Thinking Outside the Box: Lesser-Known Oxbridge Degree Courses Immerse Education

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Jessi Wells

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Perhaps you want to study something new at university. Perhaps you have a genuine passion for Egyptology (or business regulation, or Kant). Perhaps you’re looking for a degree course to make your CV stand out from the crowd. Whatever your motivations, it’s important to consider the full range of degree options available to you: there might be a course you’ve never heard of that perfectly suits your academic interests and strengths. With that in mind, here are some of the more obscure Oxbridge degree courses, which might just take your fancy:

1. Land Economy

What will I study? Land Economy is a multidisciplinary degree course in which you will study the built and natural environments, primarily from legal and economic perspectives, but with elements of business, politics and sociology thrown in. The degree is more academic and less vocational than similar courses elsewhere, but there is nonetheless a focus on the real-world application of theoretical issues (and the degree is accredited by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors). Typical modules include ‘Environmental Economics and the Law’, ‘Fundamentals of Finance and Investment’ and ‘Planning Policy and Practice’. In your third year, you will also have the opportunity to write a dissertation on a subject of your choice.image_large

Why should I study this course? One of the biggest attractions of this course is its sheer variety: if you’re interested in both law and economics, in both theoretical concepts and their practical applications, this could be the degree for you. Land Economy also offers phenomenal career prospects: students accumulate a wide range of skills due to the interdisciplinary nature of the course, and go on to work in a range of sectors (see below).

Where can I study it? Cambridge. The course is available at all colleges except Churchill, Corpus Christi, Emmanuel, King’s and Peterhouse.

What are the entrance requirements? A*AA (A-Level); 40-41 with 776 at HL (IB). While there are no specific subject requirements for the Land Economics course, it would be useful to have studied Economics and Maths.

How many places are there? 50 (from 250 applications).

What are the job prospects? Land economists are highly sought-after by employers. Graduates pursue careers in real estate, planning, government, finance, business, management and law; they work in national and international organisations in the private and public sector. Some go into further study and research.

Where can I find out more?

2. Human, Social and Political Sciences (HSPS)

What will I study? The HSPS (formerly Politics, Psychology and Sociology, or PPS) course focuses on politics and international relations, sociology, and social anthropology. Students choose to specialise in one or two of these core areas, but can also borrow papers from other courses (including Archaeology, History and Psychology). Example modules include ‘Thought, Belief and Ethics’, ‘Political Economy and Social Transformation’ and ‘Concepts and Arguments in Sociology’.

Why should I study this course? HSPS offers a unique combination of subjects: if you’re interested in politics, sociology and anthropology, this is your one opportunity to combine the three! It’s a very flexible course, allowing for both breadth and specialisation. If you know what you’d like to focus on, you can cambridge diningspecialise right from the start; otherwise you can continue with a combination of subjects right up to your second or even third year.

Where can I study it? Cambridge (all colleges).

What are the entrance requirements? A*AA (A-Level); 40-42 with 776 or 777 at HL (IB). There are no specific subject requirements for the course as a whole, but some colleges require an A-Level or IB Higher Level in an essay-based subject.

How many places are there? 170 (from 1,000 applications).

What are the job prospects? HSPS has an excellent record for graduate employment. Graduates go into research, the Civil Service, law, management consultancy, journalism, conservation, teaching, publishing…the opportunities are endless!

Where can I find out more?

3. Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE), Oxford

What will I study? As its title suggests, this course combines Philosophy (the study of knowledge and existence), Politics (the science of political institutions and thought) and Economics (concerned with the production and consumption of wealth). You can choose to continue with all three subjects throughout your degree, or to specialise in two branches at the end of your first year. PPE students choose modules from ‘Knowledge and Reality’ to ‘Quantitative Economics’ and pretty much everything in between!images (2)

Why should I study this course? The PPE course at Oxford was the first of its kind, and still tops the league tables for its academic range and pioneering approach. It offers a broad base for a range of careers, and has a number of famous alumni, from David Cameron to Bill Clinton.

