Secondary Teacher Education Programme

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Applications for STEP (2022 entry) are now closed. Please contact for any queries, or check our FAQs page.

The Secondary Teacher Education Programme (STEP) is for practising and prospective teachers wishing to embark on a career in teaching within the wider Aga Khan Network of Institutions, with a particular focus on teaching the Institute of Ismaili Studies’ Secondary Curriculum at the Ismaili Religious Education Centres (RECs) to students aged 11-16. STEP takes exceptional graduates and works with them to develop their skills and shape them into teachers and mentors who can inspire and teach. The Master’s level teacher preparation aspect of STEP is being undertaken through a pioneering collaboration between the UCL Institute of EducationSOAS University of London and the Institute of Ismaili Studies.

The Secondary Teacher Education Programme (STEP) has been developed to support and promote the need for professionally trained secondary level teachers who can teach the IIS Secondary Curriculum within the Ismaili religious education system;  therefore, candidates are recruited from within the Ismaili community. Download the prospectus to find out more, and refer to our terms and conditions.  

“Becoming a STEP teacher is a huge responsibility but also a privilege. Where you hold the responsibility of contributing towards the preservation and extension of a living faith tradition, you also have privilege to be part of an exciting and rigorous endeavor hosted by three esteemed institutions.” Mr Faheem Hussain, STEP Teacher Educator

Learn more about STEP on the IIS YouTube channel.

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Course Overview

The Secondary Teacher Education Programme (STEP) aims to produce professional secondary level teachers. It combines strong academic preparation with practice-based teacher training, in an intimate and welcoming learning environment. STEP is a fully funded scholarship programme, which covers the cost of tuition fees, accommodation and includes a living allowance.

STEP caters directly for students wishing to embark upon a career in teaching within the wider Aga Khan network of institutions, with a particular focus on teaching at the Ismaili Religious Education Centres (RECs) at the secondary level worldwide.

Students are trained to teach humanities and religious studies with a particular emphasis on the IIS’ Secondary Curriculum which explores the humanistic, civilisational and normative dimensions of religious education.

STEP extends over two academic years and culminates in two postgraduate awards (Level 7):

  • A Master of Arts (MA) in Muslim Societies and Civilisations, awarded by SOAS
  • A Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) in Teaching and Reflective Practice, awarded by UCL

Tailor-made for STEP, the MA and the PGDip form a bespoke programme specifically designed with the needs of STEP students, the Ismaili Tariqahinfo-icon and Religious Education Boards (ITREBs) who employ them, and the communities they serve. The programme equips students with the tools and knowledge to take responsibility for their personal learning and continuous professional development beyond STEP.

The MA is designed to provide in-depth study of Islam and Ismaili heritage within the broader dimensions of Muslim societies and civilisations. It prepares students to understand and respond analytically to relevant scholarship and research so they can in turn facilitate an understanding and engagement with the philosophical and pedagogical framework of the various secondary curriculum modules published by the Institute of Ismaili Studies.

The PGDip offers a coherent teacher education programme with an integrated and well-supported teaching placement. The PGDip supports participants to become skilled classroom practitioners. Additionally, the PGDip offers  skills and tools for participants to be able to  take responsibility for their personal learning and continuous professional development beyond  the PGDip and well into their teaching career.

Through the Programme, students will develop:

  • reflective and critical stances, and creativity and independence of thought in the application of knowledge;
  • sound knowledge of subject matter relevant to the IIS' Secondary Curriculum framework;
  • a holistic understanding of educational practice and effective classroom skills informed through field-based work and practice;
  • a critical understanding of curriculum implementation, evaluation, and assessment, particularly in relation to the IIS’ Secondary Curriculum.

As students develop an increasingly sophisticated understanding of subject knowledge and classroom-based practice, they will be evaluated using a variety of assessment tools, including written and oral examinations, presentations and coursework.

Programme Structure

MA in Muslim Societies and Civilisations – designed and delivered by the IIS, and awarded by SOAS University of London

PGDip in Teaching and Reflective Practice – designed, delivered and awarded by UCL


    Programme Structure

    The Secondary Teacher Education Programme (STEP) was founded in 2007 with a view to develop educators to teach the Institute’s Secondary Curriculum in a way that inspires and motivates secondary students. Since then, it has been evaluated and developed annually to ensure that the programme is fit for purpose and meets the ever-changing needs of students and communities on the ground.

    While incremental changes and improvements have been made regularly, a significant restructuring of the programme has taken place for those cohorts joining in 2017 and beyond. The programme has been revised to greatly increase STEP students’ practical classroom skills and teaching experience for when they go on to teach in the field and for their long-term development that goes beyond the mandatory three years in the field post their graduation.


    Programme Structure

    MA in Muslim Societies and Civilisationsawarded by SOAS

    PGDip in Teaching and Reflective Practice, awarded by UCL


    The overall structure of the programme is:


    Programme Elements

    Teaching Practice



    STEP  Year 1

    MA in Muslim Societies and Civilisations

    Teaching practice in UK Religious Education Centres


    Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching and Reflective Practice (PGDip)

    UK mainstream school teaching placements



    STEP  Year 2

    MA in Muslim Societies and Civilisations

    Teaching practice in UK Religious Education Centres and students’ home contexts


    Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching and Reflective Practice (PGDip)




    Download the full programme specifications for STEP MA here: 

    Download the full programme specifications for STEP PGDip here: 



    MA in Muslim Societies and Civilisations

    The MA in Muslim Societies and Civilisations is designed and delivered by the IIS, and validated by SOAS University of London. It is designed to provide in-depth study of Islam and Ismaili heritage within the broader dimensions of Muslim societies and civilisations. The MA degree offers students a systematic and critical interdisciplinary examination of Muslim history, cultures and societies. It helps develop in students sound scholarly skills, capacity for critical analysis, methodological and research skills, and clear communications skills.

