#UniShorts: So, You Want To Apply For PPE at Oxford?

Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (known more colloquially as PPE) is one of the University of Oxford’s most popular and prestigious degrees. Applying for PPE at Oxford is a challenging yet fulfilling process. In 2018, over 2000 people applied for PPE, with fewer than 300 applicants receiving final offers. 

Why is PPE so popular? There are a number of reasons: 

  • A large and influential network of alumni: if you’re looking for a degree that sets you up with a wide range of highly influential contacts, PPE is the ideal choice. 
  • One of the largest undergraduate cohorts of any subject at Oxford: although only 12% of PPE applicants were successful in 2018, this still amounted to nearly 300 places on the course. 
  • Impactful and well-known brand: PPE is one of the most famous university courses worldwide, and you’ll impress any prospective employer with this particular degree. 

A large (and disproportionate) number of highly influential British politicians have a PPE degree from Oxford, as do many prominent actors, TV producers, presenters, and activists. 

However, despite the mythology surrounding PPE that pervades through British society, many prospective applicants aren’t aware of several key facts when they’re taking part in the admissions process. 

To help out, we’ve laid out three of the most important factors to consider when you’re applying for PPE at the University of Oxford. 

  • PPE as a Degree Isn’t Restricted to Politics

One of the major myths associated with PPE is that all the undergraduates on the course are setting out explicitly to build up to a career in politics. 

While a small (yet relatively substantial) proportion of the PPE undergraduate body will go on to have a successful and high-profile career in politics, many other graduates will have a diverse and eclectic variety of vocations. 

PPE is an ideal stepping stone to becoming an influential and well-respected practicing lawyer, and many graduates move into careers in media. Channel 4 anchor Krishnan Guru-Murthy, former Question Time presenter David Dimbleby, satirical writer Will Self, and prominent self-help journalist Matthew Syed all gained PPE degrees before having success in the media and news sectors. 

Plenty of graduates will also go on to have prominent roles in the British Civil Service, while actors like Riz Ahmed and Tom Ward studied PPE at Christ Church College and Lincoln College respectively. 

In short, don’t feel put off by the prevailing stereotype that associates PPE with black-tie career politicians. In reality, this is a degree that sets people up for a variety of rich and fulfilling careers. 

  • Applying for PPE at Oxford: What To Study 

If you’ve got your heart set on applying for PPE at Oxford, you should also be aware of what subjects you’ll need to study at A-Levels, in the IB, or for your Advanced Highers. Whichever qualification you’re doing, make sure you’re taking Maths as one of your options. On their website, Oxford suggests that Maths is recommended, not required, but in reality, Maths is virtually mandatory for those who want to get into Oxford, UCL, or LSE for PPE. 

When breaking down the A-Levels of PPE offer holders, the most common subject is Maths. We can also see from this analysis of the 2011 PPE intake that History, Economics, English Literature, and French are also stable and effective options to take during your final two years at secondary school. 

Whichever combination you end up opting for, make sure you’re choosing an essay-based subject as one of your picks. At a place like Oxford, you may well be writing two essays a week, and it is challenging to pick up core skills when you are working in this fast-paced environment.

For more insightful information on which subjects to choose at A-Level, the IB, or for your Advanced Highers, check out the Choosing the Right Course for You section of our website.

  • Applying for PPE at Oxford: Getting The Right Experience

Finally, you’ll need to make sure that you’re getting some valuable work experience under your belt before applying to study PPE at Oxford. 

A common mistake prospective PPE applicants make is to assume that they don’t need to have much practical or vocational experience when going through the admissions process. They think that because they’re applying for an explicitly academic-sounding degree, they don’t have to put the work in to prepare for their interview or bolster their personal application. 

This is a misconception. You must make sure that you’re bang up to date on the political and economic issues of the day, and that you have been keeping on top of the news for an extended period of months or years.

Taking part in useful and fulfilling work experiences can also enhance the quality of your PPE application as it indicates that you have personal initiative. It also shows the admissions team that you’ve thought about how to use social sciences in a real-world setting. 

A typical example is to ask to shadow a local politician, but at A&J Education we can organise work experience in think-tanks, with prominent journals, or at private conferences. The more impressive the work experience, and the more senior the level of exposure, the more likely you are to be taken seriously by PPE admissions tutors.

A Rundown of How to Apply for PPE at Oxford

Applying for Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the University of Oxford is challenging, but here are three actionable tips to bear in mind that can help you when it comes to building a strong and successful application. 

  1. PPE isn’t just for those students wanting a career in politics: don’t feel put off by the stereotype that PPE graduates all set out for a sparkling career in British party politics. PPE opens doors for you in a wide variety of sectors. 
  2. Think about your A level, IB, and Advanced Higher choices: although the Oxford website doesn’t admit it, your application will look a little bare without a decent Maths qualification from your final two years at school. 
  3. Aim to get some impressive work experience: you can get a foot in the door by taking part in work experience that demonstrates your personal initiative and genuine passion for politics, economics, and social sciences. 

If you’re looking for more in-depth advice and expert insights into how to build a successful profile for applying to PPE at Oxford, get in touch with our team at A&J Education.

Leave a Reply