International approaches to Islamic Studies in higher education

The Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies (LLAS), in partnership with the Subject Centre for Philosophical and Religious Studies (PRS), has prepared a report for HEFCE on international approaches to Islamic Studies. The report examines the historical development and current state of Islamic Studies in eight countries: the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the Netherlands, the United States, Australia, Malaysia and Turkey. It also presents perspectives on recent developments in Islamic Studies and the responses of governments, policy makers and funding bodies; interactions between institutions of higher education and faith-based organisations and communities; and case studies that highlight examples of innovative practice in relation to Islamic Studies in higher education. The report was commissioned by HEFCE to inform its activities relating to Islamic Studies, which was designated a Strategically Important Subject in June 2007.


December, 2007 - April, 2008

Key contact(s):

Lisa Bernasek
Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies

John Canning
Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies

Funded by:

The Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE)

Project partners:

Subject Centre for Languages, Linguistics and Area Studies (LLAS)

Subject Centre for Philosophical and Religious Studies (PRS)

Project aims:

  • Investigate how Islamic Studies has developed in the countries in question, what subject disciplines contribute to provision in Islamic Studies, and interactions between Islamic Studies and faith-based communities.
  • Present findings on the size, scope and capacity of Islamic Studies provision in the selected countries and an assessment of the ‘health of the discipline’ in each country.
  • Investigate relationships between publicly-funded higher education institutions and private institutions, including faith-based institutions, in order to identify the issues associated with these types of collaboration.
  • Present findings on developments in Islamic Studies in the respective countries in the past ten years and the responses of governments, policy makers and funding bodies, where appropriate.
  • Provide selected case studies of departments, schools or research institutes concerned with Islamic Studies in the selected countries, with a particular attention to programmes that have developed innovative approaches to the study of Islam in the contemporary global context.


The research has identified the following general themes as important developments in Islamic Studies in higher education across most of the countries concerned:

  • the development of interdisciplinary and trans-regional centres for the study of Islam and Muslims in the modern world;
  • the development of networks of scholars, at national or regional levels, that encourage collaboration in research and teaching between universities;
  • the promotion of efforts to incorporate aspects of the training of local Muslim leaders, including imams, into higher education programmes;
  • the development of individual modules related to Islamic Studies that can be pursued by students on a variety of degree courses or offered as outreach education courses, in a variety of learning and teaching modes.

The full report is available on HEFCE's website

Case study institutions

A list of the international case studies presented:


École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), Institut d’ Études d’Islam et des Sociétés du Monde Musulman (Institute for the Study of Islam and Societies of the Muslim World, IISMM)


Freie Universität Berlin, Institut für Islamwissenschaft (Free University of Berlin, Institute for Islamic Studies)

Zentrum Moderner Orient (ZMO, Centre for Modern Oriental Studies), Berlin


Leiden University ‘duplex ordo’ system

International Institute for the Study of Islam in the Modern World, Leiden (ISIM)

United States

Islamic Studies collaborations between the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Duke University

University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Duke University

The Center for the Study of Muslim Networks (CSMN)

Duke Islamic Studies Center

Carolina Center for the Study of the Middle East and Muslim Civilizations (CCSMEMC)

National Institute for Technology and Liberal Education Al-Musharaka Initiative

NITLE Al-Musharaka initiative


National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies


The Academy of Islamic Studies, University of Malaya (UM), Kuala Lumpur

The International Islamic University of Malaysia (IIUM), Kuala Lumpur


Ilahiyat Faculty in Suleyman Demirel University (SDU)

Selected bibliography on Islamic Studies in Higher Education

This biblography lists many of the items consulted.


Islamic Universities League/Al-Maktoum Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies (2004), ‘Dundee Declaration for the Future Development of the Study of Islam and Muslims’.

Ismael, Tareq. Middle East Studies: International Studies on the State of the Art. New York: Praeger, 1990.

Johansen, Birgitte Schepelern. Islam at the European Universities. University of Copenhagen, 2006.

