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Top 10 Colleges for Near Eastern Studies   

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

View to Jerusalem old city. Israel

Top 10 Colleges for Near Eastern Studies

Looking for a top-notch education in Near Eastern Studies? Aspiring scholars like you are on the hunt for schools with a rich curriculum that challenges you to think critically and also deepens your understanding of diverse cultures. Finding the best colleges for Near Eastern Studies is key in this journey.

These standout schools are recognized for their excellent academic programs, renowned faculty, and wealth of opportunities for research, language immersion, and studying abroad. Choosing the right college is crucial if you’re eager to explore the intricate history, politics, culture, and languages of the Near East.

This article seeks to guide students to the top colleges for Near Eastern Studies and ensure that their academic journey is enriching.

Top 10 Colleges for Near Eastern Studies

1. University of California-Berkeley – Middle Eastern Languages and Cultures

  • Location: Berkeley, CA
  • Estimated Tuition: Info not directly provided; UC system tuition for California residents starts around $14,000, out-of-state around $44,000​​
  • Graduation Rate: Info is unavailable; UC Berkeley is known for its high academic standards and competitive programs.

The University of California-Berkeley stands out among the top colleges for Near Eastern Studies, offering a comprehensive and diverse program that caters to a broad spectrum of academic interests within this field.

Two students going to university

UC Berkeley’s commitment to excellence is reflected in the depth and breadth of its coursework, which encompasses the Near East’s languages, cultures, history, and political systems. The program is distinguished by its rigorous academic curriculum and the opportunities it provides for immersive research and study abroad experiences, allowing students to gain firsthand knowledge and understanding of the region’s complexities.

Faculty members at UC Berkeley are leaders in their fields, contributing cutting-edge research and scholarship that further enriches the learning environment. This institutional ethos fosters a vibrant academic community, encouraging students to engage critically with their studies and contribute to scholarly discussions.

With a wealth of resources, including extensive library collections and research centers focused on the Near East, UC Berkeley equips students with the tools and knowledge necessary to pursue successful academic careers, diplomacy, international relations, and beyond.

2. University of California-Los Angeles – Center for Near Eastern Studies

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Estimated Tuition: $16,999​​
  • Graduation Rate: Info is unavailable; UCLA is highly selective and has a solid academic reputation.

The University of California-Los Angeles (UCLA) is renowned as one of the top colleges for Near Eastern Studies, drawing students and scholars from across the globe to its dynamic and interdisciplinary program.

UCLA

At UCLA, the Near Eastern Studies curriculum is designed to offer students a thorough understanding of the Near East’s languages, histories, cultures, and contemporary issues. This program is supported by a faculty that includes some of the world’s leading scholars in their respective fields, who bring a wealth of knowledge and research expertise into the classroom.

What sets UCLA apart is its academic rigor and the broad range of resources available to students, including access to specialized libraries and research centers, which are among the best in the country.

UCLA encourages active student engagement through seminars, workshops, and conferences. These provide a platform for students to present their research, network with scholars, and gain insights into the latest academic developments.

3. University of California-Irvine – School of Humanities (Global Middle East Studies)

  • Location: Irvine, CA
  • Estimated Tuition: $14,033​​
  • Graduation Rate: Info not available; UC Irvine offers a competitive Near Eastern Studies program.

The University of California-Irvine is prominently featured among the top colleges for Near Eastern Studies, offering a unique and rich academic environment for students interested in this multifaceted field.

Positive guy student with backpack

The program at UC Irvine stands out for its interdisciplinary approach, blending rigorous language training with a deep dive into the Near Eastern world’s historical, cultural, literary, and political landscapes.

This comprehensive curriculum is bolstered by a distinguished faculty, whose members are dedicated educators and leading researchers contributing innovative scholarship in Near Eastern Studies. Students at UC Irvine benefit from access to vast academic resources, including specialized libraries and research institutes, which support their academic growth and research endeavors.

The program is designed to foster a close-knit academic community where students can engage in meaningful dialogue, participate in faculty-led research projects, and attend seminars and lectures that bring renowned scholars to campus.

