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Economics

Economics can be studied at Oxford only in combination with Management, History or as part of the Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) course.

Studying economics jointly with other subjects can be very beneficial. The subjects have numerous overlapping areas. Studying the same or similar issues from different perspectives helps to form a deeper and more complete understanding of these issues. It also helps to develop a flexible and eclectic mind.

The economics courses are the same for each degree programme. All degrees are structured in such a way that in the second and third year there is considerable scope for students to decide how much they want to specialise in Economics. Within Economics, students can choose from a fairly broad portfolio of options, from more technical ones such as Game Theory, Econometrics or Microeconomic Analysis, to more applied courses such as Public Economics, Economics of Industry, Money and Banking, Economics of Developing Countries, Environmental Economics and Climate Change, Behavioural and Experimental Economics, Labour Economics… just to name a few.

The course at St Peter’s

St Peter’s offers all three main degrees involving economics: Economics and Management, PPE, and History and Economics, taking around 15 students each year. We are also open to applications to study economics for one academic year as a visiting student (further information on the visiting student programme can be found here).

During the first (and most) of the second year, students can expect to be taught mostly in college by the college tutors. Upon choosing their optional courses, students may be taught by an external tutor which will be a specialist in the topics covered by the course.

Economics teaching consists of a combination of lectures (organised by the Department), tutorials (usually in groups of 3 students) and for the quantitative courses, classes (usually not more than 6 students). For both tutorials and classes students are given reading material in advance and are asked to write an essay and/or prepare solutions to a problem set. In tutorials and classes, students receive detailed feedback on their work and discuss and debate in further detail the most interesting and/or challenging parts of that week’s material with the tutor and other students. Students are also able to ask questions that may have arisen from the reading.

The combination of independent work and continuous feedback is the key advantage of tutorial teaching at Oxford. The objective of the tutorial is to learn through a constructive scholarly exchange. Tutorials are not adversarial nor an exam. Both Economics tutors and fellow students at St Peter’s are supportive, friendly, and willing to engage with each other’s questions and ideas.

The college Library has a very good Economics collection, including all the main textbooks, access to all the main Economics journal, and generally provides easy access to most items you are likely to require for your weekly work over the years.

Admissions in Economics

As part of the admission procedure you will have to sit the Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA). The TSA consists of three separate parts, a critical thinking section, a problem-solving section and an essay. 

Based on the TSA and the UCAS form we invite around three students per place for interviews. The interviews are held in early December. Each candidate is given two interviews. Usually one of the interviews is devoted to economics while the other is focused on the other subject(s) of the joint degree. 

In the economics interview, we aim at assessing your interest in the subject, your ability to listen and give considered responses, your ability to analyse and solve problems logically, and your capacity to construct and structure arguments as well as to express ideas clearly and effectively. Questions asked in interviews can vary from discussing a fairly general issue, to analysing an abstract or hypothetical scenario; they might involve solving some logical or mathematical problems or interpreting some data or text. The discussion in the interview may take you on very unfamiliar grounds; do not worry if this is the case, it is probably intentional, and the interviewers just want to see how you engage with the questions. It is often not very important whether you give the right or wrong answer (and some questions may not have a right or wrong answer), what really matters is how you reason and how you communicate your reasoning. It is always OK to ask the interviewers questions if anything is not clear or if you need more information to answer their question.

Neither the TSA nor the interview require specific preparation. There is no essential reading that you need to do in advance, but it is a good idea to read some books or articles that are related to economics. It is not as important what you read as how you read it. Whatever you choose, read it critically and ask yourself what the strengths and weaknesses of the argument presented are. Here are some suggestions:

  • Poor Economics: Barefoot Hedge-fund Managers, DIY Doctors and the Surprising Truth about Life on less than 1 a Day. Abhijit Banerjee and Esther Duflo (2012)
  • The Future of Capitalism, Paul Collier (2018)
  • Guns, Germs and Steel, Jared Diamond (1998)
  • Why Nations Fail, Daron Acemoglu and James A. Robinson (2013)
  • New Ideas From Dead Economists, Buchholz, Todd (1989)
  • The Undercover Economist, Tim Harford (2005)
  • Mastering Metrics: The path from cause to effect. Joshua Angrist and Jörn-Steffen Pischke (2014)

You will find some recommended readings by the Department here.