    The MA is aimed at:

    1. Developing and cultivating in students a systematic understanding and engagement with subject knowledge pertaining to the interdisciplinary field of Islamic Studies, with particular focus on societal, civilisational and humanistic-informed approaches. As an example of curricular material employing the aforementioned approaches, due attention will be paid to the IIS’ Secondary Curriculum.
    2. Fostering capacity to conduct an insightful and critical review of relevant literature in all pertinent subject areas, as well as creativity and independence of thought in the application of knowledge.
    3. Fostering capacity to critically evaluate current issues and recent developments in the field and arrive at sound critical insights using research methodologies in the study of humanities and social sciences in Muslim contexts.
    4. The programme will develop in the students a range of practical and intellectual skills that contribute to:
      1. the critical evaluation of scholarship, literature and research in Islamic studies, religious studies, and the humanities at the postgraduate level;
      2. a systematic understanding of how established and emerging techniques of research and enquiry are used to create and interpret knowledge;
      3. independence of thought in the application of knowledge, and the creative and critical handling, presenting and analysis of data.
    5. Throughout the programme, students will acquire a systematic grasp of established and evolving ways of communication and presentation for this field of study, while producing postgraduate-level coursework that shows criticality, clarity, focus and cogency in organization and presentation of arguments and conclusions.

    Upon successful completion of the MA students are expected to acquire a series of subject-specific knowledge and intellectual skills, as well as subject-based practical and transferable skills.

    The MA curriculum is comprised of the following modules:

    MA Modules


    History of the Islamic World I


    History of the Islamic World II


    The Qur’aninfo-icon and its Interpretations


    Faith, Ethics and Practice


    Literature in Muslim Societies


    Developments and Issues in the Contemporary Muslim World


    Dissertation (10,000 words)




    History of the Islamic World I & II

    The paramount aim of the module is to develop in the students an ability to think historically about the ideas, events and institutions that emerged in the Muslim world from its formative period until approximately the 10th century. Ideas – theological, philosophical, moral and political – are to be understood in relation to prevailing forces and circumstances, at any given time, of material (social, political, economic and institutional) factors. A comparative dimension is important for helping students to realise that all history is human history: law, traditions of literary expression, musical composition and recital, the visual arts – whether non-figurative, representational or symbolic – are the hallmarks of all human civilisations.

    The module will also challenge the objectively unsustainable dichotomy between ‘pre-Islamic’ and ‘Islamic’ cultures. An analytical study of Muslim history will show, by contrast, that Islam emerged in more than one geographical region, at a number of points in its history, and against the background of pre-existing cultures: Greco-Roman, Indian, Zoroastrian-Persian and sub-Saharan African. This pattern of emergence may in fact be considered one of the defining features of Islamic civilisation. This need not negate the appropriateness of the description of this civilisation as ‘Islamic’. Rather, it points to a dynamic revolutionary process whereby established cultures in the broad span of the Muslim world came, over time, to be adapted, rejected, integrated and transformed into historically-based Islamic definitions and identities.

    The Qur'an and its Interpretations

    The Qur’an, believed to be of universal relevance, both reflects and transcends the specific conditions and circumstances of the Prophet Muhammad’s mission in the changing environments of Mecca and Medina. Its very status as a sacred text has caused it to be treated in different ways and with varying degrees of intellectual richness, ranging from literalism at one end through legal codes to speculative, esoteric or mystical interpretations at the other. In contemporary times, this diversity is liable to be forgotten, with exclusively legalistic and political-ideological positions brought to the fore instead. Therefore, it is essential to retrieve knowledge of this varied past.

    To this end, the module will confront a range of subjects and issues related to the Qur’an and its reception, from the meaning of the idea of Revelation to the process of the compilation of the Qur’an to the canonisation of the Qur’anic text as the premier source of fiqh (jurisprudence). The Shi’i principle of living interpretation and the authority of the Imam that emerged as a counterpoint to the overwhelmingly textualist emphasis will receive particular attention in the module.

    Faith, Ethics and Practice

    The first aim of this module is to explore faith, not in the restricted sense of an idea or an emotional attitude, but as an integrated phenomenon consisting of ideas, affects and creative action in society, amid historically given circumstances.

    The module will then proceed to survey the elaboration of Qur’anic faith, religious authority and ethical ideas in several different genres which came to prominence in classical Islamic civilisation: jurisprudence and law (fiqhinfo-icon and shariah); philosophy; and mysticism. The social and political context of these ideas will be borne in mind, not as mere historical background, but also as illustrative of the unity of material and spiritual or intellectual life. As it would be highly artificial to regard religious faith and ethics as discrete or separable phenomena, ethics will not be treated here as a distinct, special subject.

    The module will also deal with ritual and spaces of worship. These subjects are included in the module for three main reasons. First, while ritual is part of the practice of faith, it is not the whole of it. Secondly, Islamic rites share the characteristic of fiqh and shariah mentioned above, namely fluidity and variability dictated by time and context. Thirdly, ritual has the same susceptibility to the rigidity of formalism as formulations of belief and codes of law. In this light, forms and rites of prayer in particular will be examined with respect to their historical and contextual development, as well as their variety.

    In communal practice (as distinguished from individual choice and inclination), rites require standardization. This in turn requires them to be mandated by what is understood, in the particular school of Islam concerned, as a locus of legitimate authority. The prevailing principle in Ismaili Jamats is that the community’s practice of faith is legitimised by the authority of the Imaminfo-icon of the time. Selected case-studies will be considered to illustrate this principle.

    Literature in Muslim Societies

    Literature in an important aspect of complex civilisations, such as Islamic civilisations, and the complexity of the civilisation is reflected in the complexity of its literary productions.

    This module will examine such complexity against the background of the uses of language in human societies. Every language with a lettered tradition has a unique scope as well as limits in the expression of human experience. These are reflected alike in representations of nature, the moral order, and the human soul in its quest for salvation. It will be one of the aims of this module to note the treatment of these themes in the languages of Islam (even if only in translation). To this end, the module will employ an inductive approach, using examples from both classical and contemporary literature diachronically in order to illustrate the proposed themes and their development across time.

    This idea of literature encompasses both oral and written forms, sacred as well as worldly themes, and fictional as well as empirical narratives. A selection of illustrative samples will stimulate in the student a feeling for the beauty of the verbal composition in the service of expressing (a) moral or transcendent ideals; (b) perspectives on reality, as in travelogues, biographies, scientific treatises etc.; (c) the imaginative world of mythical and legendary narratives; (d) the quest for self-transformation. Texts from smaili history, which reproduce much of the above range, will be accorded special attention. Also, aspects of material and visual culture that relate to literary productions will be highlighted in the module.

