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Philosophy, Politics & Economics (PPE)


The College typically admits eight students per year for the PPE Course.  It is not necessary to have studied any of the three PPE subjects at school. Although a background in Mathematics is not formally required for admission, PPE applicants should have sufficient interest in, and aptitude for, mathematics to cope with the mathematical elements of the course. Mathematics at A level, IB Standard level, or the equivalent is a particular advantage for the Economics component of the course, as well as for the first year logic course in philosophy, and for understanding theories and data in Politics.

The course

The PPE course lasts for three years.  All three subjects must be studied in the first year.  In the second and third years, many now choose the option of a combination of any two of the subjects but it is possible to continue studying all three if you wish. In either case there is a choice of papers from a wide range of optional subjects.


During their first year, all students take introductory courses in Philosophy, Politics and Economics.  These courses are taught within the College.

Students who continue with Philosophy take two core courses (Ethics and either Early Modern Philosophy; or Knowledge and Reality; or Plato’s Republic; or Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics) in the second year, and are then free to choose further options in their second and third years, including the option of writing a 15,000 word thesis on a specific topic of their choice.

Students who opt to continue with Politics choose two courses from the following five: Comparative Government, International Relations, British Politics and Government since 1900, Theory of Politics, and Political Sociology.  They are free to take optional papers covering the government and politics of particular countries and regions, the history and theory of the international system, topics in sociology and social policy, and the history of political thought.  There is also the option to write a 15,000 word thesis on a topic of their choice.

Students who choose to continue with Economics take three core courses (Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, and Quantitative Economics) during their second year, and are then free to choose up to three option papers in their third year from the following list of papers: British Economic History, Econometrics, Economics of Developing Countries, Economics of Industry, Game Theory, International Economics, Labour Economics and Industrial Relations, Mathematical Methods, Money and Banking, Public Economics.


How are candidates selected for interview? All candidates applying to study PPE are required to take the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) test, usually in early November.  The PPE admissions tutors select candidates for interview using a number of pieces of information: past and predicted exam results, school reports, personal statements and the TSA test result.  Applicants who do not take the TSA test will not normally be shortlisted for interview.

What happens at interview? All shortlisted candidates will have two interviews: one shorter interview with two tutors from the same subject, and another longer interview with two tutors from different subjects.  In both cases, the initial discussion will focus on a brief text and questions which will be supplied half-an-hour beforehand.  Candidates are not expected to have studied any philosophy, politics, or economics at school, and the discussion will not presuppose or test existing knowledge.  The interviewers will be seeking to assess the candidate’s potential as a PPE student.  Candidates should read the text and questions carefully and be ready to think and respond to problems and criticisms put to them.  They should try to present their arguments and thinking as clearly and concisely as possible.