Aside from being constantly quizzed on current affairs from all your non-PEP friends, and being repeatedly labelled as “one day running the whole country”, a big benefit (at least in my view!) about being a PEP student at York, is the variety on the course.
From the ethics of sexual consent to financial markets. From Thatcherism to the philosophy of Kant. From human rights to the doctrine of the trinity. From artificial intelligence and drones to radical scepticism! I’ve covered all this and loads more in my degree (AND I’ve still got half a year left!).
At York, PEP students aren’t forced to take a set programme of modules, we’re free to choose the majority of our modules from the Philosophy, Politics and Economics departments. Many other universities who offer our courses (particularly PPE) do not offer this level of variety. We do have some restrictions but these become less and less throughout the course (the restrictions also vary between the different courses we offer). The scope of material available between the three departments is huge, which has allowed me to combine some fascinatingly diverse and inter-related topics within my degree.
Oh, and also, on top of the standard modules you can pick some inter-disciplinary modules (modules taught jointly by two of the departments) which focus directly on overlap between the subjects. This term I’ve started Rationality, Morality and Economics which offers an ethical slant to topics of individual and social choice. Very few universities offering PPE or our joint-honour degrees offer these sorts of modules.
Given you only take about six modules each year, the only downside of all this, is that you have to make some pretty tough choices about which modules to take. If I could, I’d probably choose all of them!! (well….maybe not statistics…). Having said that, my choices have got easier throughout the course as I’ve realised what topics really “get me going” and which not so much.
Most people’s degrees eventually reflect a particular strand of academic interests spanning over the subjects they’ve studied. Many PPE students for example have a strong “governance” theme running through their degree by choosing to study a lot of British politics, applied ethics, and political economics. Personally, I went for a more theoretical approach, by choosing a lot of political theory, classical economics, and history of philosophy. I’d say that alongside the variety on offer there’s also the chance to build a strong continuity into your degree and tailor it to your interests.
Studying lots of different topics does admittedly come with its challenges. As the old saying goes, “it’s depth not breadth” that matters when it comes to assessments. So, you need to become an expert (of sorts) in lots of different areas to succeed. But often I think studying lots of different things keeps me energised and prevents me from getting fed up of any one thing.
The range offered is pretty overwhelming and it can make your days very varied. In the morning I might be solving equations and calculating efficiencies in economics. By the afternoon I could waist deep in politics journals. And by the evening I could be utterly confused, tired, and pondering my own existence, whilst reading some post-enlightenment philosophy!
If you’re like me, then switching between different disciplines, and using different skills like essay writing and number crunching, is an attractive feature of the courses that the School of PEP offers. I know the variety of modules that the School of PEP offer is essentially unique and was a big factor behind my choice to study here.