Contemporary Asian and Middle Eastern Studies


The programme will not admit students in 2024.


Level of study
Study language
Duration and credits
2 years , 120 ECTS
Form of study
Regular study
Student places
Tuition fee
4,200 EUR/year
Tuition waivers
  • The University of Tartu (UT) is ranked in the top 220 universities in the world in politics (Rankings and Surveys).
  • UT has a long tradition in oriental, cultural and religious studies.
  • UT is home to many professors and researchers specialising in modern-day Asian and Middle Eastern cultures, socio-economic trends and political regimes. 
  • The programme offers multiple opportunities to do your fieldwork in East Asia and the Middle East.
  • After graduation, you can work with refugees, start a diplomatic career, provide area-specific expertise to new businesses or create your own NGO.

Asia and the Middle East are two of the most fascinating and rapidly developing regions of the world, creating challenges and offering opportunities for the 21st century. By 2050:

  • close to 60% of the world’s consumers will live in the region;
  • China will be a real superpower;
  • Hindi, Urdu, and Arabic will dominate much of the world business;
  • Islam will change and diversify due to its contact with modernity
  • and global migration will continue to pressure Europe and the Middle East.

Join our English-taught master’s programme in Contemporary Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at The University of Tartu. We provide:

  • a comprehensive curriculum in Asian and Middle Eastern economies, politics, cultures, societies and languages (e.g. Japanese, Chinese, Korean);
  • opportunities to study different languages (e.g. Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Arabic);
  • and a multinational study environment.

The base module focuses on Asian and Middle Eastern civilisations and mindsets, economic developments, and demographics. Participating in active discussions gives you a comparative perspective on understanding developments in Asia and the Middle East. The elective module enables you to choose courses of your interest with a regional and/or disciplinary focus.

An internship is mandatory in the programme, which prepares you for your future career and enables you to develop your practical skills further and extend your professional networks. For your internship, you can access, for example, start-ups and companies or organisations and build your skills and expertise in Asian or Middle Eastern cultures in a practical context.

You can study in Europe, but the programme offers diverse opportunities to conduct your fieldwork at partner universities in East Asia or the Middle East. The recommended timeframe for mobility is during the third semester (second year).

The programme finishes with a master´s thesis in your specific field (economics, politics, international relations, religion, etc.), focusing on either Asia or the Middle East (depending on your interests and upon the availability of supervisors). The master´s thesis shows your ability to conduct independent work and apply theoretical concepts and methodology to analyse a specific scientific question.

The CAMES programme collaborates closely with the Asia Centre and the historical Centre for Oriental Studies at the University of Tartu. Students are welcome to attend visiting lectures and regular events organised by the Asia Centre and Centre for Oriental Studies and use the library at the Centre for Oriental Studies.

Why study Asian and Middle Eastern studies at the University of Tartu?

  • The University of Tartu belongs to the top 1.2% of the world's best universities (see Rankings & Surveys).
  • Estonia has a centuries-long tradition in Asian and Middle Eastern studies. Some of world's more renown scholars of ancient Mesopotamia, classical Buddhist and Confucian philosophy, and Old-Testament and Islamic studies.The programme builds on this established tradition.
  • The University of Tartu is home to many professors and researchers specialising in modern-day Asian and Middle Eastern cultures, socio-economic trends and political regimes.
  • The university provides a wide variety of opportunities to study abroad. We have Erasmus agreements with a broad range of European universities and exchange agreements with many Asian partner universities.
  • Interactive and innovative teaching and learning methods are held in high regard and are widely used.

Our latest news and articles can be found on the Asian Centre's website in both Estonian and English.

Extracurricular activities

The master’s programme takes good care of its students’ free time and offers multiple options for extra-curricular activities. Tartu is a very lively student city.

The University of Tartu hosts many student societies and region-specific academic organisations. It is home to the Asia Centre, the International Relations Society, the Estonian Academic Oriental Society, and many other clubs and organisations.

Students of the programme can participate and be part of the organising team of the biggest Asia-topic conference in the Scandinavian and Baltic region Asia Update. Asia Update 2020 brings together local, regional and international experts, business people and decision-makers who engage with Asia to share ideas and build networks for future growth and development. The conference focuses on discussing the challenges and opportunities in today’s society caused by the conflicts between different stakeholders, environmental and societal problems, challenges between countries, differences in perceptions between Asia and the West, and the shifting of the world order.

Some university institutes have an established Stammtisch tradition where students and teachers gather for discussions once every month. Feel free to voice your thoughts about the programme or talk about life, weather and politics.

The following structure of the programme applies to the current academic year. To view the most updated version, please visit the University of Tartu Study Information System and choose the next academic year (if available). 