    Developments and Issues in the Contemporary Muslim World

    The module will undertake a thematic examination of ideas, institutions, and socio-economic developments characteristic of the Muslim world from the beginning of the 19th century to the present. The module will also be particularly concerned with critically reviewing the long-prevalent assumption that modernity is a singular process dictated by the historically contingent events and circumstances of European history. It will be important to appreciate that, in fact, there are in the world today, potentially as well as in actuality, differing models of modernity. The issue of modernity in the Muslim world will be addressed in the light of this principle. Similarly, the view, once dominant and still persistent, that the Muslim world has been an essentially passive recipient of the impact of western modernity will be critically assessed with supporting evidence, highlighting a range of developments that emerged from within a variety of Muslim contexts.

    The module will also hone in on a recurrent element in modern Islamist discourses: the assumption that there are clear dividing lines between ideas and practices within the broad spectrum of Muslim communities which may be branded, according to pre-given criteria, as either ‘Islamic’ or ‘non-Islamic’. This pattern of thinking is closely tied to claims of orthodoxy and heterodoxy in regard to doctrine and practice. Although the outlook entailed in this assumption has antecedents, the module will show how the relation between such ideas and practices and their modern versions is likely to be less than straightforward. More importantly, the actual history of Islam would appear to belie this dogmatic standpoint and expose its basis in power-politics. Indeed, a section of the module will be dedicated to the ways in which authority and community in Muslim countries are built and legitimated, and it will also include a comparative overview of non-Muslim contexts.

    PGDip in Teaching and Reflective Practice

    The Postgraduate Diploma in Teaching and Reflective Practice (PGDip) is designed, delivered and awarded by UCL. The PGDip provides a comprehensive teacher education programme,fostering academic rigour as well as practical understanding and application of theories. The approach integrates academic theory with a well-supported teaching practice.

    STEP student will be provided with learning opportunities to develop high academic and professional standards and to apply critical reflection as a basis for personal continuous professional development beyond the course. They are encouraged to learn how to contextualise curricula and transfer theories and practical strategies from one context to another.

    Successful graduates should:

    1. Understand key aspects of the field of study and practice (e.g. understanding learning theories, teaching strategies and reflective practices, how to lead learners and learning in specific contexts and how to develop classroom materials).
    2. Be able to explore, analyse, discuss and reflect critically, systematically and with academic rigour on teaching and learning and teachers' roles within communities of practice and as curriculum developers.
    3. Be able to communicate their own learning and development in a range of outputs.

    The PGDip curriculum is comprised of the following modules:

    PGDip Modules


    Learning, Teaching and Reflective Practice


    Principles of Learning and Teaching


    Leading Learning in Ismaili Contexts


    Teachers as Authors: Curriculum Design and Development





    Learning, Teaching and Reflective Practice

    Most students in the course will come with a very little teaching experience. The module Learning, Teaching and Reflective Practice (LTRP) will help them prepare for school placement and use it as a basis for reflection upon practice. For this purpose, the module will start with a two week intensive episode preparing students for teaching practice in schools. Subsequent sessions will connect the students' experiences in the mainstream schools with the module Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT) (see below). As such there will be parallels between this module and PLT with this module taking more hands-on approach with the PLT providing in-depth theoretical foundations. The philosophical approach underpinning LTRP is to provide students with the tools of systematic reflection, so that by applying these tools they may continue their professional development beyond the module in their own practice.

    The module will consist of mixed-mode, face-to-face sessions with opportunities to engage in additional online discussions. Group works and projects will be used within the individual sessions to stimulate discussions and deeper reflections. Specific teaching methods and activities will be modelled by the module tutor, so that students can implement these in their own teaching practice. Throughout the sessions there will be opportunities for reflective practice and recording reflections in a journal. Moodle space will be used to provide readings and supportive materials as well as a platform for sharing resources, lesson plans and examples of good practice, and for maintaining systematic reflection blog.

    Principles of Learning and Teaching

    The Principles of Learning and Teaching (PLT) module focuses on quality practice in pedagogy, and explores how teachers can equip learners for life and engage with valued forms of learning; how they can promote the active engagement of the learner, assess the needs of learners and recognise the significance of informal learning and the importance of teacher learning. Our experience shows that at the beginning of the curriculum, student-teachers are more able to engage in depth in ideas.

    The module teaches through the mixed mode or blended pedagogy the following elements which are key for teachers working in any settings. It has been designed to respond to international settings where teachers may experience different expectations of learning, particularly due to cultural differences and expectations.

    Leading Learning in Ismaili Contexts

    The Leading Learning in Ismaili Contexts (LLIC) is a second year module aimed at developing students’ understanding of their own learning, the learning of others, and the teacher’s role in maximising both. ‘Leadership’ is understood in its widest sense: at home, schooling, and community levels, thus promoting the future teacher’s civic engagement within a diverse range of sites of learning. The focus on the Ismaili contexts will be brought in through students’ own background knowledge which will be drawn upon extensively in the module and guest speakers. During part of the module, the students will be in their own countries and this will give an opportunity to apply programme and module learning in particular Ismaili contexts. There will be comparative engagement with both Jewish and Christian religious education, alongside an exploration of wider global debates, such as issues of extremism and migration. The overall aim is to provide students with the tools of inter-cultural dynamics before they return to their home countries. Supportive field sessions develop students ‘capacity to bridge their learning in the UK within their Ismaili community setting.

    Teacher as Author: Curriculum Design and Development

    The curriculum is an important aspect of any educational institution and this module, whilst recognising that teachers are sometimes constrained by statutory requirements (e.g. The National Curriculum in England and Wales) they are still likely to be ‘authors’ of the curriculum and so have ownership and authority over it. After graduation, the students in the proposed PGDip will be teaching the IIS' Secondary Curriculum in their respective countries. This module will be adapted to respond to the expectations of an Ismaili curriculum as explored in the earlier modules, with students empowered to challenge ideas they may meet in their own settings.

    Teaching Practice

    Teaching practice is central to the programme’s approach to teacher development and provides the students with an opportunity to develop their teaching and reflective skills within the classroom.

