PPE
Euro sign at the European Central Bank, Frankfurt.
(Image credit: Shutterstock).

Philosophy, Politics and Economics

PPE brings together some of the most important approaches to understanding the social and human world around us, developing skills useful for a whole range of future careers and activities.

 

Studying Philosophy, you will develop analytical rigour and the ability to criticise and reason logically, and be able to apply these skills to questions concerning how we acquire knowledge or how we make ethical judgements.

The study of Politics provides a thorough understanding of the impact of political institutions on modern societies. It helps you to evaluate the choices that political systems must regularly make, to explain the processes that maintain or change those systems, and to examine the concepts and values used in political analysis. Politics at Oxford also encompasses the study of Sociology and International Relations.

Economics is the study of how consumers, firms and government make decisions that together determine how resources are allocated. An appreciation of economics and the general workings of the economy has become increasingly necessary to make sense of governmental policy-making, the conduct of businesses and the enormous changes in economic systems occurring throughout the world.

PPE at Oxford

All three branches of PPE at Oxford have an international reputation, supported by more than 200 tutors and scholars of the highest calibre. You will also be able to attend lectures given by the many distinguished visitors to Oxford each year.

PPE at Oxford is a very flexible course which allows you to study all three branches, or to specialise in two of the branches after the first year. Although there is no reference to Sociology or International Relations in the title of the course, you may specialise in either of these subjects by choosing relevant options.

Careers

The careers most commonly chosen by PPE graduates are in banking and finance, politics, journalism and broadcasting, law, industry, teaching, social work, accountancy, business management, management consultancy, advertising and the many branches of the public services, including the civil and diplomatic services and local government.

Recent Philosophy, Politics and Economics graduates include a hedge fund analyst, a primary school teacher and a fundraising officer for a disease research foundation. Amit, who graduated in 1996, is currently Head of Corporate Partnerships at the British Heart Foundation.  He says: ‘PPE encouraged me to be inquisitive, open-minded and analytical, preparing me for a career that has spanned the private, public and charity sectors.’

Masva, who graduated in 2007, is now a reporter at the Financial Times. She says: ‘After university I went into banking, then moved to journalism. I found the skills I learnt reading PPE invaluable in both of these very different fields. Most importantly, the course teaches you to think in a very rigorous way. Your tutors are constantly challenging you and won’t let you get away with woolly arguments. While this can initially be difficult to get to grips with, it has been a source of great personal satisfaction and incredibly useful in my career so far.’

Related courses

Students interested in this course might also like to consider Classics, Economics and Management, History and Economics, History and Politics, Human Sciences, Philosophy and Modern Languages, or Philosophy and Theology.

A typical weekly timetable

Your work is divided between lectures (six to eight a week), tutorials and classes (typically two tutorials or one tutorial and one class a week), and private study mainly spent preparing essays for tutorials and classes.

1st year

Courses

All three branches of PPE are studied equally

Philosophy:

  • General philosophy

  • Moral philosophy

  • Elementary logic

Politics:

  • Theorising the democratic state

  • Analysis of democratic institutions in the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the United States

Economics:

  • Microeconomics: the functioning of the market economy

  • Macroeconomics: dealing with national output and employment, exchange rates and policy issues

  • Mathematical techniques used in economics

Assessment

First University examinations: Three written papers
2nd and 3rd years

Compulsory core subjects:

Students choose to continue with all three branches or concentrate on any two, taking compulsory courses in the chosen branches along with optional courses:

Compulsory core courses:

  • Philosophy: Ethics, and either Early modern philosophy; or Knowledge and reality; or Plato’s Republic; or Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics

  • Politics (any two of these): Comparative government; British politics and government since 1900; Theory of politics; International relations; Political sociology

  • Economics: Macroeconomics; Microeconomics; Quantitative Economics

Optional courses:

  • More than 50 choices, including: Post-Kantian philosophy; Later Wittgenstein; Politics in Sub-Saharan Africa; Political thought: Plato to Rousseau; International economics; Economics of developing countries (see www.ppe.ox.ac.uk for the full list of optional PPE papers); Philosophy and economics of the environment

Assessment

Final University examinations: Eight written papers, one of which can be replaced by a thesis

You may apply for PPE having done any combination of subjects at school; it is not necessary to have studied Politics, Philosophy or Economics. History and Mathematics are useful backgrounds, but are not essential.

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 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.

Many successful applicants have studied Maths to at least AS-level, or another equivalent. You may like to consider taking Maths to AS-level, or an equivalent qualification such as IB Standard Level, even if you do not pursue it further. It is useful to have learnt the basics of differentiation before starting your university course in PPE.

