By Gabija Žukauskaitė
Published 2022 11 14
“Monday, 13 April 2015 was a typical day in modern British politics. An Oxford University graduate in philosophy, politics and economics (PPE), Ed Miliband, launched the Labour party’s general election manifesto. It was examined by the BBC’s political editor, Oxford PPE graduate Nick Robinson, by the BBC’s economics editor, Oxford PPE graduate Robert Peston, and by the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies, Oxford PPE graduate Paul Johnson. It was criticised by the prime minister, Oxford PPE graduate David Cameron. It was defended by the Labour shadow chancellor, Oxford PPE graduate Ed Balls.” Andy Beckett, The Guardian
Having accepted only 11% of candidates in 2019-21, Politics, Philosophy and Economics (PPE) is considered one of the most selective programs in Oxford. However, the program is even better known for making up a bigger proportion of Britain’s elite than any other program at any other university in the UK since its establishment in 1920. In 2020, Andy Beckett in his article in the Guardian denominated PPE at Oxford the “degree that runs Britain”. Since 1721, 30 out of 56 Prime Ministers attended Oxford. Five of those have studied the PPE program, including the recently elected Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.
We have asked our mentor Justas Petrauskas to answer a few questions about the program. Justas is currently a second-year PPE student at Oriel College, Oxford. He is also a part of the editorial team at “Oxford Political Review”, a board member at UK Lithuanian Student’s Association and a Lithuania correspondent for “Europe Elects”.
Why have you chosen the PPE program?
What attracted me to choose PPE was the program’s intellectual breadth and relevance to the areas I am interested in. PPE’s image as a degree that provides the quickest path to political and social power overshadows the fact that at its core, PPE at Oxford is simply a very good social sciences program. The combination of Philosophy, Politics and Economics is challenging, intellectually stimulating and allows one to savour the very best of the thinking that was done in the last couple of thousands of years in relation to some of the most fundamental questions: who we are as humans and how can we meaningfully coexist together.
What did the admission process look like? How challenging was the interview?
PPE follows the standard Oxford admissions procedure. In addition to personal statement, there is also an admissions test, the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA), which one needs to pass to proceed to the interview stage. In my case, I had three interviews, one for each of the subject components – however, the number of interviews tends to vary from college to college. My interviews followed a relatively standard procedure – they were challenging and interesting, but not too overwhelming.
What do you think made you stand out from other candidates and made your application successful?
I can only speculate on this one – after all, I’m only aware of my own application. Having a good academic record and a high TSA result obviously helps. What might have helped me to stand out – in terms of personal statement – was that my academic experience and interests were different from those of typical UK applicants. For politics and philosophy, many applicants often tend to rely on several typical concepts and English / American authors (e.g. tyranny of the majority or negative vs positive liberty) – even though there is so much more out there. Having a personal statement that discusses different issues, experiences and readings compared to most applicants naturally allows one to bring out a refreshing perspective for tutors and admissions officers.
What was the overall experience of life and study at your college during the first few years of your undergraduate degree?
Overall, the experience has so far been very positive. The Oxbridge collegiate system guarantees that even in a relatively large university, you will always have a welcoming and close-knit community at your college. As for academic life, most of the tutors I have met so far were truly great, not only being experts in their field, but also having a great talent for teaching. People often describe undergraduate life in Oxford as intensive – in terms of academics, social life and extracurriculars – and I would have to agree with them. There is a lot to do here – from student journalism and debating, sports and careers-based societies, to speaker events and various social gatherings.
What would be your advice for students who are considering applying to PPE at Oxford?
If you are thinking of applying then do take your chance and apply! I think that some prospective applicants get discouraged by the slightly more complicated admissions process and the fact that the program title sounds slightly pretentious. Yet what truly matters for a successful application is your personal motivation and genuine interest in the subject area covered by the PPE. Additionally, do make sure that all the components of the course interest you – a substantial portion of people apply focusing on the second P and E, only to find out later that the first year of study involves equal coverage of Philosophy, Politics and Economics.
Subscribe to our newsletter and get valuable advice on study programs, funding opportunities and much more!