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MSc/pg dip in Late Antique, Islamic and Byzantine Studies


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Late Antique, Islamic and Byzantine Studies

University of Edinburgh

School of History, Classics and Archaeology

MSc/PG Dip in Late Antique, Islamic and Byzantine Studies


Programme Proposal

The end of Classical Antiquity in the Mediterranean and the Middle East witnessed the formation of polities, institutions and ideologies which define and continue to influence the contemporary world. There has been an explosion of scholarly and popular interest in this field ever since Peter Brown’s The World of Late Antiquity (1971), evidenced by the number of publications on the fall of the Roman Empire, Byzantium and the rise of Islam. Integrated and multi-disciplinary approaches spanning Eurasia and the Mediterranean worlds have been a defining and highly successful feature of approaches to a period of history often defined as ‘Long Late Antiquity’ (300-800 CE).


Edinburgh can with justification claim to be among the leading UK institutions in this field and this programme is intended to build on the reputation of Edinburgh as a centre for the study of the Late Antique, Islamic and Byzantine worlds. The University has exceptional expertise in the relevant disciplines and languages. Staff across four Schools in the College of Humanities have a broad spectrum of research interests in Arabic, Archaeology, Art History, Classical Languages and Literature, History, and the Theology of Christianity and Islam.


In terms of research infrastructure, the University Library has extensive printed holdings, particularly all the major international journals in the field, and access to numerous electronic resources. The National Library of Scotland also has impressive collections in this area, and as a copyright library holds copies of all works published in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Furthermore the collections and staff expertise of the National Museums of Scotland provide fruitful areas for ongoing co-operation in postgraduate teaching and research. Moreover we would hope to be able to develop newly-established links between the University of Mainz together with the Römisch-Germanisches ZentralMuseum (which has an outstanding teaching collection in late antique art and artefacts) and the CMRS.


The programme is based within the School of History, Classics and Archaeology, where there are five staff members concerned with the history, archaeology, visual cultures and languages of the late antique and Byzantine world. The new Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies has provided a framework for intellectual engagement from academic colleagues across the College, through the engagement of six further staff from ECA, Divinity and LLS (Islamic and Middle Eastern studies) this programme will provide a concrete expression of much of their teaching and research interests. This programme will, importantly, build on existing collaboration in the area of research and publication (for instance Grig and Kelly (both Classics), Two Romes: Rome and Constantinople in Late Antiquity, New York, 2012, which features a contribution from Crow (Archaeology)) and PhD supervision (e.g. joint supervision between HCA and both Divinity and IMES).


It will replace and rationalise the existing MSc in First Millennium Studies, benefiting from a number of new appointments in this field. Students taking this and other MSc programmes in medieval studies have often expressed a wish to specialise in and combine one of the proposed themes of the new programme, but were constrained by the previous programmes. The new programme is thus targeted, in lines with both the academic strengths of Edinburgh and student interest. It also fits within the College’s strategy to diversify and rationalise its range of MSc programmes Specifically, this new programme in Late Antique, Islamic and Byzantine studies will share courses from across HCA and other schools in CHSS. This is seen as a considerable efficiency, reinforcing student numbers on these existing courses but creating a programme that is unique in the UK.


The proposed MSc in Late Antiquity, Islamic and Byzantine Studies is an entirely new programme that will build on our exceptional strengths in this field and offer an integrated programme with a strong intellectual rationale that will promote inter-disciplinary research across the College, especially within the newly-established Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. The programme offers students a coherent and wide-ranging programme, which gives the opportunity for regional and disciplinary specialisation depending on the research interests of the students

The core course, ’Approaches to Long Late Antiquity’, is the only new and programme-specific course and it will provide specialist methodological, theoretical, and cross-disciplinary training. There will be a compulsory language option, in either Classical Greek, Latin, Arabic or Persian A range of existing specialist options allow for regional, methodological or thematic concentration. Finally, the degree culminates in an original piece of research and writing: the MSc dissertation.


While this MSc programme is free-standing, the underlying objective is to identify and train high-quality doctoral students for entry into PhD programmes, including those of the College of Humanities at Edinburgh.


In summary, Edinburgh offers an exceptional range of linguistic and disciplinary expertise in the study of the long late antiquity (embracing Arabic, Archaeology, Art History, Classical Languages and Literature, History and Theology) as well as experience of successful collaboration in teaching and research. Edinburgh's unique selling points would be:

  • Reputation in Late Antique, Islamic and Byzantine Studies

  • Experience in collaborative research and teaching across these areas

  • Range of courses available and flexibility of programme

  • Wide range of language provision

We believe that this new programme will offer an exciting, attractive and sustainable offering to the roster of taught postgraduate degrees in CHSS.


