learning from world-class academics, alongside some of the most passionate and gifted students from all around the world, is a real treat.
What do you enjoy the most about your course?
PPE is a truly rigorous course that requires its students to learn and develop a wide range of skills. You simply cannot succeed in PPE by only being a good writer, or with only technical skills – you need both. This provides an intellectual challenge that pushes its students to the limits of their potential, slowly but surely pushing the boundaries of their abilities. There is no greater satisfaction than learning new things, and my favourite part of the course so far has been just how much I have learned about philosophy, politics, and economics since arriving at Oxford. The teaching that supports this process is also very good – learning from world-class academics, alongside some of the most passionate and gifted students from all around the world, is a real treat.
How is your subject taught?
PPE is primarily taught through a combination of lectures and tutorials. Tutorials are small-group teaching environments of one tutor and between one and three students, which pushes you to go beyond your comfort zone and engage with the material. It also provides the opportunity to gain personalised feedback on our work, which in turn helps in gaining a deeper understanding of the topic. Lectures involve a lecturer giving a presentation to an audience of students from across the university and gives students the opportunity to hear from experts at other colleges as well as meet students from other colleges who are studying the same subject.
What made you decide to apply for Oxford/Oriel and do you have any top tips on the application process?
“surrounded by some of the brightest and most enthusiastic minds from around the world.”
I chose to apply to Oxford because I wanted to be in an environment where I could be surrounded by some of the brightest and most enthusiastic minds from around the world, in a vibrant and exciting location. I chose Oriel in particular because it has a rich history and great location in the centre of Oxford, and also because it offers generous accommodation arrangements, which was crucial for me as an international student.
My top tip for the application process would be to dedicate plenty of time towards preparing for the interview. For this, my best advice would be to remain calm and think through the questions slowly – it can be hard to do so in the moment but try not to blurt out the first answer that comes to mind. Also, be willing to concede that you were wrong, if you change your mind about something. If you disagree with the interviewer then by all means try to justify your position in a clear and respectful manner, but don’t hold your ground just for the sake of it. The interviewers want to see how you think and whether they could teach you in a tutorial, and nobody wants to teach somebody who can’t admit when they are wrong!
How did you prepare for your interview?
The university website has a range of sample interview questions for every subject. I went through these questions and tried to imagine how I would answer them in an interview situation. I also spent some time analysing the commentary under each question which describes the skill that the interviewer is trying to examine by asking that question, and then tried to practice those skills. For example, some common patterns for PPE interview questions were that they often tried to examine how well I could adapt my initial answer in reaction to counterarguments, and how well I could identify the key factors leading to a certain result in a given case study. Though the exact skillset being tested will differ by subject, by going beyond ‘just’ the answer of the question and into the real essence of its character, you will become a much better thinker, which is exactly what interviewers are looking for.
What advice do you have for prospective students interested in studying your subject?
“Oriel is fortunate to have a strong community of students, fellows, staff, and alumni who are not only incredibly talented, but also incredibly kind.”
Read widely and rigorously. PPE is a subject that is inextricably linked to the real world, and so reading newspapers (old-fashioned, I know) is great preparation for the kind of topics we study. You should also keep in mind two more things as you read. Firstly, you want to actively engage with sources that have contending views – ideally even to your own. The ability to carefully and objectively consider the merits of arguments is a critical skill in PPE, and you won’t get that (as much) by reading articles that reinforce your pre-existing beliefs. Secondly, you want to read actively, not passively. In other words, don’t just read articles and take them as given. Whenever you read something, you should be asking yourself questions such as: what are the potential biases? What might the author not have considered? Are there any hidden agendas? Together, these two strategies will help to sharpen your mind for the type of thinking you need to do in PPE.
What do you like the most about being an Orielensis?
As I mentioned above, Oriel is a college which boasts, amongst many other things, an impressive history and location. But most of all, the greatest benefit of being an Orielensis is the community of fellow Orielenses. Education is about so much more than just classes, and Oriel is fortunate to have a strong community of students, fellows, staff, and alumni who are not only incredibly talented, but also incredibly kind.