BA Religion and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies


The BA Religion and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies is a qualification of FHEQ Level 6 award (see the University Awards Framework). You may wish to consult the QAA subject benchmark statement for Theology and Religious Studies and the QAA benchmark statement for Languages, Cultures and Societies

The BA comprises two examinations: the First Public Examination (Preliminary) at the end of the first year and the Second Public Examination (Final Honour School) at the end of the final year. The Preliminary Examination is the normal route to the Honour School of Philosophy and Theology. The duration of the course is three years, except for those students who are admitted as Senior Status and thereby exempted from the first year of study and the Preliminary Examination.

Prospective students and applicants are advised that the course undertaken by students in future years may vary in its detail. Please see the University’s information on potential course changes.


The BA Religion and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies should enable students to:

  1. read widely, acquiring knowledge of the history and literature of at least one religious tradition;
  2. pursue a curriculum that is broad and balanced in respect of historical and generic range, analytical approach, depth, and conceptual sophistication;
  3. develop their critical, analytical and comparative skills by engagement with a wide range of texts;
  4. acquire competence in at least one languages of a sacred text
  5. think critically and in an historicised manner about the complex relationship between religious texts and their social, political, cultural and other relevant contexts;
  6. select and analyse appropriate examples to investigate, analyse, and assess competing historical and critical viewpoints;
  7. develop as independent learners and thinkers;
  8. develop skills in the marshalling and deployment of evidence, and in the oral and written exposition of complex ideas through discursive analysis and argument;
  9. engage and enhance their enthusiasm for the subject and their awareness of its social and cultural importance; and
  10. be appropriately prepared for further academic work in related disciplines, or for a range of other careers.
Intended Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

On completion of the BA Religion and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies all students will have:

  • gained knowledge and understanding of the Christian tradition, through study of the Bible, the development of Christian doctrine in its historical context, and the thought of modern theologians, and been given the opportunity to study another world religion;
  • been enabled to form their own judgement on the main themes in their field of study, drawing upon insights from the various sub-disciplines in which they have been engaged;
  • been enabled to make connections between the different disciplines they are studying and with other modern intellectual developments;
  • developed critical and analytical skills, and the ability to combine insights from such disciplines as history, the reading of texts in their cultural contexts, and the examination of the coherence of truth claims in religion;
  • become familiar with key concepts and principles in Theology and Religion and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies;
  • developed independence of learning and of approach, and a faculty for critical thinking;
  • developed the ability to read with sensitivity texts from different ages and/or traditions, through following a structured programme of regular reading assignments;
  • developed and presented (usually in writing) to their tutors their own critical understanding of the issues studied, acquiring good written communication skills, the ability to formulate arguments clearly, and good organizational skills;
  • received regular tutorials (and/or seminars) with specialist tutors;
  • received regular oral or written feedback on written work;
  • had the opportunity to attend lectures designed to complement their other teaching on their chosen core and specialist papers;
  • taken an active role in planning a path through their programme; and
  • acquired knowledge of at least one sacred text and been given the opportunity to develop the skill of reading a sacred text in the original language and of commenting on it critically.

Intellectual skills

On completion of the BA Religion and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies all students will be able to:

