What Is A PPE Course?

You have likely come across the term PPE whilst researching different university courses, but what does it mean? This guide will help you understand exactly what PPE stands for and what these courses entail.

Last Updated: 9th April 2021

Author: Chloe Hewitt

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A Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) course is an ambitious and quite popular course that only a few universities in the United Kingdom offer.

Depending on the university, each subject will be given a different level of attention, so it’s important you choose a school that aligns with your interests.

But what exactly is a PPE course?

What Is PPE?

PPE is a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. It was born of the conviction that studying the great modern works of economic, social, political and philosophical thought would have a transformative effect on students’ intellectual lives and, thereby, on society.

As the world has evolved, so has PPE. The course brings together some of the most important approaches to understanding the world around us, developing skills useful for a wide range of careers and activities.

PPE is an ideal choice if you are fascinated by current affairs and want to gain a broad and rounded understanding of the world around you.

More than any other course at any other university, more than any revered or resented private school, and in a manner probably unmatched in any other democracy, Oxford PPE pervades British political life

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The PPE Subjects

PPE is a highly flexible degree that 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. 

Philosophy

Studying Philosophy develops analytical, critical, and logical rigour, enabling you to apply these skills to deep, puzzling questions such as “what can we know?” and “why be moral?”

In Philosophy, you will learn about different approaches to these fundamental questions and acquire the critical thinking skills that enable you to form your own position and debate it with others. 

Politics

Politics shapes decisions on whether we live in a time of war or peace, where we can live and work, whom we can marry, what quality of healthcare we can access at what cost, how fast we may drive, and whether and how much we have to pay for school and university.

In Politics, you will learn to analyse and assess the complex political debates, ideologies and institutions which shape these decisions.

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

Economics is the study of how consumers, firms and government make decisions that collectively 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 transformations throughout the world.

Understanding Economics is essential to comprehend how the government operates. Policies are created to tackle various issues, but they need to be justified. Accordingly, you are expected to have an appreciation of Economics. 

Which Universities Offer PPE?

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What Are The PPE Entry Requirements?

Both the course and the university should closely align to what you intend to do in the future. 

UniversityA-LevelsIB (International Baccalaureate)
Durham UniversityA*AA38
Goldsmiths, University of LondonBBB33
King's College LondonA*AA35
Lancaster UniversityAAB35
London School of EconomicsA*AA38
The Open University--
Queen's University BelfastAAA36
Royal HollowayAAB - ABB32
University of SwanseaBBB32
University College LondonA*AA39
University of AberdeenBBB32
University of BuckinghamBBB - BBC31-32
New College of the HumanitiesAAB35
University of East AngliaABB32
University of EdinburghA*AA-AAA39-37
University of EssexBBB30
University of ExeterAAA36
University of Highlands and IslandsBC-
University of HullBBC28
University of LeedsAAA35
University of LiverpoolABB33
University of LoughboroughAAB35
University of ManchesterAAA36
University of Nottingham A*AA38
University of Oxford AAA39
University of ReadingABB32
University of SheffieldAAA36
University of SouthamptonABB32
University of StirlingBBB30
University of SussexAAB - ABB32-34
University of WarwickA*AA38
University of WinchesterBCC - BBB38
University of YorkAAA36

Keep in mind that Edinburgh, Oxford, LSE, Liverpool, Southampton and York will require one of the A-Levels to be Mathematics. As such, you should check the university’s website you are applying to in order to get the most accurate and up to date information about entry requirements. 

Oxford PPE Vs Other Universities

We know Oxford is usually associated with PPE, but what is the reason? Well, to put it in one word: prestige.

The University of Oxford itself is a prestigious institution that has produced many brilliant graduates. More specifically, the PPE course has seen its fair share of clever (and well-known) students. On the Complete University Guide’s ranking tables for Politics, Oxford is ranked 1st in the UK and is ranked 2nd in the QS World Rankings, behind Harvard University by under 3 points. 

Notable alumni include former Prime Minister David Cameron, former Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke and activist Malala Yousafzai. Former US President Bill Clinton also studied PPE at Oxford but did not finish the degree. 

Over the years, the course has become a global status symbol of academic achievement and worldly potential. Because of this, the course has steadily increased in rank and is now one the most competitive courses to get in at Oxford, with just an 11% acceptance rate. 

As well as the grade requirements (AAA) and UCAS Personal Statement, applicants for Oxford PPE will need to complete an admissions test and attend at least three interviews with their selected colleges. 

The admissions test you will need to sit is the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA). The TSA is a two-part test that consists of multiple-choice questions and a short written essay. The aim is to test each applicant’s Critical Thinking and Problem Solving skills through general questions, passages and scenarios not related to PPE. You can learn more about this test in our Complete TSA Guide

Meanwhile, your PPE interview at Oxford will be split into three interviews, each tackling one of the three subjects of PPE. The admissions tutors are looking to see how you perform under pressure and how well you can communicate and utilise the core skills required for the course. 

As you could imagine, the course is incredibly popular. Not only are these steps in the application process difficult, but you will also be competing against many other competitive applicants. Therefore, you’re going to have to make sure you’re extremely well prepared for each and every stage of the process in order to stand a good chance of success.  

Bear in mind that the University of Cambridge does not offer a PPE course but does offer a similar alternative called Human, Social and Political Sciences (HSPS).

What Are The Career Prospects For PPE?

A degree in PPE can lead to many different avenues. Often, people associate the course with a career in politics, and although that can be the case, do not limit yourself into thinking you can only pursue politics. 

Because you study three different subjects, you are also able to branch out into more careers. The careers most commonly chosen by PPE graduates are: 

Similarly to any degree, you could decide to specialise in a subject and pursue a Master and/or PhD. Many PPE graduates do opt to go on to further academic study, 94% of Oxford PPE graduates are employed or in further education six months after graduating. 

Conclusion

A PPE course is a highly respected degree that opens up many opportunities for further study and career prospects. 

The analytical and critical abilities you will develop on a PPE course are valuable skills that can be applied elsewhere. 

With the ability to tailor the degree to your interests, PPE offers great flexibility that other degrees do not offer. 

Our expert tutors are on hand to help guide you to a successful Oxford PPE application.  

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