courses count toward the minor with the exception of advanced literature courses (third year level and above).
  • The six courses taken to satisfy MES minor must total 22 or more units.
  • With the exception of M E STU 109, all courses must be taken for a letter grade. M E STU 97, M E STU 98, M E STU 99, M E STU 197, M E STU 198 and M E STU 199 are not acceptable to fulfill minor requirements.
  • At least three of the upper division minor courses must be completed at UC Berkeley.
  • A minimum GPA of 2.0 must be achieved in the courses used to satisfy the minor.
  • Course work for the minor must be completed within the 130-unit maximum for graduation.

Minor Application Information

  1. The MES minor is open to all undergraduates with the exception of MES majors.
  2. Completed applications are accepted in fall and spring semesters, beginning the third week of instruction and ending on the last day of instruction (not the last day of finals), as well as from early June to mid-August.
  3. Students must declare the minor no later than the term preceding their final term.
  4. Students are required to meet with a MES adviser in 101 Stephens Hall to declare the minor.

A Complete MES Minor Application Consists Of:

  1. A completed MES Minor Application Form and Program Worksheet (found on the IAS website). 
  2. A copy of the Cal Central transcript.
  3. For non-UC Berkeley coursework to be used on the minor, official and sealed transcripts reflecting that coursework.
  4. A copy of your current class schedule printed from Cal Central, highlighting any courses being taken for the minor.
  5. The “Completion of L&S Minor” form signed by the student. This form is available from the College of Letters & Science, as well as on their website.

Foreign Language

The study of Middle Eastern languages in encouraged; however, there is no language requirement for the MES minor, nor do language courses count toward the minor.


Lower Division
Select one of the following:4
M E STU 10Introduction to Middle Eastern Studies4
M E STU 20Perspectives on the Middle East2
NE STUD 10Introduction to the Near East4
HISTORY 12The Middle East4
Upper Division
Select five upper division Middle East-related courses, from at least two different departments

College Requirements

Undergraduate students must fulfill the following requirements in addition to those required by their major program.

For detailed lists of courses that fulfill college requirements, please review the College of Letters & Sciences page in this Guide. For College advising appointments, please visit the L&S Advising Pages. 

University of California Requirements

Entry Level Writing

All students who will enter the University of California as freshmen must demonstrate their command of the English language by fulfilling the Entry Level Writing requirement. Fulfillment of this requirement is also a prerequisite to enrollment in all reading and composition courses at UC Berkeley. 

American History and American Institutions

The American History and Institutions requirements are based on the principle that a US resident graduated from an American university, should have an understanding of the history and governmental institutions of the United States.

Berkeley Campus Requirement

American Cultures

All undergraduate students at Cal need to take and pass this course in order to graduate. The requirement offers an exciting intellectual environment centered on the study of race, ethnicity and culture of the United States. AC courses offer students opportunities to be part of research-led, highly accomplished teaching environments, grappling with the complexity of American Culture.

College of Letters & Science Essential Skills Requirements

Quantitative Reasoning

The Quantitative Reasoning requirement is designed to ensure that students graduate with basic understanding and competency in math, statistics, or computer science. The requirement may be satisfied by exam or by taking an approved course.

Foreign Language

The Foreign Language requirement may be satisfied by demonstrating proficiency in reading comprehension, writing, and conversation in a foreign language equivalent to the second semester college level, either by passing an exam or by completing approved course work.

Reading and Composition

In order to provide a solid foundation in reading, writing, and critical thinking the College requires two semesters of lower division work in composition in sequence. Students must complete parts A & B reading and composition courses by the end of their second semester and a second-level course by the end of their fourth semester.

College of Letters & Science 7 Course Breadth Requirements

Breadth Requirements

The undergraduate breadth requirements provide Berkeley students with a rich and varied educational experience outside of their major program. As the foundation of a liberal arts education, breadth courses give students a view into the intellectual life of the University while introducing them to a multitude of perspectives and approaches to research and scholarship. Engaging students in new disciplines and with peers from other majors, the breadth experience strengthens interdisciplinary connections and context that prepares Berkeley graduates to understand and solve the complex issues of their day.

Unit Requirements

  • 120 total units

  • Of the 120 units, 36 must be upper division units

  • Of the 36 upper division units, 6 must be taken in courses offered outside your major department
Residence Requirements

For units to be considered in "residence," you must be registered in courses on the Berkeley campus as a student in the College of Letters & Science. Most students automatically fulfill the residence requirement by attending classes here for four years. In general, there is no need to be concerned about this requirement, unless you go abroad for a semester or year or want to take courses at another institution or through UC Extension during your senior year. In these cases, you should make an appointment to meet an adviser to determine how you can meet the Senior Residence Requirement.

Note: Courses taken through UC Extension do not count toward residence.

Senior Residence Requirement

After you become a senior (with 90 semester units earned toward your BA degree), you must complete at least 24 of the remaining 30 units in residence in at least two semesters. To count as residence, a semester must consist of at least 6 passed units. Intercampus Visitor, EAP, and UC Berkeley-Washington Program (UCDC) units are excluded.

You may use a Berkeley Summer Session to satisfy one semester of the Senior Residence requirement, provided that you successfully complete 6 units of course work in the Summer Session and that you have been enrolled previously in the college.

Modified Senior Residence Requirement

Participants in the UC Education Abroad Program (EAP), Berkeley Summer Abroad, or the UC Berkeley Washington Program (UCDC) may meet a Modified Senior Residence requirement by completing 24 (excluding EAP) of their final 60 semester units in residence. At least 12 of these 24 units must be completed after you have completed 90 units.

Upper Division Residence Requirement

You must complete in residence a minimum of 18 units of upper division courses (excluding UCEAP units), 12 of which must satisfy the requirements for your major.

Student Learning Goals

Learning Goals for the Major

  • General familiarity in area studies of the Middle East that includes the politics, history, and cultures of the geographic region encompassing the Arab world, Turkey, Iran, and Israel;
  • Knowledge of the key political, economic, and social issues in the contemporary Middle East;
  • Understanding of the basic tenets of Islam, its historical development, and its relationship to minority religions of the region;
  • Deep understanding of one particular issue or topic within the field of MES;
  • Proficiency in at least one modern Middle Eastern language: Arabic, Turkish, Persian, or Hebrew, other regional languages (Armenian, Berber, etc.) subject to petition;
  • Familiarity with interdisciplinary methodologies, relatively in depth knowledge of one particular discipline’s approach to MES.


  • Strong foreign language speaking and writing skills;
  • Ability to recognize and use interdisciplinary approaches within the field of area studies;
  • Training in qualitative and, where relevant, quantitative methods of data analysis and interpretation;
  • Advanced critical thinking and evaluation skills;
  • Ability to understand and articulate politically sensitive issues according to academic rules and practices;
  • Excellent written and oral communication.


Middle Eastern Studies

Faculty and Instructors


Emily Gottreich, Associate Adjunct Professor. Middle Eastern Studies, Islamic Urban Studies, Jewish history, Morocco, North Africa, Sephardic Studies.
Research Profile


Peter Bartu, Lecturer.

Daniel Zoughbie, Lecturer.

Contact Information

International and Area Studies Academic Program

International and Area Studies Program, 101 Stephens Hall

Phone: 510-642-4466

Fax: 510-642-9850


Visit Program Website

Associate Dean, Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Chair, Middle Eastern Studies

Maximilian Auffhammer

207 Giannini Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720-3310


Lead Academic Adviser

Ethan Savage

101 Stephens Hall

Phone: 510-643-4156


Back to Top