BA/MA Program

BA MA Program
Image courtesy of Nadine Moeller.

NELC majors may apply for a five-year dual BA/MA program in conjunction with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Through this dual BA/MA program, College students can earn a four-year BA degree and a two-year MA degree in Middle Eastern Studies after only five years of study at the University of Chicago.

How it Works

The program is jointly administered by the College and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies (CMES), which offers a separate two-year Master’s program in Middle Eastern Studies. 

NELC majors admitted to the joint BA/MA program in Middle Eastern Studies are considered to be in “concurrent residence” (in the College and in CMES) beginning in the Autumn Quarter of their fourth year at the University and through the end of their fifth year. In other words, during their fourth year at the University of Chicago, students are simultaneously pursuing the requirements of the BA and the MA degree. Students will complete a BA thesis in NELC and receive their BA degree at the end of year four. In the fifth year they complete the MA requirements, including the MA thesis and receive a Master’s degree in Middle Eastern Studies.


NELC majors who have demonstrated a record of uncommon excellence in their undergraduate career, and are sufficiently advanced in the fulfillment of their College degree requirements, are eligible to apply for the BA/MA program in Middle Eastern Studies in Autumn of their junior year. 

The academic demands of this program are significant, and applicants are therefore carefully screened for appropriate prior preparation and the potential to complete the Master’s degree requirements within the five-year period.  Successful applicants to the BA/MA program will:

  • have taken two years (six courses or the equivalent) of a NELC language;
  • have taken three courses in civilization sequences related to Near East /Middle Eastern studies (students who took a relevant sequence to fulfill their general education requirement for civilization studies may also count this as satisfying the CMES requirement; those who took a sequence unrelated to Middle Eastern studies to fulfill their general education requirement will need to take three additional Middle East related civilization courses);
  • have additionally taken at least one further elective related to Middle Eastern studies;
  • have a minimum 3.5 GPA
  • have completed the general education (the Core) requirements

Application Process

NELC majors interested in the joint BA/MA program should consult with:

  • College advisers
  • NELC Director of Undergraduate Studies
  • Paul Walker, CMES Deputy Director for Academic Programs

The following documents must be submitted by February 1st of the third year in the College. NELC majors pay no application fee, and are not required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE):

  • the graduate application (available from the Dean of Students office in either the Humanities or Social Sciences Divisions);
  • three letters of recommendation;
  • a writing sample (usually a term paper from a relevant class);
  • official transcript(s);
  • the BA/MA Worksheet, filled out and signed by the College adviser
  • a joint BA/MA Form: Top portion filled out (available from the College Office).

Courses and Requirements

The joint BA/MA degree in Middle Eastern Studies requires students to take eighteen graduate courses in years four and five at the University of Chicago. Students may double count three graduate level courses taken in year four toward both their BA degree and their MA degree. Any graduate courses taken during the second or third year in the College may not be counted towards the BA/MA in Middle Eastern Studies, though they may of course be counted toward the BA degree.

During their fourth year in the College (first year of the MA program), students retain their undergraduate privilege of registering for four courses per quarter. It is not recommended that students take more than three classes, however, except in the case of registering for the BA Paper Preparation or Thesis Seminar course (NELC 29999), while writing their BA thesis in NELC. 

During the second year of the MA program, students must follow MA rules, which restrict enrollment to three courses per quarter. The MA program requires a master’s thesis which must be planned, researched, and written, and this requires a significant amount of time. Students must also fulfill all the curricular requirements for their MA degree (e.g., the CMES Proseminar, advanced language study, etc.) and should consult with the CMES MA advisor about staying on track to complete these.

For further rules and restrictions, please see the current College Catalog.

Tuition and Financial Aid

In year four of the joint BA/MA program, students are charged the graduate tuition rate, which is somewhat higher than the undergraduate tuition rate. Students should check with the College Aid Office to determine how this may impact their financial aid and tuition costs. Students in their fourth year in the College are not eligible for financial assistance from the Social Sciences or Humanities Division. However, in their fifth year (the second year of the MA program), students are eligible for financial aid from the Social Sciences or Humanities Division on the same terms as any other second-year graduate student in the CMES MA program. Students who maintain a 3.5 GPA or better during their first year (year four) in the MA program are likely to receive additional funding in their second year (year five), many at the full tuition level. Students in year five are also eligible to apply for Foreign Language and Areas Studies (FLAS) awards, which add a stipend. 

Image courtesy of Alexis Nicholson.