The College usually admits two undergraduates each year to study Oriental Studies.
Mansfield admits an average of 2 candidates each year to read Arabic, Hebrew or Jewish Studies within the department of Oriental Studies. Prof. Alison Salvesen, the College Tutor in Oriental Studies, specialises in Hebrew, Jewish Studies, Aramaic and Syriac.
There are University lectures and classes systematically covering all aspects of the subjects, together with weekly tutorials, generally on an individual basis, for which students produce essays and language work. There are two public examinations, the first (Preliminary, or 'Prelims') being held at the end of the third term of the first year. The second examination ('Finals') takes place at the end of the course. (Note that Hebrew and Jewish Studies students take the same first year exams before deciding their course for Finals.) The teaching is Faculty-based rather than given in College: for Arabic, this takes place at the Oriental Institute (off St Giles in the centre of Oxford), and for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, most classes are held in the Clarendon Institute Building in Walton Street.
Arabic students spend the second year of the course learning the language in an Arabic-speaking country before returning to resume the final two years of their four year course. Hebrew students have the option of spending a year in Israel improving their language skills: in this case, the course takes four years instead of three. Jewish Studies students spend all three years in Oxford, since their course is less heavily linguistic after the first year Prelims exams.
As with other Oriental Studies subjects, the courses for Arabic, Hebrew and Jewish Studies embrace a variety of fields. Although there is a strong linguistic emphasis, all three courses require knowledge of history and culture, and there is a wide range of special subjects in the fields of art, history, literature, philosophy, religion and social life. Many options and combinations are available in these courses which are outlined in the University Undergraduate Prospectus. They include the possibility of taking subsidiary languages: for instance, Arabic students may take papers in one out of Hebrew, Turkish, Persian, Aramaic and Syriac, Akkadian, Armenian, or Spanish; Hebrew students may take Arabic, Egyptology, Akkadian, or Aramaic and Syriac. Otherwise, Arabic students may take papers in Islamic Studies, Islamic History, Islamic Art and Archaeology, or Modern Middle Eastern Studies.
Applicants for Arabic, Hebrew or Jewish Studies should ideally demonstrate evidence of their ability to learn a foreign language through their college or school career. However, candidates are not expected to have any previous knowledge of Hebrew or Arabic before being admitted. Candidates for course combinations which include Arabic, Turkish, Hebrew and Persian will need to take the Oriental Languages Aptitude Test (OLAT). Separate registration for this test will be required, and more information can be found here.
Since the course at Oxford is not narrow and vocational, graduates have been able to obtain a variety of jobs, often (but by no means always) related to the areas of their specialisation, such as journalism, broadcasting, publishing, accountancy, banking, law and business, as well as academic and diplomatic posts. A knowledge of Arabic in particular has lately been regarded as a considerable asset, particularly in the world of business and journalism.
Oxford has a long and distinguished history of teaching and research in Oriental Studies. The University is one of the foremost institutions in the world in this field, and students here benefit greatly from the available resources. In addition to pursuing their formal studies, students may join various societies which have some relevance to their course, (e.g. the Middle East Society).
Candidates are required to submit two pieces of school or college written work. These should be essays or similar pieces of work which have already been written and marked with teachers’ corrections. Prof. Salvesen will be happy to answer any queries prospective candidates may have.