4. Emory University – College of Arts and Sciences (Middle Eastern and South Asian Studies)

  • Location: Atlanta, GA
  • Estimated Tuition: Info not directly provided; private institution tuition can be significantly higher, often above $50,000 annually​​
  • Graduation Rate: Info not available; Emory is known for its rigorous academic environment.

Emory University is one of the top colleges for Near Eastern Studies. It provides an immersive and comprehensive academic experience that delves deep into the complex tapestry of Near Eastern cultures, languages, histories, and politics.

Emory University bridge

Known for its rigorous academic standards and innovative research opportunities, Emory’s Near Eastern Studies program offers students a multidisciplinary education that is both broad in scope and deep in content.

The faculty at Emory is celebrated for their expertise and contribution to the field. They engage students in cutting-edge research and scholarship that spans the ancient to the modern Near East.

Beyond the classroom, Emory facilitates a rich array of resources, including access to specialized libraries and cultural institutions, which enhance its students’ learning and research capabilities. The university’s commitment to fostering a vibrant academic community is evident in its hosting of seminars, guest lectures, and cultural events that bring together scholars, students, and practitioners worldwide.

5. Wellesley College – Middle Eastern Studies

  • Location: Wellesley, MA
  • Estimated Tuition: Info not directly provided; as a private institution, tuition is typically higher, potentially exceeding $50,000 per year​​
  • Graduation Rate: Info not available; Wellesley is a highly respected women’s college with strong liberal arts programs.

Wellesley College, recognized among the top colleges for Near Eastern Studies, provides an outstanding educational experience beyond the conventional boundaries of higher education to explore the Near East’s intricate histories, cultures, languages, and political dynamics.

student smiling in camera holding an orange folder

With a steadfast commitment to fostering an inclusive and rigorous academic environment, Wellesley’s program is designed to challenge and inspire students through a curriculum emphasizing critical thinking, cross-cultural understanding, and comprehensive analysis of the Near Eastern region.

The Wellesley faculty are educators and esteemed scholars who bring knowledge and innovative research to the classroom, enriching students’ learning experiences with fresh insights and perspectives.

The college supports students’ academic and professional growth with numerous resources, including access to extensive library collections, research grants, and opportunities for study abroad in Near Eastern countries.

6. Cornell University – The College of Arts & Sciences (Department of Near Eastern Studies)

  • Location: Ithaca, NY
  • Estimated Tuition: Info not directly provided; as an Ivy League institution, expect higher tuition rates, typically above $50,000 annually​​
  • Graduation Rate: Info not available; Cornell is known for its diverse and high-quality academic offerings.

Cornell University secures its position among the top colleges for Near Eastern Studies, offering a robust and multidisciplinary program that dives deep into the Near East’s languages, cultures, histories, and contemporary issues.

Top view of cornell university

At Cornell, students are presented with a curriculum integrating rigorous academic scholarship with practical, real-world applications facilitated by a faculty renowned for their research and expertise in Near Eastern Studies.

This prestigious Ivy League institution emphasizes an interdisciplinary approach, allowing students to tailor their studies to their interests, whether they are drawn to ancient civilizations, modern political movements, linguistic analysis, or cultural studies.

The program benefits from Cornell’s rich academic resources, including one of the nation’s leading library collections in Near Eastern Studies, and opportunities for students to engage in study abroad programs that offer immersive experiences in the region.

7. University of Michigan-Ann Arbor – Department of Middle East Studies

  • Location: Ann Arbor, MI
  • Estimated Tuition: $19,318​​
  • Graduation Rate: Info unavailable; the University of Michigan is well-regarded for its research and academic rigor.

The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor is prominently ranked among the top colleges for Near Eastern Studies thanks to its comprehensive program covering the Near East’s historical, cultural, linguistic, and political aspects.

two Judaism scholars facing one another

This program is marked by its interdisciplinary approach, drawing on resources and faculty expertise across departments to provide students with a richly nuanced understanding of the region. The university’s dedication to academic excellence is evident in the breadth of courses offered, from ancient civilizations to contemporary issues affecting the Near East today.