    All students are provided with invaluable support from Professional Learning Community (PLC) facilitators and experienced mentors. A STEP student must complete the Teaching Practice components before they are recognised as a STEP teacher.

    The teaching practice consists of several components:

    • Comprehensive, practical, field-based school/teaching experiences in mainstream schools in or near London and at Religious Education Centres (RECs) in the United Kingdom;
    • Teaching practice in the Ismaili Religious Education Centres in participants’ own home contexts;
    • Lesson planning tutoring and field mentoring, through the platform of PLCs;
    • Portfolio of Work.

    Every student is allocated a mainstream school placement in London or the surrounding regions, where they have the opportunity to observe and
    deliver lessons in a number of mainly humanitiesbased subject areas. Mainstream school placements are one of the main ways students can gain insight into the reality of working with young people in a classroom setting. They will experience up to 80 days of teaching practice during their time at the IIS.

    Students will have access to a school-based mentor who provides professional guidance and support in the development of their teaching practices. Throughout the teaching experience in mainstream schools and RECs, students are supported with formative observations and feedback on their teaching. During the programme, students compile a Portfolio of Work to demonstrate their progress as teachers and reflective practitioners. The Portfolio will be a professional record of their teaching experience at a mainstream school, an Ismaili REC in the UK or Europe, and in their home context.

    The Portfolio will allow participants to consolidate their MA and PGDip experiences and their integration with classroom practices, as well as provide a basis for writing their summative assignments and sustain their continued professional development.


    Enrichment Sessions

    Enrichment Sessions at the IIS

    There are further elements of STEP, designed and delivered by the IIS, which are not part of the accredited modules for the MA and PGDip. Nevertheless, these enrichments are an important and mandatory element of the programme in terms of preparing participants to return to their home countries and take up their posts as STEP teachers.

    Teaching and Learning

    Occasional Teaching and Learning sessions delivered at the IIS complement and further enhance Teaching and Learning provision, gained through PGDip at the UCL Institute of Education (IOE), in order to engage in the exercise of secondary classroom delivery in RECs.

    Research Methods

    Research study for the MA is desk-based (or, secondary research), which involves identifying and carrying out a systematic review, evaluation and analysis of existing secondary source material and data sets. It entails a systematic investigation by students of an approved topic of their choice, and is aimed at developing a student’s expertise in a specific field as related to the broader aims of the IIS’ Secondary Curriculum. Engagement with the design, application and evaluation of the research study will equip students with core proficiencies to support ongoing professional development. Students will be exposed to a range of sessions to help them develop key practical and analytical skills and approaches required for writing a professionallevel research paper, including: selecting a topic and formulating a specific research question; identifying and carrying out a systematic review of secondary source material; analyses and synthesis of data sets; and presenting results in a written form according to highest academic standards. 

    Induction into the Field

    During the final term of the second year of study, all graduating students will receive sessions aimed to support their transition from full-time students to full time STEP teachers. It considers the roles and responsibilities, anxieties and expectations of a newly qualified teacher and how they might differ to that of an experienced teacher. Using the experiences of experienced STEP teachers from the field, students will learn about the day to day realities of teaching as well as working within the context of an ITREB structure. The sessions also discuss the wider mandate of ITREB and how that corresponds to the work of the IIS. In doing so, it articulates the mandate and philosophy of STEP and how it seeks to add value to the formation of the Ismaili Community. Students will also be given an insight into the nature of the collaboration between the IIS and ITREB, and how they will continue to be supported by both institutions
    after their graduation.

    The IIS Secondary Curriculum

    The IIS Secondary Curriculum adopts an approach to the study of Islam based on humanistic, civilisational and normative perspectives. It seeks to acquaint secondary students with the diverse and dynamic interplay of Islamic expressions – religious, social, cultural and material –that have become manifest in Muslim societies of the past and present.

    The curriculum uses an interdisciplinary study of Muslim societies and civilisations, drawing on a range of subjects including social sciences and the humanities. Religion is not approached as a detached and compartmentalised phenomenon in history and society, but rather in terms of its multifaceted connections with various forms of human experience. The curriculum encourages students to analyse contemporary situations and reflect on the social and ethical challenges of an increasingly plural world.

    The curriculum applies pedagogical approaches in harmony with its philosophical framework. It calls for a profile of teachers with a broad set of proficiencies that reflects acquaintance with a range of contexts. These pedagogical approaches invite the active engagement of teachers and students with the content of the curriculum, engendering thought and enquiry on Islam generally and the Ismaili tradition specifically as they have developed historically and in contemporary times.

    Field Trip

    As part of the MA, students will experience an exploratory field trip to Andalusia, Spain, in the first year of the programme*.  This trip facilitates a deeper understanding of curricula content and the collection of relevant resources to teach it.

    This trip provides a holistic understanding of some of the historical content related to Muslim societies and civilisations that students will eventually bring to life in the classrooms. Visits during this trip usually include: the Great Mosque of Cordoba, which is the only surviving monument of the Caliphateinfo-icon of Cordoba; Madinat al Zahra Museum, which was awarded an Aga Khaninfo-icon Award for Architecture in 2010; and the magnificent palaces, fountains and gardens of Alhambra, which exemplify the blending of Moorish and traditional Andalusian architecture. Through this trip, students witness the contemporary use of sites of historical relevance, as well as the possibility to learn about structures in terms of secular and religious form and function. The experiences realised through the field trip provide students with a unique perspective in their approach to the delivery of the IIS’ Secondary Curriculum, in which the study of Muslim societies and civilisations is a crucial element.

    Readings, orientation sessions and reflection will help students to evaluate and structure their experiences in a pedagogically informed manner. Through this trip, they will gain a critical insight into the ways in which deep historical heritage relates to the formulation or construction of peoples' identities and practices.

    *All study abroad components are subject to travel advice by the UK Government and students’ obtaining the necessary visas.  In the event a student cannot travel, alternative study arrangements will be made, which may take place in the UK or in an online environment.

    Academic Services

    Throughout their time at the IIS, students are provided with support for their academic, personal and professional development and to help them get the best out of their experience.

