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BA Philosophy, Politics and Economics

Why we're great

  • We confront opinions with evidence to understand how the forces that shape our world really work.
  • You have access to some of the best minds in politics and the biggest names in the field.
  • We have the only Regius Professor in Political Science in the UK, an honour conferred by the Queen.

Course options

UCAS code: L0V0
Duration: 3 years
Start month(s): October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Government
Fee (Home/EU): £9,000
Fee (International): £12,950

UCAS code: L0V1
Duration: 4 years
Start month(s): October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Government
Fee (Home/EU): £9,000
Fee (International): £12,950

UCAS code: L0VA
Duration: 4 years
Start month(s): October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Government
Fee (Home/EU): £9,000
Fee (International): £12,950

Course enquiries

Telephone 01206 873666

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About the course

Why do philosophical and economic ideas matter so much to politics? Why is the state of the economy so important for the outcome of elections? Why do governments try to regulate markets, and how? How should we respond to pressing global issues and trends?

PPE covers the areas of philosophy, political science, and economics, including political theory and political behaviour, macro- and microeconomics, and major philosophical approaches. It provides you with a context in which to appreciate and develop insights into important national and global questions, and encourages you to reflect critically on these questions from a theoretical, practical, and ethical point of view.

The Essex BA in PPE should interest you if you want to develop a critical and interdisciplinary perspective on what makes the world tick. It offers you a solid grounding in three foundational disciplines, and provides you with opportunities to explore topics including:

  • Globalization and international relations
  • Philosophy and political theory
  • Democratic and comparative politics
  • Political economy
  • Ethics and public policy

Our Department of Government is one of the most prestigious in Europe, with an outstanding record of teaching, research and publication. We are rated top in the UK for research (REF 2014), and have consistently been the highest-rated politics department in the country since national assessments began.

Meanwhile, our Department of Economics is Top 5 in the UK for research, with over 90% of their research rated as “world-leading” or “internationally excellent” (REF 2014), and our Department of Philosophy is ranked Top 10 in the UK for research excellence (REF 2014).

“Taking modules in two departments enabled me to explore the discipline of political philosophy from a number of different perspectives - from the abstract philosophical ideas and tools which it utilises, to the empirical political problems which it endeavours to solve."

Rosalind Worsdale, BA Philosophy and Politics, 2012

Study abroad

Your education extends beyond the classroom. You may also study a four-year variant of this course, the third year of which is spent studying abroad at a partner institution, or on a placement year. The module structure for your first two years and your final year are the same as our three-year versions.

We offer many opportunities for you to spend a term or a full year studying in another country and have exchange partners in the United States, Europe, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Latin America, the Middle East, Hong Kong and Japan.

Placement year

Alternatively, on a placement year you gain relevant work experience within an external business, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the industry.

A Placement-Linked Project module is also available as an alternative to the dissertation module in your third year. You attend shorter placements (a minimum of 150 hours in total), and use your learning on placement to inform a research project; fantastic work experience for your CV.

Our expert staff

Some of the biggest names in the field work at Essex, giving you unparalleled access to some of the best minds in politics. Our staff are advising the CIA on counter-terrorism, training politicians and civil servants in democratising countries, and commentating on political events in national and international media.

Our economics researchers are also at the forefront of their field have even received MBEs. Many of our academic staff also provide consultancy services to businesses in London and other major financial centres, helping us to develop research for today's society as well as informing our teaching for the future.

Within Philosophy, our open-minded and enthusiastic staff have an exceptionally broad range of research interests, so whatever questions in philosophy catch hold of your imagination, there is certain to be someone you can approach to find out more.