  • demonstrate comprehension of, and intelligent engagement with, the richness of at least one religious tradition in its varied and central forms;
  • state clearly, discuss, and demonstrate critical comprehension of some of the following: the political, social, textual, intellectual, historical, theological, ritual, ethical, institutional or aesthetic expressions of the religion(s) studied;
  • discuss and demonstrate, where appropriate, critical comprehension of the religion's or religions' classical sources and their subsequent articulations by some interpreters of the tradition(s) in different historical periods and in different social or geographical settings;
  • evaluate and critically analyse a diversity of primary and secondary sources, including materials from different disciplines;
  • demonstrate comprehension and critically analyse a range of themes, debates and methods of the discipline and where appropriate related disciplines from, for example, the humanities or social sciences and evaluate a range of critical scholarship associated with these disciplines;
  • represent views other than the student's own sensitively and intelligently with fairness and integrity, while as appropriate expressing their own identity without denigration of others, through critical engagement in a spirit of generosity, openness and empathy;
  • demonstrate with sensitivity awareness of the passion and claims to certainty that may arise in religious traditions, with their positive and negative effects demonstrate sophisticated understanding of the multi-faceted complexity of religions, for example in the relationship between specifically religious beliefs, texts, practices and institutions, and wider social and cultural structures, norms, aesthetics and aspirations;
  • demonstrate intellectual flexibility through the practice of a variety of complementary methods of study (e.g., philosophical, historical, systematic, dogmatic, phenomenological, linguistic, hermeneutical, empirical, speculative, social scientific, archaeological);
  • demonstrate awareness of and critical assessment of religious contributions to debate in the public arena about, for example, values, truth, beauty, identity, health, peace and justice; and
  • demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of how personal and communal identities and motivations are shaped by religion, how this has both constructive and destructive effects, and how important such identities are. 

Practical skills

On completion of the BA Religion and Asian and Middle Eastern Studies all students will be able to:

  • find information, organize it well, and deploy it effectively;
  • utilize material critically and analytically;
  • make appropriate use of advanced literacy skills;
  • communicate ideas clearly in diverse written and oral formats;
  • work well independently, with a sense of self-direction;
  • work constructively with others; and
  • organize and utilize time effectively, and work under pressure to deadlines.

Transferable skills

Students will have the opportunity to develop the ability to:

  • communicate information, ideas, arguments, principles, theories, and develop an argument by a variety of means, for example essays of various lengths and dissertations which are clearly and effectively organized and presented;
  • communicate information, ideas, principles and theories and develop an argument effectively by appropriate oral and visual means, and relate materials to an intended audience;
  • identify, gather and analyse primary data and source material, whether through textual studies or fieldwork;
  • attend to, reproduce accurately, reflect on and interact with the ideas and arguments of others;
  • engage with empathy, integrity and critical reflection with the convictions and behaviours of others; 
  • work collaboratively as a member of a team or group in a way which allows each individual's talents to be utilized effectively;
  • undertake independent/self-directed study/learning (including time management) and reflect on one's strengths and weaknesses as a learner;
  • make discriminating use of a full range of library resources in order to identify appropriate source material, compile bibliographies, inform research and enhance presentations;
  • use IT and computer skills for data capture, to identify appropriate source material, support research, and enhance presentations; and
  • show independence in thought, and critical self-awareness about one's own beliefs, commitments and prejudices.

Course Structure

Please read this information in conjunction with the current Examination Regulations. If there is a conflict between information on this page and the Examination Regulations then, in all cases, the Examination Regulations are authoritative.

Please note that ‘paper’ is the term Oxford uses to describe a component of the course, i.e. a course option, similar to the term ‘module’ in other contexts.


All students are required to offer a total of four papers for the Preliminary Examination.

All students must offer the Religion paper 1301 – Religion and Religions.

Additionally students must choose ONE of the following languages for study in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies:






There is no restriction on students’ choice of language. Students express an interest in a particular language at application and this is confirmed with their College Tutor before the course commences.

The Faculty is unable to guarantee the availability of every language option in every year.

The language component comprises a number of different elements, all of which shall be assessed, see below. Some teaching will be devoted to the study of prescribed texts (“set texts”), on which you will be examined. Lists of these set texts are available on the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Canvas site, usually by Friday of 3rd Week of Hilary Term in the year of your final examinations.


Students will be required to offer three three-hour papers.

1. Texts I, in which students will be expected to comment on set texts from the Pali Canon.

2. Texts II

3. Grammar, in which students will be expected to show knowledge of Pali grammar, syntax and vocabulary.


Students will be required to offer two three-hour papers and an oral/aural examination.

