The ABCs of PPE
Hi everyone! Welcome to my blog :) For my first post, I thought it would be nice for me to give you an introduction to what my degree has involved so far, hope you enjoy reading! x
What is PPE?
Outside of Warwick, if I answer the question “So, what do you study?” with “PPE”, I’m likely to be met with blank stares and looks of confusion because a lot of people haven’t heard of my degree. If you're one of those people, then please know that PPE stands for Philosophy, Politics and Economics, and although the three disciplines may seem to have nothing in common – “That’s a bit random” is another common response to people hearing what I study – they actually inform each other in many ways and an understanding of each can often be essential if a topic is to be fully understood.
Why did I choose it?
I chose to study PPE because I love variety. All throughout secondary school, my favourite subjects were Maths and English Literature, and when it came time for me to choose a degree, two things that I knew it needed to have were were flexibility and variety. I hadn't even heard of PPE until I was halfway through Year 12 and researching degree courses, but when I saw its wide-ranging course content and that it offered the opportunity to specialise in whichever of the disciplines I enjoyed more, I knew it was the course for me.
How is PPE taught?
During my time at Warwick, PPE has been taught through weekly lectures and seminars. Each of my modules have had either one or two hours of lectures per week, and attending a lecture (usually) involves me simply turning up, listening, taking notes and asking questions if anything the lecturer says is unclear. Lectures are for everyone taking that particular module, which means that depending on the popularity of the module, the total number of students in my lectures have ranged from around 25 to nearly 500. My modules have also been taught via seminars, which are small group, one-hour teaching sessions, and I've been in seminar groups ranging in size from 7 to 15 students. For most of my modules, there are multiple seminar groups and I'm required to sign up to one of them and attend a weekly seminar; some of my economics modules had only one seminar per fortnight, and I've had an economics module for which I had no seminars. Seminar attendance, unlike lectures, have been compulsory and a register is taken. Attending a seminar involves prior preparation; for all of my philosophy and politics modules (and a few economics modules), this has involved reading the articles or book chapters given for that week’s topic so that I can discuss and debate the material I've read when I get to class; for most of my economics modules, seminars have involved bringing a completed ‘problem set’ - which is a set of questions based on the topics we covered in previous lectures - so that we can go over the answers in class and everyone can clarify anything they didn’t understand with the seminar tutor and our fellow students.
What modules have I studied?
Below are a list of all the modules I've studied during my time at Warwick. Any compulsory modules (meaning all PPE-ists had to study it) are indicated with a *; any optional compulsory modules (meaning that it was selected from a list of modules which all PPE-ists had to choose from) are followed by a **; and any optional modules have nothing following them.
First-year: Economics 1*; Mathematical Techniques for Economics*; Statistical Techniques for Economics*; Computing and Data Analysis*; Introduction to Politics*; Introduction to Philosophy*; Philosophy in Practice; Ancient Philosophy
Second-year: Economics 2**; Ethics**; Applied Ethics**; Development Economics (Macroeconomics); African Politics in Comparative Perspective; Capitalism and its Alternatives
Third-year: Principles of Political Economy (Philosophy & Politics)**; Principles of Political Economy (Politics and Economics)**; Understanding Enterprise; Ethical Issues and Social Responsibility in Contemporary Business; Gender and Development; Nietzsche in Context; Philosophy of Religion
My third year optional modules 'Understanding Enterprise' and 'Ethical Issues and Social Responsibility in Contemporary Business' are modules from the Warwick Business School, which means they are not from any of the PPE departments.
My most challenging moment so far?
I would say that my most challenging moment while studying PPE was in the first term of my first year. Because I hadn’t studied any of the three disciplines prior to coming to Warwick – my AS/A levels were Maths, English Literature, Psychology, History and Further Maths – I was really worried that I would always be falling behind because I would struggle with concepts and ideas that other students (and the lecturers) thought were simple. In hindsight, it was having this mindset itself, rather than my lack of familiarity with any of the three disciplines, that caused me to struggle with some of my modules. For the first seven weeks of my first term (there are only ten weeks in each term!), when I came across any material that I struggled to understand, rather than go to my lecturer or seminar tutor, I would stubbornly try to learn it on my own, and feel useless when I failed to understand what I was sure were ‘simple’ concepts. Thankfully, I eventually listened to the advice of my family and friends and sought clarification and guidance from my lecturers and seminar tutors, and I was finally able to enjoy my degree. A really big lesson that this experience taught me is that I should never be afraid to ask questions – even those that seem ‘simple’.