All candidates must also take the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) as part of their application. Please see how to apply for further details.

Oxford University is committed to recruiting the best and brightest students from all backgrounds. We offer a generous package of financial support to Home/EU students from lower-income households. (UK nationals living in the UK are usually Home students.)

Fees

These annual fees are for full-time students who begin this undergraduate course here in 2015.

Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

Home/EU£9,000£0£9,000
Islands
(Channel Islands
& Isle of Man)
£9,000£6,925£15,925
Overseas£14,845£6,925£21,770

For more information please refer to our tuition fees page.

Living costs

Despite what you may have heard, it's no more expensive to study at Oxford than at any other university. In fact, our world-class resources and college provision can help you to lower your living costs.

As a guide, for the academic year 2014/15, living costs are likely to range between £945 and £1,332 for each month you are in Oxford. Our academic year is made up of three eight-week terms, so you would not usually need to be in Oxford for much more than six months of the year but may wish to budget over a nine-month period to ensure you also have sufficient funds during the holidays to meet essential costs. For further details please visit our living costs webpage.

Financial support

Home/EU

A full loan is available from the UK government to cover tuition fees for students undertaking their first undergraduate degree*, so you don’t need to pay your tuition fees up front.

In 2015 Oxford is offering one of the most generous bursary packages of any UK university to those on a family income of £42,620 or less, with additional opportunities available to those from households with incomes of £16,000 or less.  This support is available in addition to the government grants and loans.  See further details.

Islands
(Channel Islands and Isle of Man)

Islands students are entitled to different support to that of students from the rest of the UK.

Please refer the links below for information on the support to you available from your funding agency:

States of Jersey
States of Guernsey
Isle of Man

Overseas

Please refer to the "Other Scholarships" section of our Oxford support page.

*If you have studied at undergraduate level before and completed your course, you will be classed as an Equivalent or Lower Qualification student (ELQ) and won’t be eligible to receive government or Oxford funding

Fees, Funding and Scholarship search

All candidates must follow the application procedure as shown in how to apply. The information below gives specific details for students applying for this course.

Written work

You do not need to submit any written work when you apply for this course.

Written test

All candidates must take the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA), normally at their own school or college, on 5 November 2014. Separate registration for this test is required and the final deadline for entries is 15 October 2014. It is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure they are registered for this test. See www.tsaoxford.org.uk for further details.

What are tutors looking for?

Tutors will be looking for evidence of students' academic potential, as well as their commitment and motivation for their course, so will certainly be looking for evidence that a student has really engaged with their subject, and has a passion for studying it. This is particularly important for courses like PPE, as many students will not have studied any of these three subjects at their school or college. Tutors will want to find out if you can think clearly and analytically. They are not so much concerned with what you know as how you think about it and how you use it. They will seek evidence of your interest in social and political concerns and your ability to discuss them critically. 

Selection criteria

Candidates may also wish to refer to the selection criteria for PPE.

Suggested reading

The very best preparation is a reasonable grasp of the workings of the social and political world in which we live. For PPEists, reading newspapers, watching TV and listening to radio news and current affairs programmes are not optional activities – they are crucial to success at the subject. Students should read a good quality daily newspaper, and The Economist is also highly recommended – this offers unparalleled quantity and quality analysis of current events. The following texts are further recommendations for each subject area. 

Philosophy

There are many introductions to philosophy: we recommend Myles Burnyeat and Ted Honderich’s Philosophy as it is a very useful collection. Martin Hollis' An Invitation to Philosophy and Simon Blackburn’s Think are also recommended. Thomas Nagel’s What Does It All Mean? is another useful introduction. If you have trouble finding these, or would like more suggestions, please feel free to contact the Faculty of Philosophy by email.

Politics

Politics is a very wide-ranging subject encompassing both theoretical approaches and the study of real-world institutions and processes. For interesting and up-to-date insights into recent political developments in a number of countries, we recommend the series of texts published by Macmillan at regular intervals called Developments in British (French, German, East European etc.) Politics. Jonathan Wolff’s An Introduction to Political Philosophy, Gillian Peele’s Developments in British Politics series and Adrian Leftwich’s edited collection, What Is Politics? The Activity and Its Study, are also useful introductions. 

Economics 

The best introduction to the use of economic analysis, whether or not you have studied Economics at school, is to read the economics and business pages of newspapers, particularly The Economist. Tim Harford’s Undercover Economist and Paul Krugman’s The Accidental Theorist are also recommended. Begg, Fischer and Dornbusch’s Economics is one of the introductory textbooks widely used at Oxford.