1. Programme information


  1. Proposed timetable: To commence in September 2012.

  2. Assessment arrangements: Assessment is based on coursework and exam assessment in relevant courses, and one 15,000 word dissertation. Pass level is 50-69%; distinction is 70% or over.

  3. Progression arrangements: Candidates who are awarded a final mark of between 40% and 49% for the coursework will be awarded the Diploma and will not be permitted to proceed for the dissertation.

  4. Areas of joint teaching with other programmes: The programme is taught by members of the four Schools: ACE, Divinity, HCA and LLC. All of the options offered will be shared with other MSc programmes.

  5. Arrangements for supervision of any off-site project work, field courses etc.: There will be a programme co-ordinator, an organiser for each course, and designated supervisors for each student.

  6. Arrangements for supervision of dissertation: Dissertations will be supervised by staff members from the four Schools.

  7. Arrangements for the provision of generic skills training: These are provided by the compulsory training course, Approaches to Long Late Antiquity and the compulsory language course, as well as being embedded into the other options courses.


2. Market and Recruitment


  1. Potential demand for the programme: The study of the long late antiquity has emerged as a dynamic field of inquiry over the past two decades. It will attract applicants from across continental Europe, the UK and North America. Existing programmes in the HCA and elsewhere in the College offer some of these options, but this programme will provide a unique opportunity to study for a degree specifically focused on the burgeoning field of the ‘Long Late Antiquity’ This degree presents a coherent and challenging range of skills and options, reflecting the diverse expertise and research within HCA and those schools across CHSS participating in the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

  2. ^ Comparable provision and student numbers at competitor institutions: As the academic assessor confirms, the only directly-comparable UK-based MScs are at King’s College London and Oxford. At KCL however there is no involvement with early Islamic languages and cultures, while at Oxford there is no longer any provision for Byzantine archaeology. The related MA in Byzantine and Ottoman studies at Birmingham is focused on later periods. The programmes at KCL and Oxford have been successful in terms of confirming the demand for late antique programmes. For the academic year 2011-2, for instance, the Oxford programme has 17 students.

  3. ^ Student numbers: Initial recruitment is anticipated at around 7-10 students, comprising a mix of Home, EU and Overseas students (in comparison with other comparable programmes we would anticipate that interest would come from European students, especially Greece and Cyprus, and from North American students), but we expect it to grow in subsequent years. This estimated recruitment falls within the financial sustainability profile as described in the final report (October 2011) of the College PGT Sustainablity Working Party (section 4.2.1).

Marketing will comprise several separate strands. The first would be alongside marketing for the existing MSc programme in HCA and through the website for the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Secondly the programme would be marketed through an extensive contact network, the use of relevant e-mail lists and professional organisations such as the Society for the Promotion of Byzantine Studies (SPBS). In addition, a launch conference is planned for Spring 2012 to promote the new MSc, focusing on cities in the Late Antique, Islamic and Byzantine worlds.

The risks of this programme are minimal, in that it will be based almost entirely on existing courses. There are modest costs relating to advertising and the staff time involved in managing and promoting the programme.


  1. Scholarships: UK and EU Students taking this programme will be able to apply for AHRC awards and other scholarships and bursaries that are available for one year taught MSc programmes.


^ 3. Resource information


  1. Tuition fees: The standard level of tuition fee is proposed.

  2. Course sharing: Course sharing across the four Schools involved is an essential aspect of the programme. All the optional modules associated with this programme will be available to students taking other cognate MSc programmes.

  3. Other course costs: No additional course costs are envisioned

  4. Staffing: The programme has the advantage of drawing on a generous pool of staff from across four schools. In case of periods of leave, retirements or unexpected departures, there is a sufficient number of staff with expertise in the area to ensure that the programme is sustainable over the longer term.

Staff include:

  • School of History, Classics and Archaeology: Prof. Jim Crow, Prof. Eberhard Sauer, Dr Tom Brown, Dr Lucy Grig, Dr Gavin Kelly

  • School of Divinity: Dr Paul Parvis, Dr Sara Parvis, Prof Timothy Barnes

  • School of Arts, Culture and Environment: Dr Alain George, Dr Claudia Bolgia

  • School of Literature, Languages and Cultures: Dr Andrew Marsham

No new staff are required and this programme can be staffed entirely from existing personnel within the following schools of HCA, ECA, LLS (Islamic Studies) and Divinity,; in the case of anticipated staff retirements or unexpected departures, there is a sufficient number of staff with expertise in this area to ensure that the programme continues to be sustainable over the longer term.

  1. Additional resources: No additional resources are required.



4. Administration and QA


  1. This programme will be managed within the School of History, Classics and Archaeology, and will be strategically reviewed according to the normal procedures of the School.

  2. The programme is part of a wider effort within the School and across the College to develop postgraduate teaching, and to expand the postgraduate community, particularly in the newly-established Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.







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