Specialist facilities

Take advantage of our extensive learning resources to assist you in your studies:

  • Laboratories of networked computers featuring extensive software for political analysis
  • The ESSEXLab provides opportunities for experimental lab research
  • Student societies for politics, debating, and Model UN
  • A dedicated study skills advisor in your first year for one-to-one advice
  • A personal tutor and peer mentor for every student
  • We organise the Essex Summer School in Social Science Data Analysis
  • Extensive software for quantitative analysis is available in all computer labs across the university
  • Join our lively Economics Society, an active and social group where you can explore your interest in your subject with other students
  • An exciting programme of research seminars, reading groups and mini-courses that help you expand your philosophical knowledge beyond what you learn on your course
  • A comprehensive student support system which will direct you to the best source of advice and support in the case of personal or academic difficulties

Your future

All Essex, politics graduates have the distinction of a qualification from one of the world’s leading politics departments.

Our students are in demand from a host of employers, in politics, the civil service fast stream, management, journalism, police, armed forces, commerce, business, finance, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), teaching and graduate research.

Our notable alumni include the former President of Costa Rica and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Dr Oscar Arias, and the Speaker of the House of Commons, Rt Hon John Bercow MP, and our recent graduates have gone on to work for a wide range of high-profile companies including:

  • The World Bank
  • NATO
  • Houses of Parliament Research Unit
  • United Nations Development Program
  • ICM research
  • IMG Media

We also work with the university’s Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

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Example structure

Studying at Essex is about discovering yourself, so your course combines compulsory and optional modules to make sure you gain key knowledge in the discipline, while having as much freedom as possible to explore your own interests. Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

For many of our courses you’ll have a wide range of optional modules to choose from – those listed in this example structure are just a selection of those available. The opportunity to take optional modules will depend on the number of core modules within any year of the course. In many instances, the flexibility to take optional modules increases as you progress through the course.

Our Programme Specification gives more detail about the structure available to our current first-year students, including details of all optional modules.

Year 1

What is “Politics”? How have people conceived of political analysis, the state, laws, wars and political parties, across cultures and over time? Gain an understanding of essential concepts in the study of politics and explore the economic, social and intellectual trends that have made democracy possible.

How do consumers make decisions? Or firms conduct different market strategies? What impact does government policy have on inflation? Or unemployment? Develop your knowledge of economics in relation to a range of contemporary issues. Learn how to apply both micro and macroeconomic principles to the analysis of such problems.

Begin your study of philosophy with an exploration of scepticism and matters of life and death. Do we truly know anything? Might, for all we know, our brains be under the control of evil scientists? Is torture ever justified? How demanding is morality and how much of our lives should it cover?

An often misused concept, “democracy” takes radically different forms in different democratic countries. You gain a real understanding of what is meant by “democracy” and investigate under what conditions and in what countries liberal democracy is most likely to occur.

Sharpen your debating skills through learning how to construct and deconstruct arguments. You learn how to identify arguments in philosophical texts, how to assess arguments for logical soundness, and how to formulate your own arguments.

Year 2

What tools can you use for macroeconomic analysis? And how can these then be applied to macro-policy issues? Learn how to build alternative macroeconomic models and apply analytical reasoning. Examine real-life macroeconomic questions, on topics such as government budgets or wage-price flexibility, and critically evaluate macroeconomic policies.

How do consumers behave in a competitive market? And what about producers? How do various imperfections affect the outcome of decentralised markets? Study the fundamental concepts and methods in microeconomics. Understand the tools and methods of analysis for economic reasoning, and develop your critical approach to economic issues and policies.

Can we say that our moral judgements are capable of being true or false? If they are, does their truth depend on certain moral facts? Can we describe these facts as natural? In this module you explore ethical theory, considering the challenges to morality which seem to make it impossible, or to undermine our commitment to it.

How can we answer political questions using statistical data? Learn how to find relevant research designs and questions in order to use quantitative methods in political research, assisting you in your other modules and improving your job prospects.

How are decisions made in the EU? What impact do states and government have on European policy, and vice versa? Gain an understanding of the relationship between the EU and its members through studying the origins of European Integration and the institutional systems of the EU.