    Pre-sessional and In-sessional Academic Skills Support

    Each new cohort has students with varying levels of English language and academic skills proficiency. Based on the entry tests we conduct with students and the Academic English Skills results at the time of admissions, some students attend pre-sessional course at the IOE for development of their Academic English Skills. Others who raised their IELTS scores to band 7 post-application and acceptance onto STEP will be offered the new in-house Presessional Programme (IPREP), a 4 week programme run by the Academic Skills Support Team to uplift and consolidate their Academic Skills. Some pre- and in-sessional Academic Skills classes will also be timetabled for all students at the start of the first term at the IIS.  This is to orient students to the academic conventions of the IIS and enhance students’ skills in this area prior to submission of the first assignments. Other sessions may be scheduled by the Academic Skills Support Team according to need and upon request.

    In-house Support

    In-house support includes one-to-one sessions with individual Academic Advisers, lecturers and the Academic Skills Support Team at the IIS. All students are allocated an Academic Adviser at the IIS, who is available to provide students with constructive academic and personal development guidance and support across the programme of study that will guide them in their journey to become professional teachers. Academic Advisers also review students’ wider academic progress.

    Students who need additional support will be able to meet regularly with the IIS’ Academic Skills Support Team, who will work with students to determine the type of support they need. This support is available for academic skills needs and some language needs. Students may request academic skills classes or workshops, or one-to-one tutorials and consultations where a member of the team will offer them support and guidance on their academic skills and language (where applicable). Alternatively, students may email their assignments for feedback on their writing. This service will be available to all students throughout their period of study at the IIS, subject to availability.

    The Aga Khan Library, London

    Aga Khaninfo-icon Library holds over 52,000 volumes focusing on Islamic Studies in general and Ismaili, Shi’i, and Qur'anic Studies in particular. Additionally, the Library actively collects materials on Muslim civilisations, past and present, and Muslim diasporas around the world, as well as on a broad range of research topics including religions and philosophy, history, social sciences, art and architecture, literature, and education.

    As part of its commitment to become one of Europe’s most relevant Islamic studies libraries, the collection includes books not only in English but also several other European (French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish), Asian (Gujarati, Sindhi, Tajik, Urdu) and Middle Eastern (Arabic, Farsi, Ottoman Turkish, Turkish) languages. The Library has three dedicated subject librarians to provide expert guidance to help students and scholars with their research.

    The Library is continuously growing its resources both in print and electronic format. Its digital collection now offers access to over 84,000 titles including journals, databases, encyclopaedias, dictionaries and other reference resources to support research and teaching.

    The Aga Khan Library Digital Collections platform has been developed to make many of the titles in its rare and special collections freely available. These unique collections comprise manuscripts, artworks, out-of-print publications, photographs, and maps produced in different periods and areas of the Muslim world and are invaluable for the study of Muslim communities and the history, politics, customs, and beliefs that have shaped them. 

    Beyond written texts, the Library has built up a collection of documentary and feature films covering a wide range of themes and regions of the Muslim world, including Afghanistan, Central Asia, Egypt, Iran, Morocco and Tunisia, as well as Muslim diaspora communities in Europe and North America. It also has a unique collection of audio recordings of Qawwali music from the Indian subcontinent, Sufi music from Iran and Turkey, and Gnawa music from North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa.

    The Library is a member of Jisc Library Hub Discover, a network of academic and research libraries in the United Kingdom and Ireland; and through its partnership with OCLC, has made its holdings available in WorldCat, an international library catalogue.

    The UCL Institute of Education Library

    The UCL Institute of Education Library is the largest education library in Europe stocked with physical and online resources covering a variety of collections including Archives and Special Collections. IOE students can also access 17 other UCL libraries, the UCL Student Centre, as well as selected libraries in the area that offer a huge range of resources across all subject areas.

    At the IOE Library, librarians and archivists are highly skilled and have a clear focus on user needs. They are able to offer support online and in the library at help points, in library skills sessions and in one-to-ones. In addition, the IOE Library has over 100 IOE LibGuides, which are interactive online guides providing guidance on collections, services and ‘how to ...’. These library guides also offer video demonstrations, quizzes and links to discovery platforms and databases.

    IOE LibAnswers, the IOE Library enquiry service, can be contacted via phone, Twitter @IOELibrary, and email at There is also a dedicated IOE Archive enquiry service that can be contacted at

    More information about UCL Libraries can be found on UCL Library pages.

    SOAS Library

    The SOAS Library is one of the world’s most important libraries for the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and one of only five National Research Libraries in the UK. The library attracts scholars from all over the world to consult its holdings and further their research. The Library houses over 1.3 million volumes at the SOAS campus at Russell Square in central London, together with a major collection of archives, manuscripts, rare books and special collections, an expanding Digital Library and a growing network of electronic resources.

    The SOAS Library is part of Library and Learning Services Directorate, which also includes the Centre for Innovation in Learning and Teaching, the Endangered Languages Archive and the Brunei Gallery.

    Conference Fund

    To support the academic growth and development of students, students are actively encouraged to participate in conferences, which the Department aims to facilitate through the dedicated Student Conference Fund. 


    STEP Faculty

    STEP Faculty

    The faculty is comprised of lecturers who have made a significant contribution to scholarship and are engaged in innovative research projects in their respective fields. The current lecturers include IIS, IOE and visiting scholars from leading international academic institutions.

    Professor Afzal Ahmed – Teaching, Learning and Assessment; Lifelong Learning; Communication and Teaching Subjects through Art Forms.

    Dr Omar Ali-De-Unzaga (IIS) – Qur’aninfo-icon; Qur’anic Exegesis; Tafsir.

    Mr Hasan Al-Khoee (IIS) – Arabic Public Oratory in the Early Muslim Period.

    Dr Nuha Al-Shaar (IIS) – Classical Arabic literature and thought; Ethics in Muslim traditions; Qur’anic exegesis.

    Mr Barry Arnold (IOE) – Curriculum Development, Mentor Training, Education Policy and Inequality.

    Professor Ali Asani (Harvard) – Indo-Muslim and Islamic Religion and Cultures.

    Ms Liz Austin (IIS) – Academic literacies and skills development; curriculum design; testing.

    Ms Rosa Barugh (IIS) – Global Ethics; Postgraduate Teaching; International Teaching and International Programmes.