1. Set texts, in which candidates will be expected to translate and comment on Tibetan set texts.

2. Unseen translation, prose composition and grammar, in which candidates will be expected to show knowledge of Tibetan grammar and an ability to translate unseen texts from Tibetan into English and to compose a passage in Tibetan.

3. Oral/aural examination


Candidates will be required to offer three three-hour papers.

1. Sanskrit I: Texts

2. Sanskrit II: Grammar

3. Sanskit III: Additional Texts


Candidates will be required to offer three three-hour papers.

1. Texts I

2. Texts II

3. Grammar and Translation.


Candidates will be required to offer two three-hour papers and an oral/aural examination.

1. Translation and précis into English

2. Comprehension, composition, and grammar

3. Oral/aural examination

You will prepare for Papers 1, 2 and 3 by attending intensive language instruction for about 10 hours per week, backed up by thorough preparation and consolidation in your own time. The course integrates the four language skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking in Modern Standard Arabic. Periodic tests are set, and are intended to provide feedback on your progress.


The course structure outlined below applies for students who commence the Honour School in or after Michaelmas Term 2023, for examination in or after Trinity Term 2025.

(Students who commenced study of the Honour School before Michaelmas Term 2023 follow a slightly different course and should consult the Examination Regulations published in 2021-22. Students may request copies of course documentation prior to Michaelmas Term 2023 from the Director of Undergraduate Studies.)

All students are required to offer a total of eight papers. Three papers must be in Religion and three in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies; the other two may be in either Religion or in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

All candidates will be required to submit as one of their eight papers either a thesis (in Religion) or a dissertation (in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies).

For Religion, all students must offer at least three and no more than five papers from a list published each year by the Faculty of Theology and Religion (see 'Details of Course Options' tab), including the thesis in Religion, if selected. This list specifies the assessment mode for each as well as any restrictions pertaining to individual papers.

For Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, students must take at least three three papers and may take up to five, all of which must be drawn from ONE of:


Eastern Christianity




Advanced language options are for candidates who have studied the same language for the Preliminary Examination.

Each year the Faculties of Theology and Religion and of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies will publish a list of available papers and specify the assessment mode for each as well as any restrictions pertaining to individual papers.

The Faculties are Modes of assessment include: written examination, aural/oral examination, submitted written work of specified length and a combination of these. The length, and deadlines for the submission of written work for individual papers will be specified in the official paper descriptions.

Within the parameters outlined above, students are permitted a relatively free choice from the papers available, although some papers are available for study only by students in their final year. Some papers may not be combined with other papers or may only be studied alongside or after another specified paper. These restrictions are detailed in the Examination Regulations or official paper descriptions published by the Faculties.

The Faculties are unable to guarantee the availability of every option in every year.

College tutors will discuss their paper options with their students and require definite decisions as necessary. These decisions may be reported to the Faculties and students are responsible for submitting their own examination entries in Michaelmas Term of their final year.

Details of Course Options

The Faculty of Theology and Religion and the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies publish on their websites the official paper descriptions for the BA. These descriptions include the following information.

  1. The aims and objectives of each paper, which define the skills, knowledge and competencies that you should have acquired through its completion.
  2. A recommendation for how each paper is delivered, including indicative lecture, class and tutorial descriptions in some cases. This information for all papers is also summarised for Theology and Religion papers in a table of recommended patterns of teaching, linked from the same webpage.
  3. The method of assessment for each paper, including rules and deadlines governing the submission of work for assessment.
  4. An indication of any restrictions relating to each paper: any formal prerequisites for study or informal guidelines concerning helpful prior study; any restrictions on entry for the examination and prohibited combinations with certain other papers; and whether a paper may not be offered by students for one or other programme.

Theology and Religion papers for the Preliminary Examination

Asian and Middle Eastern Studies paper for the Preliminary Examination (link forthcoming)

Theology and Religion papers for the Honour School 

Asian and Middle Eastern Studies paper for the Honour School (link forthcoming)