Where can I study it? Oxford. The course is available at all undergraduate colleges except St Stephen’s House and Wycliffe Hall.

What are the entrance requirements? AAA (A-Level); 39 with 766 at HL (IB). You may apply for PPE with any combination of subjects. However, some historical background would come in useful, and you should demonstrate a strong aptitude for Mathematics (to facilitate the study of Economics).

How many places are there? 237 (from 1,692 applications).

What are the job prospects? PPE graduates frequently enter careers in banking, politics, journalism, law, social work, management consultancy and advertising. They also work in public services such as the Civil Service and local government.

Where can I find out more?

3. Classical Archaeology and Ancient History (CAAH), Oxford

What will I study? As a CAAH student, you will investigate the classical cultures of Greece and Rome through their history, art and archaeology. You will have the chance to learn their languages, to study archaeological methodologies, even to take modules on Egypt or the early Islamic world, if this is where your interests lie. Though the course is primarily theoretical (covering modules ranging from ‘Greek Art and Archaeology’ to ‘Roman History 146-46 BC’), there are two practical elements: an archaeological field project and the preparation of a report focusing on an ancient site or artefact.

Why should I study this course? Like the other interdisciplinary courses listed above, the CAAH course offers both breadth and depth, covering a vast period of history (3200 BC to 950 AD) but offering multiple opportunities for specialisation. Parthenon_from_westOxford is an excellent place to study ancient history, given the proximity of the Sackler Library and the internationally-renowned Ashmolean Museum.

Where can I study it? Oxford. The course is available at Balliol, Brasenose, Christchurch, Corpus Christi, Exeter, Keble, Lincoln, Lady Margaret Hall, Magdalen, Merton, Oriel, Regent’s Park, Somerville, St Anne’s, St Hilda’s, St John’s, University, Wadham and Worcester.

What are the entrance requirements? AAA (A-Level); 39 with 666 at HL (IB). Although there are no specific subjects required for entrance onto this course, students will find it helpful to have studied a classical language, Classical Civilisation or Ancient History.

How many places are there? 20 (from 80 applications).

What are the job prospects? Career options exist in museum curation, heritage management, education, finance, advertising, publishing and law, to name but a few. Some CAAH graduates go on to further study in archaeology or history.

Where can I find out more?

4. Oriental Studies, Oxford

What will I study? There are various paths available to you: you might take Ancient Near Eastern Studies, Jewish Studies or Persian. Whatever your route, you will study the language, literature, history and culture of your chosen areas, as well as their art, archaeology or philosophy if you so wish. It is likely that you will spend time abroad in the region that you are focusing on.

Why should I study this course? Oriental Studies offers something completely different, moving away from the western-centric secondary curriculum to introduce students to new civilisations and ideas. Oxford has exceptional resources for students of this course, including the Oriental Institute Library and the Ashmolean Museum.

Where can I study it? Oxford. The course is available at Balliol, Christ Church, Harris Manchester, Hertford, Mansfield, Pembroke, Queen’s, St Anne’s, St Benet’s Hall, St John’s, University and Wadham.images (3)

What are the entrance requirements? AAA (A-Level); 39 with 666 at HL (IB). It is useful – though not essential – to have studied a language.

How many places are there? 39 (of 163 applications).

What are the job prospects? With a CAAH degree, you could follow a career in finance, the media, commerce, law, accountancy and the arts. Alternatively, you could go into further study and research.

Where can I find out more?


These Oxbridge courses aren’t for everyone. They’re academically rigorous, intellectually challenging and in some cases very specialist, so it’s important to work out whether you have the motivation to spend the next three or four years studying them. But Land Economy and Oriental Studies, along with the other subjects listed above, are more accessible than they might first appear; they have no specific subject requirements, and appeal to people from a range of backgrounds. If they match your passions and strengths, they could represent the most rewarding options available to you.