Minaret of Mosque Zitouna

Global Scholars Program in Tunis and Morocco: Islam and the Modern World

Language of Instruction: English
Term: Spring, Summer

Supplement and extend the ideas discussed in the Core Curriculum by reading texts from North African and Muslim thinkers, and by completing an independent research project in the field

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Due to the unpredictable nature of the spread of COVID-19 worldwide, the Global Scholars Program in Tunis and Morocco: Islam and the Modern World has been cancelled for Summer 2020.

The Global Scholars Program (GSP) is an innovative study abroad program, offering undergraduates a unique hands-on international research experience in topics of transnational importance, using social science, humanities, and scientific frameworks. Global topics are explored in more than one location, giving students first-hand opportunities to understand and compare how local communities approach these issues.

Program Overview

The Global Scholars Program in Tunis and Morocco: Islam and the Modern World program will survey historical texts that emerge in and around Europe’s engagement with Muslim societies and the creation of a “modern world.” It will explore key issues surrounding the history of the Enlightenment, the rise of historicism and the growing interest in universal histories through the engagement with Arabic texts and North African histories from the mid-eighteenth century to the mid twentieth century.

The full GSP experience is composed of:

  • A Spring 2020 course to be taken on the Columbia campus (4 points)
  • A Summer 2020 two-week field work component held in Tunisia and Morocco (1 point)

Throughout the course, students will:

  • Supplement and extend the Core Program at Columbia through original readings of texts from North Africa and Muslim thinkers more generally.
  • Be introduced to texts on European orientalism, Enlightenment thought and liberal political theory from the eighteenth to twentieth centuries with an eye towards the impact of universal histories, colonialism and its aftermath in North Africa in particular.

  • Gain practical research skills and meaningful international experience organized around the students’ own writing and research projects.

  • Put into practice the analytical and research skills they gained in the spring to complete a fuller research project during visits to Tunis, Fez and Rabat.


Mandatory spring course

Note: The University reserves the right to withdraw or modify the courses of instruction or to change the instructors as may become necessary.

Islam and the Modern World (UN3622), 4 points.

Instructors: Manan Ahmed and Marwa Elshakry

Pre-Requisites: None

The Spring 2019 course will focus on a set of original readings from North African and Muslim historians, philosophers, statesmen and religious scholars from the eighteenth century and after. These readings will be read alongside the works of key European orientalists along with Enlightenment philosophers and nineteenth century historians and statesmen to investigate a set of interrelated questions. Among the themes we plan to explore are: the changing meaning and historical role of world empires; shifting concepts of civilization and notions of universal history; and finally, the complex, cross-continental current of ideas and practices around colonial and anti-colonial movements of the time. During the last week or two of the spring semester, the students will also be invited to present their own preliminary writing and research projects, which they will continue in the summer. These projects could therefore draw either upon the texts under study or seek to examine other in depth and intersecting matters of interest (such as Gender and Religion, Theories of Development, Anti-Colonial Movements, Democracy etc.)

Only students admitted to the global scholars program can enroll in this course.

summer field-work experience

Note: The University reserves the right to withdraw or modify the courses of instruction or to change the instructors as may become necessary.

Islam and the Modern World - Summer Experience (UN3622), 1 point.

Instructors: Manan Ahmed and Marwa Elshakry

Pre-Requisites: Must have successfully completed the accompanying 4-point Spring course: UN3622

In the Summer session, which will be credited as a one-point extension of the spring semester, students will put into practice the analytical and research skills they gained in the spring by finishing and presenting a research project they began in the Spring. Students will continue to work on these during their visits to Tunis, Fez and Rabat. They will be introduced to archives, museum collections, literary societies in all three cities as well as to local intellectuals, academics, social workers, creative and visual artists through classroom and site visits. In addition, there will be several “walking tours” of the three medinas in order to investigate the living archives of imperial transitions and the broad range of intellectual, cultural and social life there. As such, the students will be invited to continue to work on their own research projects during these visits, collecting research and interviewing scholars and others in order to also prepare for short but in-depth presentations of their work during the final few days of the summer course and before formally submitting these upon their return.

Grades and Transcripts

Grading Policy

Click here for the Columbia summer program grading policies.


Upon successful completion of the program, grades are entered into Columbia's online grading system and students can request a Columbia University transcript. Non-Columbia students (including Barnard) can request electronic transcripts online through the Columbia University registrar.

No credit is granted to students who do not complete the full program.

Eligibility and Application

  • Open to undergraduates from Columbia College, School of Engineering and Applied Science, School of General Studies, and Barnard College in good academic standing.
  • Must have completed Contemporary Civilization or the Barnard equivalent
  • Must plan to enroll in and successfully complete the accompanying Columbia course to be announced in late Fall
  • Minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA.


Want to apply? Click the “Start Your Application" button at the top of this page. If the button doesn't appear above, the program is not yet accepting applications. You will be asked to set up a short profile, which will allow us to send you relevant information about your application. Once you’ve created a profile, you will see a checklist of items that you will need to submit. These generally include:

  • Application questionnaire(s)
  • Personal statement
  • Two letters of recommendation
  • Official transcript(s)

Life Abroad


All housing is included in the program fee.

Tunisia: Students will be housed together and will live in single rooms in residential rental properties in Sidi Bou Said in the capital city of Tunis.

Morocco: Students will be housed together in single hotel rooms in Rabat and Fez.


Welcome and farewell meals will be provided on the first and last days of the program. Ten dinners will be covered throughout the program by the program fee. Breakfast, lunch, and remaining dinners not covered by the program should be budgeted separately. Depending on how extravagantly one plans to eat, it should be safe to budget about $5-$10 per meal.

