Philosophy, Politics and Economics | University of Oxford
Euro sign at the European Central Bank, Frankfurt.
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Philosophy, Politics and Economics

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

Do we have any knowledge of the external world? Does time flow? Is abortion justified? What is a work of art? Philosophy is an attempt to answer the most fundamental questions. 

Studying Philosophy, you will develop analytical rigour and the ability to criticise and reason logically, and be able to apply these skills to questions like those above. 

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.

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

All three branches of PPE at Oxford have an international reputation, supported by more than 200 renowned scholars. PPE at Oxford is a very flexible course which allows you to study all three branches, or to specialise in two after the first year.

PPE at Oxford

PPE students have the opportunity to study a curriculum with a balance of breadth and depth, and consciously kept at the cutting-edge. It encompasses specialist and technical training in economics, philosophy, and social science, together with truly global coverage and in-depth study of increasingly diverse social and political ideas and history.

The Oxford PPE degree requires and develops in students an exceptional ability to grasp, analyse, and evaluate essential information rapidly. This ability is honed within Oxford’s famous tutorial system, which continues to offer students the wonderful opportunity to discuss their ideas with scholars of the highest calibre. Students explore and challenge new ideas and research in a degree pioneered at Oxford and catered to by its specialised structure of tutorials, classes, and lectures.

Degree Structure

PPE is a highly flexible degree which allows you to shape your own path through it: you may choose to specialise in two branches at the end of the first year, or continue with all three. You can also explore a wide variety of disciplines under the overarching headings of Philosophy, Politics, and Economics - for example, you can specialise in Sociology or International Relations by choosing the relevant Politics options

PPE 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 PPE graduates include a financial journalist, a strategy consultant and a fundraising officer.

Amit 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.’

Jan works for OC&C Strategy Consultants in London. He says: ‘As a strategy consultant, I have to break down and analyse companies’ complex problems and communicate the solution clearly to the client. Preparing and discussing essays in weekly tutorials in Oxford helped develop these skills, as well as the ability to think outside the box.’

Maša is a reporter at the Financial Times. She says: ‘I found the skills I learnt reading PPE invaluable. 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 incredibly useful in my career.’

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 or problem sets for tutorials and classes.

1st year


All three branches of PPE are studied:

  • General philosophy
  • Moral philosophy
  • Elementary logic
  • The theory of politics (introductory political theory)
  • The practice of politics (introductory comparative government and politics)
  • Political analysis (introductory empirical and quantitative methods)
  • Microeconomics: the functioning of the market economy
  • Macroeconomics: dealing with national output and employment, exchange rates and policy issues
  • Mathematical techniques used in economics


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


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

Compulsory 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 (three if bipartite, two if tripartite): Microeconomics; Macroeconomics; Quantitative economics

Optional courses

  • More than 40 choices, currently including: Post-Kantian philosophy, Politics in sub-Saharan Africa and International economics

Please note that the options offered may change. A full list of current options is available on the course website:


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

The content and format of this course may change in some circumstances. Read further information about potential course changes.

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.




Fee status

Tuition fee

College fee

Total annual fees

(Channel Islands
& Isle of Man)



Additional Fees and Charges Information for Philosophy, Politics and Economics

There are no compulsory costs for this course beyond the fees shown above and your living costs.

All candidates must follow the application procedure as shown in applying to Oxford. 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 2 November 2016. Separate registration for this test is required and the final deadline for entries is 15 October 2016. It is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure they are registered for this test. See for further details.

What are tutors looking for?

Admissions tutors will want to find out if you can think clearly and analytically. They are less concerned with what you know than with how you think and use your knowledge. They will seek evidence of interest in social and political concerns. Applicants may enjoy reading some of the sources below:

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. 


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 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. You may also like to read the blog Politics in Spires.


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.


Laura Blattner, 2nd year

Watch a series of short videos of students talking about some aspect of their time 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