    Dr Karen Bauer (IIS) – The Qur’an and its interpretive tradition (tafsir); Gender in Islamic history and thought; Emotions and emotional rhetoric in Islamic history.

    Ms Kate Boldry (IOE) – Subject Specific Pedagogy Embedding Social Justice in Classroom Practice Wellbeing and Inclusion.

    Mr Alan Bright (Goldsmiths & IOE) – Active Learning in the Classroom: Object-based Learning: Reflection and Learning.

    Dr Stephen Burge (IIS) – Hadithinfo-icon Studies; Hermeneutics; Qur’anic Exegesis; Literary Theory.

    Dr Alessandro Cancian (IIS) – Shi’i Sufisminfo-icon; Twelver Shi’ism; Mystical exegesis of the Qur’an; Anthropology of Islam.

    Dr Farhad Daftary (IIS) – Ismaili History; Shi’i Studies; Shi’i Intellectual History.

    Dr Dagi Dagiev (IIS) – Regime Transitions in Central Asia; Democratisation, Nationalism and Islam; Shi’i and Ismaili Studies.

    Dr Maria De Cillis (IIS) – Islamic Philosophy; Shi’i Studies; Islamic Theology.

    Dr Zamira Dildorbekova (IIS) – Islam in Central Asia; Ismaili Studies; Curriculum Development; Research Methods.

    Dr Christopher Edwards (IOE) – The production of history education curriculum knowledge; culture wars; critical pedagogies and constructivist learning theory.

    Dr Hakim Elnazarov (IIS) – Central Asian Studies; Islam in Central Asia; Ismaili Studies.

    Dr Fârès Gillon (IIS) – Ismaili thought, Fatimid Ismailism, Shi’i Islam, Islamic Philosophy, Qur’anic Exegesis, Heterodoxies in Islam.

    Dr Karim Gulamali (IIS) – Religious Education; Teacher Education.

    Dr Laila Halani (IIS) – Anthropology; Gender; Ismailis in Modern times; Contemporary Islamic movements.

    Dr Nazmin Halani (IIS) – Education; Religious Education; Curriculum Development.

    Mr Faheem Hussain (IIS) – Sensory History; Influence of state policies on history textbooks; Adolescent moral development.

    Dr Abdulmamad Iloliev (IIS) – Central Asian Studies; Islamic mysticism; Ismaili devotional literature; Islamic popular culture.

    Dr Nadia Eboo Jamal – Islamic Studies; Persian history and culture in the period of Mongol rule.

    Dr Reza Shah-Kazemi – Sufism; Qu’ranic Exegesis.

    Dr Shainool Jiwa (IIS) – Ismaili History and Thought; Fatimidsinfo-icon.

    Ms Sophie Kerslake (IOE) – Classroom Based Action Research; Developing Innovation in Education; Curriculum Development; Mentor Training.

    Dr Tullio Lobetti (IIS) – Philosophy of Religion; Hermeneutics and Epistemology; Theory in the Study of Religions.

    Ms Farah Manji (IIS) – Muslim Societies & Civilisations; Curriculum Development; Teaching & Learning; Mentorship.

    Dr Toby Mayer (IIS) – Muslim Philosophy; Esoteric Scriptural Exegesis; Mysticism; Qur’anic Hermeneutics.

    Dr Orkhan Mir-Kasimov (IIS) – Shi’i Islam; Islamic Mysticism and Messianism.

    Dr Gurdofarid Miskinzoda (IIS) – Shi’i Islam; Early Islam; Muslim Historical and Literary Tradition.

    Dr Farouk Mitha (Victoria) – Teaching Shakespeare in Secondary Schools; Muslim Intellectual History; Curriculum Development in the Humanities.

    Dr Farid Panjwani (UCL) – Philosophy of Education; Contemporary Education in Muslim Societies; Religious Education.

    Dr Daryoush Mohammad Poor (IIS) – Shi’i Intellectual History; Ismaili Philosophy; Contemporary Political Theory.

    Dr Maryam Rezaee (IIS) – Shi’i Studies; Women and Development; Cultural Studies; Gender; Social Policies; Research Methods.

    Mr Riaz Rhemtulla (IIS) – Teacher Education; Religious Education; Curriculum Development and Implementation.

    Ms Alexis Stones (IOE) – Sacred Art; Museum Education and Theatre-in-Education.

    Dr Amier Saidula (IIS) – Islam in China; Ismaili Studies.

    Dr Farouk Topan (AKU) – Oral and Written African Literature; Swahili Culture, Spirit Possession, and Islam in East Africa.

    Dr Roy Wilson (IIS) – Applied Language Studies; International English Language Teaching; Academic literacy.

    Dr Farah Zeb (IIS) – Gender & Contemporary Islam; Islamic Studies.


    Student Services

    IIS Student Services

    Student Services are responsible for overseeing non-academic matters relating to admissions, immigration, accommodation, student welfare, and graduation. Student Services can offer advice, guidance and support to help students get the most out their time as a student in London.

    Disability Support

    Students with disabilities will be supported to achieve equality of opportunity to engage with their studies. We can provide advice and guidance for all students with disabilities. Students are invited to discuss their needs with the Student Services; all discussions are in complete confidence.

    UCL Student Services

    STEP students are registered as students of the IOE, and therefore have access to the following resources: counselling service, disabilities support, international student support, student welfare, and Students’ Union. In addition, the International Student Support and Welfare Team at UCL provide specialist support and advice for all non-UK students.

    Student Services and UCL Student Support and Wellbeing

    As UCL students based at the Institute of Education, STEP students also have access to a number of different resources and support, as well as support offered by our Student Helpdesk team and the Academic Programme Office. For more information about Student Helpdesk, please visit UCL's website As STEP students study as part of the UCL Institute of Education, they are able to access UCL’s Student Support and Wellbeing Service (SWW). SSW service offers a range of support, including counselling, international student support, an interfaith service and support for disabled students. For more information about UCL's services, please visit the website

    Counselling Services

    In addition to the counselling services provided by UCL, the IIS also has a service agreement with the University of Westminster Counselling Service. Students have access to professional and experienced counsellors who are used to working with people from a range of different backgrounds and cultures. Students may discuss anything that is bothering them in confidence, from an inability to study, homesickness, anxiety, depression to relationship problems and bereavement.

