Philosophy, Politics and Economics | University of Oxford
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 world around us, developing skills useful for a whole range of 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 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.

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


The careers most commonly chosen by PPE graduates are in banking and finance, politics, journalism and broadcasting, the 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 was 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 worked 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 was 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 week

Your work is divided between lectures (typically 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.

Tutorials are usually 2-4 students and a tutor. Class sizes may vary depending on the options you choose. Teaching in all three PPE subjects is normally done in tutorials rather than classes. Where classes do form part of the teaching for a paper, there would usually be no more than around 20 students though classes for some of the more popular papers may be up to 30 students.

Most tutorials, classes, and lectures are delivered by staff who are tutors in their subject. Many are world-leading experts with years of experience in teaching and research. Some teaching may also be delivered by postgraduate students who are usually studying at doctorate level.

To find out more about how our teaching year is structured, visit our Academic Year page.

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 (be tripartite) or concentrate on any two (be bipartite), taking compulsory courses in the chosen branches along with optional courses:

Compulsory courses


  • 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 (all three if bipartite, two if tripartite)

  • Microeconomics
  • Macroeconomics
  • Quantitative economics

Optional courses

  • More than 50 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 papers, one of which can be replaced by a thesis/supervised dissertation

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

If English is not your first language you may also need to meet our English language requirements.

Wherever possible, your grades are considered in the context in which they have been achieved.  (See further information on how we use contextual data.)

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.

If, and only if, you have chosen to take any science A-levels, we expect you to take and pass the practical component in addition to meeting any overall grade requirement.

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. It is useful to have learnt the basics of differentiation before starting your university course in PPE.

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. However, we do understand that these qualifications may not be available to all students, and they are not essential. Extra tuition will be available to students that have not studied Maths A-Level who require any assistance.

See PPE admission statistics in 2017 and earlier for information on the success rates for applicants applying with different A-level subjects.

All candidates must also take the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) as part of their application.

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.)


These annual fees are for full-time students who begin this undergraduate course here in 2019.

Fee status

Annual Course fees

(Channel Islands & Isle of Man)

For more information please refer to our course fees page. Fees will usually increase annually. For details, please see our guidance on likely increases to fees and charges.

EU applicants should refer to our dedicated webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

Living costs

Living costs at Oxford might be less than you’d expect, as our world-class resources and college provision can help keep costs down.

Living costs for the academic year starting in 2019 are estimated to be between £1,058 and £1,643 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


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

In 2019 Oxford is offering one of the most generous bursary packages of any UK university to those on a family income of around £42,875 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 living costs support.  See further details.

(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


Please refer to the "Other Scholarships" section of our Oxford Bursaries and Scholarships 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

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 test

All candidates must take the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) in their own school or college or other approved test centre on Wednesday 31 October 2018. Candidates must make sure they are available to take the test at this time. Separate registration for this test is required and the final deadline for entries is Monday 15 October 2018. It is the responsibility of the candidate to ensure that they are registered for this test. We strongly recommend making the arrangements in plenty of time before the deadline.

Everything you need to know, including guidance on how to prepare, can be found on the TSA page

Written work

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

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. Further information on preparing an application is on the PPE website.

For more detail on the selection criteria for this course, please see the PPE website.

Suggested reading

Introductory reading for prospective applicants to PPE can be found on the PPE website.


Watch a series of short videos of students talking about some aspect of their time at Oxford. There are also a series of interviews with PPE students on the departmental website.


'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.'


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

Was this page useful?*