Students benefit from engaging with faculty who are passionate educators and leading researchers in their fields, contributing significant scholarship that influences global understanding of the Near East.

The vibrant academic community at Michigan encourages students to delve into research, participate in seminars and workshops, and engage in meaningful discourse about the Near East’s complexities and global impact.

8. University of California-Santa Barbara – Middle East Studies

  • Location: Santa Barbara, CA
  • Estimated Tuition: $16,874​​
  • Graduation Rate: Info not available; UC Santa Barbara offers a vibrant campus life and solid academic programs.

The University of California-Santa Barbara secures its position among the top colleges for Near Eastern Studies, offering students a unique blend of academic rigor and interdisciplinary research opportunities.

View of University of California-Santa Barbara

The program is celebrated for its comprehensive approach to studying the Near East, encompassing various topics such as ancient civilizations, modern political movements, cultural practices, and linguistic diversity.

UC Santa Barbara’s faculty are distinguished scholars who contribute groundbreaking research and bring knowledge and expertise into the classroom. The university fosters an environment of intellectual curiosity and scholarly engagement, encouraging students to participate in research projects, study abroad programs, and language immersion experiences that enhance their understanding of the Near East.

Graduates from UC Santa Barbara’s Near Eastern Studies program leave with a profound understanding of the region’s historical significance and role in contemporary global affairs, well-equipped to contribute to scholarly and societal discussions.

9. University of California-Riverside –  Middle East and Islamic Studies

  • Location: Riverside, CA
  • Estimated Tuition: Info not directly provided; UC system tuition for California residents starts around $14,000, out-of-state around $44,000​​
  • Graduation Rate: Info unavailable; UC Riverside is known for its commitment to diversity and inclusion.

The University of California-Riverside has distinguished itself as one of the top colleges for Near Eastern Studies. It provides a distinctive academic program that delves into the rich tapestry of the Near East’s cultures, languages, histories, and contemporary challenges.

a young muslim woman wearing a hijab and typing unto her laptop

With a curriculum designed to encourage comprehensive understanding and critical analysis, UC Riverside’s Near Eastern Studies program stands out for its interdisciplinary approach, combining the study of historical texts with modern political and social analysis.

This program is further enhanced by UC Riverside’s commitment to providing students access to significant resources, including specialized libraries and research centers focused on the Near East and opportunities for study abroad and language immersion.

The vibrant campus community offers seminars, guest lectures, and cultural events that promote a deeper understanding of the Near Eastern region. Program graduates are well-prepared to pursue careers in academia, government, non-profit organizations, and the private sector, where their deep understanding of the Near East and its global significance is increasingly valuable.

10. Columbia University – Middle East, South Asian, and African Studies

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Estimated Tuition: Info not directly provided; as an Ivy League institution, expect higher tuition rates, typically above $50,000 annually​​
  • Graduation Rate: Info unavailable; Columbia is renowned for its comprehensive and rigorous academic programs.

The Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies (MESAAS) at Columbia stands out for its comprehensive curriculum that covers an extensive range of subjects related to the Near East, from ancient history and languages to contemporary politics and society.

Columbia University of New York in winter

Columbia’s program is distinguished by its interdisciplinary approach, drawing on the expertise of faculty members who are leaders in their fields and deeply committed to teaching and research. Students at Columbia have unparalleled access to rich academic resources, including one of the country’s largest academic libraries, which houses an impressive collection of materials on the Near East.

The university also encourages active student engagement through opportunities for study abroad, language immersion, and participation in seminars and conferences. This environment fosters a deep understanding of the Near Eastern region and prepares students for careers in academia, diplomacy, international development, and other fields.

Columbia’s Near Eastern Studies program graduates are recognized for their critical analytical skills, comprehensive knowledge of the region, and ability to contribute thoughtfully to global discussions related to the Near East.

How to Find the Best Near Eastern Studies Program for You?