Field trips

A tentative itinerary for the summer experience can be found below:

Tunis (one week):

  1. National Library and Archives
  2. House of Ibn Khaldun
  3. University of Tunis (including visiting scholars’ lectures)
  4. Bayt al-Hikmah
  5. Acropolium at Carthage and the history of its archaeological excavations and the work of the Church
  6. Walks through the European and old Medina districts of Tunis

Fez (3 days):

  1. The Qarawiyin Library
  2. Université Sidi Mohamed Ben Abdellah (including scholars’ lectures)
  3. Zaouia Moulay Idriss II
  4. Tours through the Medina to look at such sites as Bab Boujloud and the Mellah or Jewish Quarters as well as the Andalusian Quarters
  5. The Kairouine Mosque
  6. Dar Batha Museum

Rabat (With possible excursion to Salé) (4 days):

  1. National Library and Archives
  2. The Hasaniyah Library
  3. Muhammad V University (including scholars’ lectures)
  4. Oudaia Kasbah and Andalusian Gardens
  5. Grand Mosque
  6. Contemporary Art Museum

Daily life and schedule

Students will be in class Monday through Friday starting at 9 am daily for the first week of the program in Tunis. Class will meet for an average of 8 hours per day that includes lectures, guest scholar presentations, and small group research collection in the city. There will also be occasional small group activities in the evenings. The weekend will be spent traveling between Tunisia and Morocco and then once in Morocco, students will spend that second and final week conducting site visits to cultural sites that they will have learned about during the spring semester.


In Tunisia, students will be based at the Columbia Global Center | Tunis.

In Morocco, students will spend most of their time visiting cultural sites in Rabat and Fez.

Financial Considerations


Summer 2020 Program Fee: The program fee covers tuition, in-country transportation, course materials, course excursions, most dinners, and accommodations. It does NOT cover flight to Tunisia and from Morocco, visa costs (if applicable), some meals, and personal expenses.

Program Fee: $5,000

Please see our cost breakdown for detailed information on additional estimated expenses.

Tuition and fees are subject to Board of Trustees approval and may change.


If you are on financial aid, check to see if it can be applied to studying abroad. In general summer financial aid is not available to Columbia College or Columbia Engineering students, but may be available to School of General Studies students. Non-Columbia students should check with their home schools for funding availability.

***The GSP Scholarship is now OPEN in the online application.***

Please log in to your application to complete the questionnaire titled "UGE Administered Scholarship" and select "GSP Scholarship" in the dropdown menu.

For more general information and resources on financing your time abroad, please see the pages below:


If you decide to withdraw from the program once it has already started, please be aware of the financial consequences and the office policies by clicking here.


Marwa Elshakry is an Associate Professor in the History Department who teaches on the history of science, modern intellectual history, Arabic and Islamic Studies, translation and reading studies and international and global history. She has taught previously in the History of Science Department at Harvard, and since joining the faculty in the History Department at Columbia in 2009 has regularly taught Contemporary Civilizations and a host of other courses on the modern Middle East, modern Arabic intellectual history as well as offered a broad-range of seminars, including on “The Archives of Colonialism,” “Utopia: The History of an Idea” and “The Passions: An Introduction to the History of Emotions.” She is the author of Reading Dawin in Arabic, 1860-1950 (University of Chicago Press, 2013), which received the 2014 Morris D Forkosch Prize of the Journal of the History of Ideas for the best first book in intellectual history, and Science, Race and Imperialism, co-edited with Sujit Sivasundaram (Victorian Science and Literature Series, vol. 6 : Pickering and Chatto, June 2012). She has also written a series of articles, book chapters and edited a number of journal for a, including “History’s Golden Ages: Universal Histories of Science, the Arabs and Islam,” in Power and Time, ed. Stefanos Geroulanos, Daniel Edelstein and Natasha Wheatley (University of Chicago Press, 2017, forthcoming); “Historicizing Science and the Modern State,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 47:3, August 2015, 555-558 (Introduction and forum organizer); “Knowledge in Motion: The Cultural Politics of Modern Science Translations in Arabic,” Isis, 99:4, December 2008, 701-731; and “The Gospel of Science and American Evangelism in Late Ottoman Beirut,” Past and Present, 196:1, August 2007, 173-214. Her current research project and manuscript is on Universal Histories of Islam and the History of Science, which looks at the intersections between universal histories, orientalism and the history of science from the 18th to 20th centuries.

Manan Ahmed is an Associate Professfor for Islam in South Asia in the History Department. His research focuses on medieval and early modern intellectual history, South Asia, and philosophy of history. He is the author of A Book of Conquest: Chachnama and Muslim Origins in South Asia (Harvard University Press, 2016). He teaches regularly in Contemporary Civilizations, as well as undergraduate and graduate courses in South Asia, Intellectual History and Borderlands. Ahmed has previously conducted study abroad at institutes in Cairo, Delhi and Mexico City.

Resources for Accepted Students

Fact Sheet

Arts and Architecture, Humanities, Social Sciences
Barnard College, Columbia College, Columbia Engineering, Columbia General Studies
Language of Instruction:
Spring, Summer

Dates & Deadlines

Application Deadline: 
Friday, November 8, 2019
Admissions Decision Date: 
Tuesday, December 10, 2019
Program Dates: 
Thursday, May 28, 2020 to Thursday, June 11, 2020
Program Dates are still tentative and subject to change. There will be an interview process prior to acceptance notifications.