    IT Facilities and Support

    The IIS provides Mac and PC-based general computing facilities, including standard software and email applications and internet access. The Aga Khan Centre building is WiFi enabled. Students are provided with a monthly printing and photocopying allowance and are able to print remotely. In addition, the IIS offers an IT loan scheme, which enables students to purchase a laptop computer.

    Equal Opportunities

    The IIS and its partners are firmly committed to equal opportunities for all students, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, marital or civil partnership status, ethnic origin, race, religion, colour, nationality, political beliefs, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, disability and age . If you have a disability that might have an impact on your studies, please do let us know so we can ensure reasonable adjustments, if needed, can be made. If you have not already disclosed your disability on the application form, please contact Student Services at

    Please see UCL’s Equality and Diversity Policy
    Please see SOAS’ Equality and Diversity Policy

    Student Engagement

    The IIS maintains a robust system whereby students participate in decision-making and academic governance processes pertaining to their educational experience. The approach goes beyond representation and feedback, constituting a continuing partnership whereby students are actively involved in decision-making. This is reflected in their representation on all decision making bodies, including governance committees either as student representatives or student nominated ‘student voices’.

    In terms of academic governance, each cohort for both graduate programmes elects two student representatives to sit on the following committees:

    • The STEP Joint Management Committee (JMC), a joint committee with the UCL Institute of Education
    • The STEP Joint Programme Committee (JPC), a joint committee with SOAS University of London
    • IIS-ITREB UK Joint Committee
    • Staff – Student Liaison Committee
    • Library Users Advisory Group
    • Health and Safety Committee
    • IIS-Victoria Housing Committee.

    In addition to formal student representation, one student, selected by their peers as ‘student voices’, participate in the Academic Management Committee (AMC) on a termly basis. ‘Student voices’ also attend the DGS OSG and the Board of Governors meetings for specific student-agenda related items on a termly basis providing consultative input.

    Students are regularly consulted on new initiatives and policy developments that are of relevance to their student experience. Extensive feedback is sought from students, starting at orientation and running throughout their studies. These range from formal evaluation mechanisms, including Mid-term Reviews for STEP, to the collection of verbal and written feedback from Student representatives and Student voice platforms.

    Student representatives also receive specific induction training and briefing in addition to a Student representatives handbook, facilitating the effectiveness of their role.

    This deliberate engagement ensures that relevant policies and procedures and ongoing enhancements at strategic and procedural levels are informed by student perspectives.

    Physical Facilities

    Physical Facilities

    Academic Building The Aga Khaninfo-icon Centre

    Our signature academic building features the Islamic Gardens of King’s Cross, which are inspired by the rich heritage of gardens in Muslim contexts. Each green space within our complex of buildings corresponds to the landscape of a given country or region of the Muslim world.

    The collection of gardens is a unique and distinctive feature of the development. The relationship with the natural world resonates harmoniously with the landscaped gardens, leafy parks, squares and pathways already welcoming the public across the King’s Cross development.

    The Aga Khan Centre is a place to learn and study, housing a two level library and state of the art lecture and classrooms. Level one through to four of the building houses the teaching and learning spaces for IIS students, with large and smaller seminar rooms where you will have lectures and seminars as well as a student lounge for you to relax, spend time with colleagues and eat during your breaks between classes. The upper floors house offices for faculty members as well as members of staff for the other departments within the IIS. The building is shared with Aga Khan Foundation and the Aga Khan University, Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations (AKU-ISMC).

    The Aga Khan Centre is a short walk from your halls of residence, making it impossible to be delayed by traffic for your classes! Classes led by IIS faculty are held at the Aga Khan Centre.

    The building was designed by Pritzker Prize-winning Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki, who also designed the Delegation of the Ismaili Imamatinfo-icon (Ottawa, 2008) and the Aga Khan Museum (Toronto, 2014).


    Accommodation  Victoria Hall King's Cross

    Designed by the multiple-award winning architects Stanton Williams, Victoria Hall is an extraordinary new building, an enriching place for our students to live and study only a few minutes’ walk from the IIS.

    Built to the highest standards from limestone, oak, brick and metalwork, the accommodation was conceived with ergonomics, nature and well-being at the forefront of our thinking. The ground and first floors are set aside for shared
    spaces. There is a large social lounge for relaxing, eating, watching TV and playing games, a breakout room for studying and meeting, a reading room, a courtyard garden and plenty of bicycle parking. Natural light is utilised throughout the building and as many rooms as possible face south. On the eighth floor there is a fitness room and a stunning garden terrace with views across London. In each room, large desks let students spread out to
    facilitate different study habits; there is a double bed and plenty of storage space, an upholstered desk chair, and a lounge chair. Every room also features an en-suite bathroom.

    Wi-Fi is available throughout the building and each bedroom can access the high-speed broadband connection. The communal spaces are equally spacious with plenty of room in the shared dining area and kitchen areas to store groceries and for cooking.


    STEP Alumni


    The Institute’s global alumni body now consists of more than 670 graduates who are dispersed across the world. They are supported in their continuing professional and academic development through the IIS’ Alumni Relations Unit. STEP graduates will also be UCL and SOAS alumni.

    Our Alumni Association offers our graduates a number of benefits, including:

    • Leadership opportunities to become a regional President or Secretary for the Alumni Chapter Groups in Asia, Europe or North America

    • Access to the Aga Khaninfo-icon Centre including to the Aga Khan Library, London

    • Access to global job opportunities and events as well as the international alumni directory via the IIS Alumni online Community Portal

    • Access to funding for research, publishing monographs and articles, conferences, and courses supporting research activities up to £1,000

    • Professional development and networking opportunities at Annual Chapter Group meetings, Alumni Lecture Series, and Local Meet & Greet events

    • Publishing articles in the annual Alumni Newsletter which features academic and professional contributions of IIS alumni and much more

    • Becoming an alumni mentor to current IIS students and new graduates through the IIS Alumni Mentorship Programme.

