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Modern Greats

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Title: Modern Greats  
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Subject: Classics, Literae Humaniores, John Farthing, Harold Marks, P. R. Stephensen, Alix Kilroy, Michael de la Bédoyère, Robert Hall, Baron Roberthall
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Modern Greats

Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) is a popular interdisciplinary undergraduate/graduate degree which combines study from the three disciplines. The first institution to offer degrees in PPE was the University of Oxford and this particular course has produced a significant number of notable graduates such as David Cameron, the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and Ed Miliband, the current Leader of the Opposition. In the 1980s, the University of York went on to establish its own PPE degree based upon the Oxford model; the University of Warwick, the University of Manchester, and other British universities later followed. According to the BBC, it "dominate[s] public life" (in the UK).[1] It is now offered at several other leading colleges and universities around the world.


PPE was established at the University of Oxford in the 1920s,[2] as a modern alternative to Classics (known as Greats at Oxford) because it was thought that a course in Philosophy and Ancient History was no longer relevant for those entering the civil service. It was thus initially known as Modern Greats.[1][3] Christopher Stray has pointed to the course as one reason for the gradual decline of the study of classics, as classicists in political life began to be edged out by those who had studied the Modern Greats.[4]

Dario Castiglione and Iain Hampsher-Monk have described the course as being fundamental to the development of political thought in the UK, since it established a connection between politics and philosophy. Previously at Oxford, and for some time subsequently at Cambridge, politics had been taught only as a branch of modern history.[5]

Course material

The programme is rooted in the view that to understand social phenomena one must approach them from several complementary disciplinary directions and analytical frameworks. In this regard, the study of philosophy is considered important because it both equips students with meta-tools such as the ability to reason rigorously and logically, and facilitates ethical reflection. The study of politics is considered necessary because it acquaints students with the institutions that govern society and help solve collective action problems. Finally, studying economics is seen as vital in the modern world because political decisions often concern economic matters, and government decisions are often influenced by economic events. The vast majority of students at Oxford drop one of the three subjects for the second and third year of their course. Oxford now has more than 600 undergraduates studying the subject, taking in a cohort of just over 200 each year.[6]

Oxford PPE graduate Nick Cohen and former tutor Iain McLean consider the course's breadth important to its appeal, especially because British society values generalists over specialists. However, Geoffrey Evans has argued that the Oxford course's success is a self-perpetuating feature of the class system.[1]

List of universities offering PPE

United Kingdom and Ireland

US and Canada

South Africa, India, Australia and New Zealand

Continental Europe

Middle East and Asia

See also


External links

  • PPE, Oxford University – Official Website
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