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Asian and Middle Eastern Studies (AMES)

The subject at Selwyn

Selwyn has a record of success in all the subjects within the AMES course and provides strong support for students, and the fact that Selwyn is known to encourage smaller subjects is also an advantage.

We welcome applications for all parts of the AMES course. Applicants wishing to continue a modern European language with Arabic, Persian or Hebrew should apply for AMES.

The College Library holds over 40,000 books, including those most relevant to this subject, and stock is continually updated. The Library also provides a pleasant study area.

Teaching Fellows at Selwyn

Our Director of Studies for the AMES course is Dr Victoria Young, who is the Kawashima Lecturer in Japanese Literature and Culture. Here she explains the role of director of studies:

Qualities we are looking for

AMES offers interdisciplinary degree courses that are equally stimulating and challenging. At their heart, AMES subjects teach difficult, non-European languages whose grammars can be quite different from languages such as French and German. A strong interest in language and culture, and an aptitude for language-learning is therefore very important. Students with an aptitude for Mathematics and Sciences have also excelled through their ability to understand and recognise patterns. AMES subjects also comprise the in-depth study of humanities-based subjects including history, literature, sociology, and  politics. These subjects demand skills in close, critical reading and good essay-writing. In the final year, students also produce a research dissertation on a topic of their own choosing. An independent approach for learning will therefore be expected, and enthusiasm is essential.

Subject requirements

AMES language courses are taught ab initio (‘from scratch’). This means that although some prior knowledge can, of course, be very useful, it is not necessary for success. Please note that, as stated clearly on the Faculty website, our courses are not suitable for native speakers.

There are no specific subject requirements for these languages and students have excelled having studied a range of academic subjects. However, applicants are encouraged where possible to study a foreign language at school to demonstrate their interest in, and experience of language-learning. Applicants who are studying a foreign language at school should aim to achieve top grades in those subjects: it is desirable to be on track to achieve A* at A level or equivalent in your language at the end of sixth form. Students might also demonstrate their interest by reading around the subject for which they are seeking to apply.

If you are planning to combine Arabic, Persian or Hebrew with a language taught in the MMLL faculty (French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish), you will need an A level, IB Higher or equivalent qualification in the European language. The standard conditional offer is A*AA; comparable conditions are set for those taking the IB and other school-leaving examinations.


Candidates for AMES will usually sit two interviews: one subject-based and one general. The subject-based interview will be conducted by the College’s Director of Studies in AMES and a specialist in the candidate’s chosen subject, and will focus on issues within the field of East Asian and/or Middle Eastern Studies. The general interview will probe further as to a candidate’s motivation and general aptitude for their chosen course. Candidates who have applied to study a Middle Eastern Language with an MMLL subject will also sit a third interview with specialists in their chosen MMLL language.

Admissions assessment

If you are invited for interview and are applying for a European language, you will also be asked to take a written assessment for MML.  You do not need to register for this written assessment as it will be organised automatically by the College if you are invited for interview.

Students who are not applying for a European language do not take this assessment.

April 2024

AMES on the Cambridge YouTube channel