Journal of Beliefs and Values: Special Issue: Islamic Studies in Higher Education, Volume 28, Number 3, December 2007.

Nanji, Azim. Mapping Islamic Studies : Genealogy, Continuity, and Change. New York: Mouton de Gruyter, 1997.

Ramadan, Tariq. ‘Plotting the Future of Islamic Studies: Teaching and Research in the Current Political Climate’. Academic Matters, 2007: 6-8.

Wheeler, Brannon, ed. Teaching Islam. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

United Kingdom

El-Awaisi, Abd al-Fattah and Malory Nye. Time for Change – Report on the Future of the Study of Islam and Muslims in Universities and Colleges in Multiculturalism Britain. Dundee: Al-Maktoum Press, 2006.

BRISMES (2003), ‘The Crisis Facing Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies in British Universities’, Report following seminar at Portcullis House sponsored by Robert Jackson, MP, October 2003. Available at:

Bunt, Gary R. ‘Islam in Higher Education: University of Birmingham 29 – 30 January 2005’. Discourse 4, no. 2 (2005): 104-19.

Studying Islam after 9/11: Reflections and Resources’. PRS-LTSN Journal 1, no. 2 (2002): 156-64.

Ehteshami, Anoush. ‘Report – Middle Eastern Studies in the United Kingdom, A Challenge for Government, Industry and the Academic Community’, BRISMES, 2002.

The Federation of Student Islamic Societies in the UK & Eire (FOSIS), 'Shaping Future of Muslim Students', November Report 2007.

Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). ‘Islamic Studies: Trends and Profiles.

Modood, Tariq, (2006) ‘Ethnicity, Muslims and Higher Education entry in Britain’ in Teaching in Higher Education Vol.11, No.2, April, p. 247-50.

Siddiqui, Ataullah. Islam at Universities in England: Meeting the Needs and Investing in the Future. London: DFES, 2007.

Suleiman, Yasir and Ayman Shihadeh. ‘Islam on Campus: Teaching Islamic Studies at Higher Education Institutions in the UK. Report of a Conference held at the University of Edinburgh, 4 December 2006’. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh, 2007.

University of Exeter (2008) Review of User Requirements for Digitalised Resourses in Islamic Studies. (Bristol: JISC).


Akbarzadeh, Shahram et al. Australian-based Studies on Islam and Muslim Societies. Monash University, 2004.

Muslim Community Reference Group. ‘Stock-take of Islamic Study at Australian Universities’ (2006).


Ghaly, Mohammed M. ‘The Academic Training of Imams: Recent Discussions and Initiatives in the Netherlands’. In The Study of Religion and the Training of Muslim Clergy in Europe: Academic and Religious Freedom in the 21st Century. Edited by Willem B. Drees and Peiter Sjoerd van Kongsveld, 371-378. Leiden: Leiden University Press, 2008.


Hock-Tong, Cheu. ‘RMA Newsletter: Islamic Studies Requirement Debated’. Malaysia: Kokugakuin University, 1998.


Pacaci, Mehmet and Yasin Aktay. ‘75 Years of Religious Education in Modern Turkey’. In The Blackwell Companion to Contemporary Islamic Thought. Edited by Ibrahim M. Abu-Rabi, 122-145. Oxford:Blackwell Publishing, 2006.

United States

Cooke, Miriam. ‘Contesting Campus Watch: Middle East Studies under Fire, the Academy and Democracy at Risk’. In Arab World Books,

Hermansen, Marcia K. ‘Trends in Islamic Studies in the United States and Canada Since the 1970s’. American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 10, no. 1 (1993): 96-118.


Siddiqui, A. (2007) Islam at Universities in England, London: DfES.

Bunt, Gary. "Islam in Higher Education: University of Birmingham 29 – 30 January 2005." Discourse 4.2 (2005): 104-19.

Further resources available on our website:

Guide to Good Practice: An introduction to South Asian Studies in the United Kingdom

by Vibha Arora