Elle, 2nd year

'I chose to study PPE because I wanted to study a variety of subjects that I am passionate about. I studied economics and philosophy at school, so I already knew that I enjoyed these subjects and that I was suited to them.

The first year course in PPE is mostly introductory courses in each of the three disciplines. This is important, as it means that it is not necessary to have studied any of the three areas before. After the first year the course is more varied, as you can choose to drop one of the three subjects (or continue with all three). There are a few core papers for each discipline, but then there is a huge choice of subjects to cater for all interests. I plan to take a variety including ethics, philosophy of religion, economics of industry and economics of developing countries to name a few. The teaching system in Oxford enabled me to tailor my degree to fit me. Most of the focus is on tutorials – meetings with my tutor usually once a week to discuss the reading and work that I have completed. These are incredibly useful as not only are they a chance to ensure that I have a full understanding of the subject, but they are also an opportunity to ask my tutors for their views, and create a discussion. This is a great advantage as it means that I have plenty of opportunity to develop my thoughts and increase my knowledge.

At first it was challenging to settle in, but I quickly became accustomed to the way of learning and also to Oxford life in general. There are plenty of important opportunities to be grasped in Oxford, not only through sport, music or drama, but also through the numerous other societies we have here – the Freshers’ Fair is a great opportunity to get involved in University life.

Surrounded by other intelligent people, Oxford is the perfect environment to thrive in.'

Jan, who graduated in 2009

He now works for OC&C Strategy Consultants in London. He says:   

'As a strategy consultant, I have to break down and analyse companies’ complex problems in a team environment and communicate the solution clearly to the client. Preparing and discussing essays in weekly tutorials in Oxford helped develop these skills, as well as my ability to think outside the box.’

Contextual information

The Key Information Sets provide a lot of numbers about the Oxford experience – but there is so much about what you get here that numbers can’t convey. It’s not just the quantity of the Oxford education that you need to consider, there is also the quality – let us tell you more.

Oxford’s tutorial system

Regular tutorials, which are the responsibility of the colleges, are the focal point of teaching and learning at Oxford. The tutorial system is one of the most distinctive features of an Oxford education: it ensures that students work closely with tutors throughout their undergraduate careers, and offers a learning experience which is second to none.

A typical tutorial is a one-hour meeting between a tutor and one, two, or three students to discuss reading and written work that the students have prepared in advance. It gives students the chance to interact directly with tutors, to engage with them in debate, to exchange ideas and argue, to ask questions, and of course to learn through the discussion of the prepared work. Many tutors are world-leaders in their fields of research, and Oxford undergraduates frequently learn of new discoveries before they are published.

Each student also receives teaching in a variety of other ways, depending on the course. This will include lectures and classes, and may include laboratory work and fieldwork. But the tutorial is the place where all the elements of the course come together and make sense. Meeting regularly with the same tutor – often weekly throughout the term – ensures a high level of individual attention and enables the process of learning and teaching to take place in the context of a student’s individual needs.

The tutorial system also offers the sustained commitment of one or more senior academics – as college tutors – to each student’s progress. It helps students to grow in confidence, to develop their skills in analysis and persuasive argument, and to flourish as independent learners and thinkers.

More information about tutorials

The benefits of the college system

  • Every Oxford student is a member of a college. The college system is at the heart of the Oxford experience, giving students the benefits of belonging to both a large and internationally renowned university and a much smaller, interdisciplinary, college community.
  • Each college brings together academics, undergraduate and postgraduate students, and college staff. The college gives its members the chance to be part of a close and friendly community made up of both leading academics and students from different subjects, year groups, cultures and countries. The relatively small size of each college means that it is easy to make friends and contribute to college life. There is a sense of belonging, which can be harder to achieve in a larger setting, and a supportive environment for study and all sorts of other activities.
  • Colleges organise tutorial teaching for their undergraduates, and one or more college tutors will oversee and guide each student’s progress throughout his or her career at Oxford. The college system fosters a sense of community between tutors and students, and among students themselves, allowing for close and supportive personal attention to each student’s academic development.

It is the norm that undergraduates live in college accommodation in their first year, and in many cases they will continue to be accommodated by their college for the majority or the entire duration of their course. Colleges invest heavily in providing an extensive range of services for their students, and as well as accommodation colleges provide food, library and IT resources, sports facilities and clubs, drama and music, social spaces and societies, access to travel or project grants, and extensive welfare support. For students the college often becomes the hub of their social, sporting and cultural life.

More about Oxford’s unique college system and how to choose a college