    A range of Continuing Professional Development initiatives are in place for the STEP graduates, enabling them to enhance their skills and capabilities. As the STEP initiative takes root in different countries across the world, many opportunities for teacher exchange will emerge, offering international experience as well as facilitating knowledge-transfer across cultures. Further, with the growing network of Aga Khan Academies and partnerships with schools operated by the Aga Khan Education Services, graduates of STEP will have opportunities in the coming years to teach beyond the religious education system, contributing to the education of secondary students in the wider community.

    Teaching, Learning and Assessment in STEP

     IIS' Teaching, Learning and Assessment Strategy

    At the Institute of Ismaili Studies, we are committed to offering our students a high quality experience. We are immensely proud of our multicultural learning community, and recognise that our Institution offers a social, academic and cultural experience. We celebrate the diversity of our students and staff, and recognise and respect the knowledge, skills and experiences we all contribute. We value our students’ enthusiasm, commitment and ambitions, and seek to offer rich learning opportunities to support the achievement of their personal, social, cultural, creative, intellectual and economic goals.

    We believe that effective learning must be underpinned by the provision of excellent learning resources. We seek therefore to provide an appropriate learning environment in terms of physical teaching spaces to include those which provide for individual and small group learning. We regard the provision of hard copy and digital resources of both a contemporary and seminal nature to be a key element of our strategy.

    In our learning, teaching and assessment strategy we wish to consolidate a culture for success. We strive to inspire and celebrate the attainment of excellence in our learning and teaching practice, and the extent to which these experiences equip our students to fulfil their aspirations as both learners and citizens. Thus our programmes seek to develop students’ analytical and critical skills as well as those valued by the employment arenas to which our students progress. Our curricula are challenging and rigorous whilst at the same time providing relevant breadth, depth and pace of learning. We strive to ensure that our approach to learning, teaching and assessment enables students to reach the relevant academic standard and to achieve the intended learning outcomes at the highest level of their personal ability. Encouraging students to develop independent learning skills is a key element of our approach. We seek to innovate practice, to challenge orthodoxy and to think differently about our students, so that we may best acknowledge their ambitions and empower their achievements.

    We view assessment as an integral part of learning and regard formative assessment as a key part of assessing the success of learning. We ensure that students reflect on their own performance through the provision of timely, supportive and constructive feedback on formative (and summative) assessment. We strive to ensure that students are aware at the outset what is expected of them in the assessment process and ensure that these expectations are clearly set out for them.

    Our strategy is intended to hold relevance and meaning for all members of our community - students and staff within departments - who are engaged in the many activities encompassed within teaching and supporting learning, assessment, scholarship and research. We seek to support the development and enhance the experience for all our students. The critical importance of strengthening relationships with all stakeholders is acknowledged, and of sustaining close links with our collaborative partners.

     The importance of peer support and collaboration, and of building effective partnerships between staff and students, is recognised. In seeking to strengthen a sense of ownership, pride and belonging within our learning community, the strategy emphasises empowerment, engagement, empathy and mutual respect. We recognise the benefits of using the virtual learning environment as a means of supporting and providing information to students. 

    We respect individual learning preferences and styles, recognise the requirements of disability legislation, and aspire to develop learning, teaching and assessment practices that are truly inclusive, designed to enhance learner choice and achievement. We recognise the opportunities, as well as the challenges, that the use of emerging technology affords. The importance of understanding the ways in which todays learners differ is becoming more crucial and our learning and teaching practices must evolve to address todays new learners and establish the research required to understand the new pedagogies.

    We believe that excellent scholarship, research and knowledge exchange underpins excellent teaching, learning and assessment, and participation in pedagogic and subject-specific activities are key aspects of professional practice. Projects which empower the student voice, locate staff and students as co-researchers, explore the needs and outcomes of our diverse student body, innovate in practice and explore its pedagogical basis are particularly valuable in this regard. Similarly, the importance of staff engagement in continuing professional development and critical reflection on practice is vitally important in attaining, and upholding, standards of excellence. This includes participation in activities internally and externally, staff development and review, our teaching observation scheme and engagement with relevant polices and strategies regarding all aspects of our practice.

    A rigorous admissions policy is essential in ensuring all candidates selected for our programmes are equipped with the right level of skills necessary to be successful. This process is crucial to the IIS fulfilling its objectives and long-term strategic plans.

    Our Strategy: Themes, Aims and Objectives

    Our strategy, has five key aims, these are outlined below:

    • Provide a quality learning environment
    • Promote excellence and share best practices in teaching
    • Create and celebrate a culture of success for students and staff
    • Ensure students have the skills necessary for success in learning, personal development, and the enhancement of employability
    • Ensure that assessment is an integral element of learning. 


    Download the full Teaching, Learning and Assessment Strategy here:


    UK Higher Education

     Higher Education in the UK involves the final and highest phase of education. Higher education providers are most frequently known as ‘universities’, but may also include private education providers and colleges, as well as other types of publicly-funded and privately-funded institutes.

    • Undergraduate (Bachelor of Arts, BA; Bachelor of Science, BSc – pitched at Level 6 of the National Qualifications Framework for England, Wales and Northern Ireland)
    • Postgraduate (e.g. Master of Arts, MA; Master of Science, MSc; Master of Education, MEd; Master of Philosophy, MPhil – all pitched at Level 7).

    The highest available award is the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD), which is a research-based degree pitched at Level 8.

    Most students start Higher Education at the age of 18, studying for an undergraduate degree. The
    average Bachelor’s Award usually takes three years to complete, although some incorporate or have an option for a fourth year. Tuition fees are currently capped at £9,250 per year for British students, whereas fees for international students are likely to be significantly higher, sometimes reaching £30,000 per year or more. Undergraduate courses are focused on the acquisition of knowledge, the development of critical thinking skills, and – particularly for technically-oriented programmes – work-related skills. On graduation from their first degree, many students continue their studies enrolling in a postgraduate programme. The average postgraduate programme usually lasts one year, although longer courses are also on offer. Such programmes emphasise research and critical thinking: the student is considered an advanced learner, capable of pursuing their study and research interests independently and creatively. Postgraduate tuition fees for British students are usually in the region of £6,000 per year, but they may also be significantly higher. Fees for international students are usually significantly higher, sometimes reaching £30,000 per year or more.

    In 2019/20, more than 2.5 million students were enrolled on undergraduate courses, while more
    than half a million were studying for postgraduate qualifications.