Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)

The joint degree in 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.

It appeals to both those who want a broad grounding in all three subjects and to those who want to specialise (up to six out of the eight finals papers may be in one subject). All three subjects are studied for the first year, after which undergraduates may drop one subject if they wish.

Each year, Somerville’s intake of PPE candidates accounts for about half of new philosophy students, and the college has one of the largest overall groups of undergraduates studying Philosophy, a total of around 60 at any one time. These form a lively group; students enjoy discussing their studies with those in other Joint Schools and in other year groups as well as with their direct classmates, and from time to time arrange for external speakers to come in and present current work in Philosophy. Somerville is the closest college to the Philosophy Department, which is located just next door in the Radcliffe Humanities Centre.

Politics may be studied at Oxford only as part of PPE. The politics course covers five main areas: the government and political institutions of a wide range of different countries; the theory of politics; sociology; international relations; and political history.

PPE students constitute the majority of Economics students at Somerville (students reading History and Economics make up the rest). Those intending to become professional economists go on to do the graduate degrees that are now universal requirements for this.

PPE teaching is based mainly on tutorials and lectures. There is a wide range of lecture courses given by philosophers, politics specialists and economists in the university at large. Undergraduates reading PPE also attend weekly or twice-weekly tutorials for which they produce written work. A few papers, particularly in economics, are taught in a mixture of classes and tutorials. Tutorials, some of which are in other Colleges, are usually in twos or threes.

It is not necessary to have studied Politics, Economics or Philosophy at A-level to be successful in PPE. Applicants are welcomed with any combination of A-level or AS-Level subjects, or similar qualifications, whether Arts, Science or a mixture of the two. However, students whose mathematics background is weak tend to struggle with the compulsory economics in the first year of the course; accordingly, although post-GCSE mathematics is not a formal requirement for entry to the PPE degree, applicants studying mathematics at least to AS level are more likely to be offered places to read PPE at Somerville. Whether or not you have studied any politics, philosophy or economics to A-level or its equivalent will not affect your chances of being accepted to read PPE, or of succeeding in the course once accepted: teaching of these subjects in the PPE course assumes no prior knowledge. PPE tutors are sympathetic to those wanting to have a year between school and university.

The College has a strong tradition in PPE. Graduates go into a wide variety of careers including the Civil Service, international organisations, the media, finance and industry, law, politics, teaching, social work, and academic research.

Somerville College usually admits approximately ten undergraduates a year to read PPE.


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