Final year

How should theory and theorists relate to real politics? What are the competing approaches in contemporary philosophy? In this module you study both the liberal, ideal theories of justice as shaped by John Rawls, but also compare them to alternative approaches. You also explore the notion of injustice through asking what, if anything, is wrong with inequality, applying this to cases such as exploitation, marketization, objectification and stereotyping.

Study one of the most important contemporary aspects of political action: the natural environment. You consider the state of the environment and possible paths along which it might change, before exploring environmental policies from the level of individual values, to the environmental movement, to political parties, and finally to the level of the EU.

The field of security studies has become increasingly important over the last decade. While old conflicts are reigniting and new ones are emerging, scholars and decision-makers debate about changes to the concepts of security, the redundancy of military force, and the centrality of the state in order to face these ever-important issues.


On a placement year you gain relevant work experience within an external business or organisation, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the industry. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.

Year abroad

On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.


  • Teaching is arranged to allow a lot of freedom in how you organise your learning experience
  • Lab sessions allow you to improve your technical research skills
  • Optional support classes in economics
  • We believe that discussion is the lifeblood of philosophy, and we try to keep our classes as small as we can for this purpose
  • Opportunities to gain work experience on placements and internships


  • Assessed through a combination of written coursework, presentations, class participation, and end-of-year examinations
  • Weighted 50% coursework and 50% examinations
  • If you undertake a placement, you will prepare an assessed report on this experience
  • In your second- and third-years of philosophy modules, you may write an optional essay if you wish, in order to improve your coursework mark
  • Complete your final year project in consultation with a personal supervisor

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UK entry requirements

A-levels: ABB-BBB
GCSE: Mathematics C

IB: 32-30 points, including Standard Level Mathematics grade 4, if not taken at Higher Level

Entry requirements for students studying BTEC qualifications are dependent on units studied. Advice can be provided on an individual basis. The standard required is generally at Distinction level.

International and EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Email for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the high school qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

IELTS entry requirements

English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall. (Different requirements apply for second year entry.)

If you are an international student requiring a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK please see our immigration webpages for the latest Home Office guidance on English language qualifications.

Other English language qualifications may be acceptable so please contact us for further details. If we accept the English component of an international qualification then it will be included in the information given about the academic levels required. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications.

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Visit us

Open days

We hold several Open Days throughout the year so that you can visit our Colchester Campus and find out more about Essex. You’ll be able to tour our campus and accommodation, meet our academics, sample the course you’re interested in and get answers to all the questions you have about becoming a member of the University of Essex.

You can find out more and book your place online. If our dates don’t work for you then don’t worry, you can always book a campus and accommodation tour on a weekday to suit you. Just email to get booked in.

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Southend Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.


Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. We have a comprehensive list online so take a look and see if we’ll be near you in the future.


Applications for our full-time undergraduate courses should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Applications are online at: Full details on this process can be obtained from the UCAS website in the how to apply section.

Our UK students, and some of our EU and international students, who are still at school or college, can apply through their school. Your school will be able to check and then submit your completed application to UCAS. Our other international applicants (EU or worldwide) or independent applicants in the UK can also apply online through UCAS Apply.

The UCAS code for our University of Essex is ESSEX E70. The individual campus codes for our Loughton and Southend Campuses are ‘L’ and ‘S’ respectively.

Visit days and interviews

Resident in the UK? If your application is successful, we will invite you to attend one of our visit days. These run from January to April and give you the chance to explore the campus, meet our students and really get a feel for life as an Essex student.

Some of our courses also hold interviews and if you’re invited to one, this will take place during your visit day. Don’t panic, they’re nothing to worry about and it’s a great way for us to find out more about you and for you to find out more about the course. Some of our interviews are one-to-one with an academic, others are group activities, but we’ll send you all the information you need beforehand.

If you’re outside the UK and are planning a trip, feel free to email so we can help you plan a visit to the University.

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Although great care is taken in compiling our course details, they are intended for the general guidance of prospective students only. The University reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University.

The full procedures, rules and regulations of the University are set out in the Charter, Statues and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.