Are you curious to know what it is like to study Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) at Oxford?
Reading about a course only tells you so much, you do not get the reality that those who are studying it can provide.
Second-year PPE student Hannah Sadik talks us through what a day in her life is truly like.
Life at Oxford As A PPE Student
Though I try desperately to establish a routine for myself, Oxford life is unpredictable. Asides from the work I do daily, I try to attend meetings and socials for the societies I am part of; I volunteer as a student tutor and have started up a weekly theatre practice, just for a start!
Oftentimes my Google Calendar is jam-packed with unmissable events, and any work or socialising gets stuffed in the cracks between them. However, when I have the luxury of a free (or free enough) day, they usually look something like this.
As a note, I do not factor the usual 1-2 daily hours of lecture watching into this. In general, PPE lectures tend to be useful, but it is often (at least in personal experience) possible to substitute them for reading through lecture notes. In COVID times, and considering how lectures are not scheduled to match tutorial topics of the week, I tend to use notes instead.
Our expert tutors are on hand to help guide you to a successful Oxford PPE application.
We help you craft the perfect Personal Statement, achieve a highly competitive TSA score and teach you how to Interview effectively.
Discover our Oxford PPE Premium Programme.
9 AM: Start Of My Day
Wake up. I am the firmest believer in not waking up any earlier than this, and it is difficult to convince me otherwise. Occasionally, I will have a 9 AM tutorial and so will have to be up earlier, but on any other day, I will try to keep this as an established time to wake up.
It is very helpful to have this part in routine – the best feeling in the world is waking up without an alarm, on time and much more ready for the day. I have breakfast – made in a kitchen attached to my college accommodation – but nothing too fancy.
9:30 AM: PPE Study Time
Up and at them! I have a friend who will faithfully study in a library every morning, and she is my biggest motivation to get up every morning.
Taking our laptops and work material, we usually go to the Radcliffe Camera, the Bodleian Library or the Taylorian. My personal favourite is the Taylorian, but the various levels of activity, the ambient noise, and the views will probably mean it is best to find what works best for you by experience.
Many people prefer their own college libraries since this usually means less of a trek if you want a break in your room or need to grab something from there. I find it can get a little stifling for me, so I like to change up my go-to library every now and then.
As for the work I do – as a second year I was able to drop one subject from PPE, so I now do Philosophy and Politics. This means my work is highly essay and reading-heavy. Much of my preliminary work will be sourcing all my readings through SOLO (our online library directory) and getting through the important ones. Taking notes – and typing obnoxiously – is usually what I end up doing in a library.
12 PM: Lunchtime
This is a very rough estimate. I have had times where I will be so in the zone with work that hunger does not hit me until several hours later, but usually, noon is a good time to start.
If it is an essay day or I am otherwise stressed, this is often a quick takeaway – my favourite is Najar’s. They serve wonderful Middle Eastern food, conveniently located across from the Taylorian and the Magdalen St. Tesco.
If it is too cold to sit outside, we take it to a nearby coffee shop and surreptitiously eat it. If I have a little more time to spare, I enjoy meeting friends from out of college for lunch.
There is less opportunity to meet these friends in daily life, so being purposeful about spending time with them is very important to me. We often plan to meet at the Covered Market or Gloucester Green, both of which have a number of excellent food options.
I personally cannot leave the Covered Market without a cookie from Ben’s Cookies or a milkshake from Moo-Moo’s. Single-handedly it is definitely responsible for most of my daily expenditure.
2 PM: PPE Tutorial
First-year PPEists typically have three tutorials a week, and second-years typically have two tutorials a week. Each one will cover one of the modules or subjects I am doing.
At the moment, this would be a Knowledge and Reality (Philosophy) tutorial or Political Sociology (Politics) tutorial. This involves discussing the essay question I did, as well as the most relevant readings. Some tutors focus on constructive criticism for essays that have been submitted, whereas some ask for essays only after the tutorial has concluded.
This is a personal preference for the tutor, and in general, does not affect the tutorial structure too much. Either way, it is a chance for students to ask any questions they found in the reading, for tutors to reiterate the most important ideas, and for discussion that nuances views on the readings.
3 PM: Home Time
My tutorials tend to be on Longwall Street, where certain houses are reserved as tutors’ offices. This means it is only a few minutes from home, and I will often use this as an excuse to go back home for a while.
That might be for a quick nap, or seeing a friend briefly, or else intense essaying. The period of panic-writing an essay is so common in Oxford that it is known as ‘essay-crisising’. No matter how much experience I have at it, inevitably, this will happen a few times a term.
It means a few hours of intense writing, citing and proofreading. It can be quite exhausting, and I definitely do not recommend it, but it might be something to account for depending on your time management!
6 PM: Errands
I would argue that a large part of Oxford life revolves around our local Tesco. For me, that is the Magdalen Street Tesco, a convenient 7-minute walk from the college. I will usually drag someone along for this, but you can never go to Tesco too much.
Anything else I need to do – dropping off library books, visiting the Post Office, a quick shop – will happen at this point. This often looks like me zipping through Oxford City Centre a few times.
My personal hint is that since most of the shops and places to visit will be between Broad Street, Cornmarket Street, Magdalen Street and High Street: treat it like a square and avoid running back and forth if you cannot afford to waste time.
7 PM: Socialising
My favourite part of the day. I try to put down my books for good at this point. Obviously, if I have concrete plans for the day, this might not be possible, but it is helpful to have the day/night division for work/social life.
For many of us it is the first time controlling our own schedules, and I know that maintaining a time every day for my social life has definitely kept me sane!
One of my favourite things to do is Jazz Nights hosted by the Oxford JazzSoc. Every event I have been to of theirs has been wonderfully fun, especially those at the Mad Hatter or Freud.
It is a night of good music, mild chatter, and perhaps even some dancing if you feel up to it! Other options are clubbing on certain nights, a nice dinner, or even sitting in someone’s room and chatting. I know that sometimes the most relaxed nights are my favourite.
I hope you have enjoyed getting to see what a day in my life as an Oxford PPE student is like.
I, also, hope that it gives anyone who is considering applying for PPE at Oxford an idea as to what day-to-day life is like.
Secure your dream place at Oxford to study PPE, with the guidance of our expert tutors.
Applying to Oxford is immensely competitive and it is crucial that you give yourself the best chance of success. We help you craft the perfect Personal Statement, achieve a highly competitive TSA score and teach you how to Interview effectively – covering all areas of your Oxford application.
Discover our Oxford PPE Premium Programme.