Choosing the right program among the top colleges for Near Eastern Studies involves several key considerations to ensure the best academic and personal fit. Here’s a listicle guide to ensure you pick a program that aligns perfectly with your interests and goals:

  1. Diverse Curriculum: Ensure the program covers the geographical areas, languages, and historical periods that fascinate you. Look for a curriculum rich in history, politics, religion, culture, and languages pertinent to the Near East.
  2. Expert Faculty: The program should boast faculty with expertise and research interests that align with your own. Engaging with professors who are leaders in your area of interest can significantly enhance your academic experience.
  3. Research Opportunities: Seek out programs offering robust research opportunities. Engaging in original research through fieldwork or academic study is crucial for a deeper understanding of the Near Eastern region.
  4. Study Abroad and Language Immersion: Programs that offer study abroad and language immersion experiences are invaluable. These opportunities not only bolster language proficiency but also provide a firsthand understanding of the cultural and social dynamics of the region.
  5. Financial Aid and Scholarships: Consider the availability of scholarships and financial aid specific to Near Eastern Studies. Financial support can be a crucial factor in your decision-making process.
  6. Vibrant Campus Culture: The presence of a vibrant campus culture, including student organizations and events related to Near Eastern Studies, can significantly enrich your academic and social experience.

What Career Opportunities Open Up After Studying at Top Colleges for Near Eastern Studies?

Graduates from top colleges for Near Eastern Studies have a broad spectrum of career opportunities thanks to their deep understanding of the region’s cultures, languages, and geopolitical nuances.

Career paths include academia, where scholars can contribute to knowledge through teaching and research. Government and diplomatic services are also prominent fields, as expertise in Near Eastern affairs is invaluable for policy-making, intelligence analysis, and diplomatic engagement.

Additionally, graduates find opportunities in international development, working with NGOs or international organizations to develop and implement programs that address regional challenges.

The private sector offers roles in international business, consulting, and journalism, where a deep understanding of the Near East can inform strategy, reporting, and analysis. Cultural institutions like museums and archives also seek experts to curate exhibits and manage collections related to the Near East.

How Important Are Languages in Top Colleges for Near Eastern Studies Programs?

Language proficiency is a cornerstone of Near Eastern Studies programs at top colleges, reflecting the importance of direct engagement with primary sources and the ability to conduct field research.

An African American female student inside a campus looking happy

Mastery of one or more Near Eastern languages, such as Arabic, Hebrew, Persian, or Turkish, opens up a deeper understanding of the region’s cultures, histories, and societies. Language skills enable students to access a broader range of academic materials, engage with local communities more meaningfully during study abroad experiences, and conduct research at a more sophisticated level.

Furthermore, language proficiency enhances graduates’ employability in diverse fields such as diplomacy, international business, academia, and beyond. Top programs emphasize language study as part of their curriculum, often requiring proficiency as a graduation requirement and offering advanced courses for those looking to specialize in linguistic aspects of the region.

What Research Opportunities Are Available at Top Colleges for Near Eastern Studies?

Top colleges for Near Eastern Studies offer numerous research opportunities that allow students to explore their interests in-depth and contribute to the field. These institutions often have dedicated research centers and institutes focusing on the Near East, providing resources, funding, and platforms for student research projects.

Students may engage in faculty-led research initiatives, enabling them to gain practical experience and mentorship. Many programs encourage or require a thesis or capstone project, where students undertake original research on a topic of their choice.

Additionally, study abroad and language immersion programs enhance language proficiency and allow field research in a Near Eastern country. Internships with government agencies, NGOs, and cultural institutions offer practical research experience and networking opportunities.

Conclusion

Choosing among the top colleges for Near Eastern Studies is a decision that carries profound implications for one’s academic and professional future. These institutions are not merely educational establishments but gateways to a deeper understanding of one of the world’s most historically rich and culturally complex regions.

The right program will provide students with the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in their future careers and instill in them a sense of global citizenship and a commitment to understanding across cultural divides.

As we have explored, the best programs offer a robust curriculum, opportunities for immersive experiences, and support for research endeavors, all within a vibrant academic community. For students ready to embark on this academic journey, choosing a program that aligns with their interests, goals, and values is the first step toward a successful and fulfilling career in Near Eastern Studies.

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