Our team consists of internationally acclaimed scholars worldwide, including from Asia. Among the multinational crowd of lecturers, you find experts in different fields of research and teaching, policy design and project management. Most importantly, we all emphasise new and interactive teaching methods, student-centred learning, and non-hierarchical work ethics.

To grant our students the most fruitful and rewarding teaching experience, we integrate our in-house staff with visiting scholars from distinguished European and Asian universities, such as Cambridge, Kanagawa, Tübingen, and Singapore.

Programme Director: Eva Liias


Guest lecturers

  • Robert Weatherley, PhD (Cambridge University)
  • Liisi Karindi (former Enterprise Estonia)

Our graduates have the skills and know-how to work in with refugees at the UNHCR or become diplomats, provide area-specific expertise to new businesses or create their own NGO. You can engage with a vast range of topics from international relations and business to demographic trends and human rights management. 

Whatever you choose, you can be sure that the need for experts in Asian and Middle Eastern studies is increasing both in public and private sector. We will do our very best to support your progress and future employment. 

Admission requirements for Contemporary Asian and Middle Eastern Studies


NB! Citizens of the Russian Federation who, under the legislation of the Republic of Estonia, cannot apply for a long-stay visa or residence permit to study or do not have a valid legal basis to stay in the Republic of Estonia until the end of the curriculum’s standard period of study are not eligible to apply to the University of Tartu in the 2023/2024 academic year.

According to the current legislation, citizens of Belarus can apply for Estonian long-term visa or temporary residence permit for studies and are therefore eligible to apply to the University of Tartu.


Applications are evaluated based on

  • the score of the motivation letter (yields 70% of the final score)

  • the average grade of the previous study level (yields 30% of the final score)

The motivation letter must be submitted with your application in DreamApply by March 15 at the latest.

The motivation letter is written in English and in free form. Its length is between 2500 and 3500 characters, with spaces. The motivation letter is to specify candidate's motivation to study in the programme.

The motivation letter may focus on the following questions:

  • How is the candidate's previous studies and work experience related to topics covered in the curriculum?
  • Why does a candidate want to study in this particular curriculum?
  • How does the candidate intend to apply the knowledge and skills acquired during the studies in the future?
  • Which subjects in the curriculum are most interesting?
  • Which topics does the candidate wish to study in depth?
  • What would be the possible research topic/problem of the Master's thesis?

The following aspects will be considered in assessing the motivation letter:

  • Reasons for entering the programme and the connection between previous education and/or professional career, on the one hand, and the content of the programme, on the other (max 30 points);
  • Research issues of interest (a potential topics of your Master's thesis) and a discussion of how these issues could be addressed (max 30 points);
  • Self-analysis on how the applicant's previous education will support their future studies in the programme (max 20 points);
  • The motivation letter structure, analytical skills and language skills are carefully evaluated (max 20 points).

The maximum score for the motivation letter is 100 points and the result is positive only if the applicant gains 51 points or more.

The maximum score is 100 points. The application will be considered for admission ranking if a score of 66 points or higher is achieved. For further information on assessing candidates´ academic performance and calculating admissions´ score see here.

How to apply

The following information applies to international students and Estonian students who graduated abroad:

The application system opens on 2 January and closes on 15 March. The following documents must be submitted electronically via DreamApply by 15 March:

  1. online application
  2. motivation letter
  3. official certified copy of the bachelor's diploma or its equivalent and Diploma Supplement (transcript) in the original language (must include a description of the grading scale).
    NB! Applicants graduating in the upcoming spring/summer and having their diploma and final transcript issued later than the application deadline should electronically submit their most recent official transcript (including also the grades/results for the last autumn semester) by the application deadline. The transcript should be supplemented by an official statement from the issuing institution indicating current enrollment and expected graduation date. Admitted candidates are required to post certified copies of their graduation documents as soon as these have been issued (must reach us no later than by the end of July).
  4. official certified translation of the bachelor’s diploma and Diploma Supplement (transcript) into English. As certified translations we consider 1) official translations made by the issuing institution (university) bearing their original signature, stamp etc, or 2) translations certified by a sworn translator or notary.
  5. proof of English language proficiency
  6. copy of the passport page stating the applicant’s personal particulars
  7. confirmation/receipt of application fee payment (if applicable). All international applicants are required to pay the application fee EUR 100, unless they have completed the previous study level in Estonia. An application will only be processed after the fee has been received by the UT.

Submitted applications can not be edited. It is only possible to upload new documents (e.g. graduation certificates). Applicants will receive feedback and notifications through the DreamApply system to their e-mail. Incomplete applications or those submitted by e-mail will not be considered for admission.

Guide to submitting an electronic application on DreamApply.

NB: The University of Tartu has no official partnerships with agents or educational representatives. We strongly recommend applying directly to the university without the help of unauthorised third-party entities. Should you use such a service, please ensure that your application's contact information is your personal details (your e-mail, phone number, etc.).

The evaluation of applications will be made based on the electronic copies added to DreamApply. A general ranking list will be formed based on the electronically submitted applications and admission results (including offers) will be announced to all applicants personally via DreamApply by May 15 at the latest. Admitted candidates are expected to accept or decline the offer in DreamApply in 7 days. If the decision is not communicated to UT via DreamApply by the stipulated deadline, UT reserves the right to withdraw the admission offer.

NB! It is not possible to postpone the beginning of studies to the next academic year.

Terms and conditions of the admission offer

Admission offers are conditional. This means that there are conditions in the offer which the applicant needs to fulfil in order to be admitted (e.g. sending application documents by post; obtaining the required level of education). If the conditions are not met, UT has the right to withdraw the offer. Also, UT reserves the right to withdraw or amend any offer or revoke the matriculation of a student, if it becomes evident that the application contains fraudulent information, the qualification does not provide access to the chosen study programme or the student is found to have omitted key information from the application. Should such circumstances occur, UT will not be liable for any material or immaterial loss which the student may suffer as a result.

Once the admission results have been announced, all admitted students are required to send the application documents by post to: Student Admissions, University of Tartu, Ülikooli 18-133, Tartu 50090, ESTONIA.

The documents are expected to be mailed only by those receiving the admission offer (unless instructed otherwise by the admissions staff). The documents must reach the university within 3 weeks from the announcement of the offer. If the application documents do not reach us by the deadline, the university has the right to withdraw the admission offer. Applicants will be informed when their documents have arrived.

Requirements for educational documents

All copies of educational documents (diplomas and Diploma Supplements/transcripts) must be officially certified. By certified we mean that the copies should bear an original signature and seal of the authority certifying that these are true copies of the original document(s). The copies can be certified either 1) by an authorised official of the issuing institution, or 2) by a notary, or 3) with an Apostille attached. NB! Country-specific requirements may also specify the way documents from certain countries must be certified. 

Please note that UT does not accept simple copies made on the basis of already certified copies (primary copies are needed).

All admitted students are required to present their original qualification certificates upon arrival (unless these were sent directly from the issuing institution).

Paying the tuition fee (applicable to those receiving a fee-based study place offer)

  • EU/EEA/Swiss citizens are required to pay the fee for the first semester once they arrive in Tartu (by 20 September at the latest after signing the fee contract, please read more here).
  • Admitted students from other countries are required to pre-pay half of the first semester's tuition fee. The invoice along with the pre-payment deadline and payment details will be sent to applicants via DreamApply after they have accepted the admissions offer and the University has received the hard copies of the application documents. Second part of the fee is due on 20 September. NB! The official admission letter (necessary for visa application) will only be issued once the University of Tartu has received the pre-payment.
  • NB! Once you have been offered a fee-based study place, be aware that it will not be changed into a fee waiver study place. By transferring the pre-payment to the university, you confirm that you have informed yourself about the process of the visa and temporary residence permit application and you are able to arrive in Estonia by the start of the academic year. If you have any questions please contact

The official admission letter will be sent to admitted students electronically via DreamApply only after the admissions office has received and reviewed hard copies of the application documents, and received the tuition fee pre-payment (if a pre-payment was required, please see Step 3 for more details).

NB! The electronic admission letter is also sufficient for non-EU students for applying for visa/residence permit at an Estonian embassy.

Once the admission letter is issued, accepted students may proceed further with arranging their arrival. All non-EU students should first consult information on the process of visa and temporary residence permit application to be sure, as where and when the relevant documents need to be applied. Note that housing at the UT dormitories can be applied during a limited period of time, unless specified otherwise on the website. For housing alternatives please find further information on Tartu Welcome Centre website.  
Travel information can be found here.

Based upon common queries, the most important information has been summarised into a pre-arrival information website UT Getting Started.


Estonian applicants should apply via National Admission Information Systems (SAIS). Further information in Estonian is available here.

In 2022, the Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs offers two tuition waiver study places to Estonian citizens for the nominal study period together with an internship opportunity. All Estonian applicants are automatically considered for the scholarship and will receive further information after the application deadline.

Tuition fee and scholarships

Practical info for new students

International Student Ambassadors

Ask about the programme or admission
Eva Liias
Faculty of Social Sciences
School of Economics and Business Administration
Programme Director MA Contemporary Asian and Middle Eastern Studies
Narva mnt 18–4036

School of Economics and Business Administration
Chair of International Business and Innovation
Visiting Lecturer 0.7 p
Narva mnt 18–4036

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The programme celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2022. Many students have graduated from the programme.