NGExplorer
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Hi,

With October fast approaching, I really need to choose the degree I would like to study. However, I can't decided between PPE or Geography (hopefully both at Oxford). Is Geography at Oxford as rigorous and / or mathematical as PPE? How are the employment prospects? Does Geography have a lot of politics or international relations aspects to it?

I like the look of PPE but I have an interest in environmental research. If there was a way for me to take PPE and then do a PhD in environmental research, I would take PPE. Any hope?

Thanks in advance.
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Gohome
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What did you end up applying to? I face the exact same dilemma. I do like PPE and particularly the statistical methods used - cant go wrong with figures - but cannot shake how much easier it would be to get into geography at Oxford.Both degrees are work-heavy and both are subjects I feel I would enjoy. Youve been through it, any advice?
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NGExplorer
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I chose PPE in the end and thankfully managed to get in. I eventually fell out of favour with Geography because I felt it seemed to tackle the issues of its subject with a very peripheral lens in the sense that it never got to the heart of a problem in the same way a subject like economics would try to do.I soon realised that in trying to cover both human and physical aspects of the world, the subject as I knew it missed the point of both. Of course, this experience is highly anecdotal but at the time I did scour books and the internet to get a flavour of what Geography was like. In a way, the fact that the discipline is relatively new (only 100 or so years old) means that it has less of a solid foundation as compared to others. Geographers could research anything from 1950s holiday photos to the erosion of monuments due to the weather. Above all, the obsession with trying to frame everything 'spatially' as opposed to studying subject material in its own right did not appeal to me and I settled with PPE.I would recommend you not to go by admissions statistics as these are not really reflective of difficulty in any meaningful way. In any case, apply for the subject you are most passionate about and the simple truth is that if you are academically able enough, you will find yourself a place.
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NGExplorer
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(Original post by Gohome)
What did you end up applying to? I face the exact same dilemma. I do like PPE and particularly the statistical methods used - cant go wrong with figures - but cannot shake how much easier it would be to get into geography at Oxford.Both degrees are work-heavy and both are subjects I feel I would enjoy. Youve been through it, any advice?
^^
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OxGeogSoc
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(Original post by NGExplorer)
Hi,

With October fast approaching, I really need to choose the degree I would like to study. However, I can't decided between PPE or Geography (hopefully both at Oxford). Is Geography at Oxford as rigorous and / or mathematical as PPE? How are the employment prospects? Does Geography have a lot of politics or international relations aspects to it?

I like the look of PPE but I have an interest in environmental research. If there was a way for me to take PPE and then do a PhD in environmental research, I would take PPE. Any hope?

Thanks in advance.
Hi there, I realise you have already chosen PPE (congrats on getting in!), but I thought I would offer a Geography counterpoint to anyone who stumbles upon this post in the future.

Maths
Firstly, if you're really looking to incorporate mathematics into your degree, then PPE would be right choice for you - Economics contains a reasonable amount of mathematics (according to my friends who take PPE), whereas Oxford Geography contains very little - you take a statistics module in your first year, but this is an equivalent level to S1 at A-Level - I managed it with little difficulty despite having no Maths background.

Rigorous
Both PPE and Geography are rigorous in their own way. PPE is rigorous in that it will challenge your ability to construct Philosophical Logic, and contains lots of political and economic theory. However, Geography is rigorous in that it forces you to be critical of the world around you. Especially in Human Geography, you take much of what is held to be conventional (including a lot of PPE content), and have to challenge traditional narratives - rather than thinking in terms of supply and demand curves, you think in terms of human agency - how people act and the social forces that underlie these decisions. In this way, I would say Geography has a much more human focus than PPE, whereas PPE is more concerned with theory (a completely valid approach, it just depends on your interests).

Employment Prospects
The employment statistics are out there if you want to find them, but I would always encourage you to look past subject-based statistics. Both PPE and Geography will prepare you for enviornmental policy jobs - honestly the biggest discriminating factor for employability is how much you use the Oxford Careers Service and the amount of extra-curricular you do. I used the Careers Service and managed to secure an internship at the Institute of Economic Affairs, a thinktank following many of the values taught and discussed in PPE. Therefore, my most important advice is to choose what you find interesting, not what will get you a job at the end.

PPE then Environmental PhD
This is completely doable - if you choose a Public Policy PhD, you'll have the policy foundaiton from Undergrad, and will just need to learn the climate stuff - but this will be taught in any respectable PhD.

IR in Geography
You will definietly look at IR and Politics in Geography, but as said above, we are generally critical of conventional theory. Rather than considering game theory as in PPE, we take feminist and postcolonial, and 'imaginative geography' perspectives to critically analyse world relations. This may sound flowery, and I certainly thought it was when I started, but actually I found it much more interesting dissecting situations using Marxist and feminist theory then taken it as read. If you're really into strategy of international conflict, then PPE is more for you though.

General
Of course, the main difference between the two is the Physical component of Geography, which PPE doesn't cover. This is compulsory in your first year at Oxford (and many other Universities), so if this really doesn't interest you in the slightest, PPE may be for you. However, I have immensely enjoyed the Physical Geography this year, much to my own surprise, and I'm sure someone interested in environmental research would do too. Geography is less rigid than PPE, you're right there. However it is constantly evolving as a discipline, which I greatly enjoy. The variety really let's you pursue your interests - a tutorial partner and I had a essay on borders last term - with the same question, I talked about the biopoliitics of the biometric border, and she investigated the mail-order bride industry. There is lots of emerging research to explore which is great.

I realise you have already chosen (congrats on getting in!), but anyone in the same situation, hopefully this can help a little! Send us a message if you have more questions! - Oxford Geography Society
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NGExplorer
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(Original post by OxGeogSoc)
Hi there, I realise you have already chosen PPE (congrats on getting in!), but I thought I would offer a Geography counterpoint to anyone who stumbles upon this post in the future.

Maths
Firstly, if you're really looking to incorporate mathematics into your degree, then PPE would be right choice for you - Economics contains a reasonable amount of mathematics (according to my friends who take PPE), whereas Oxford Geography contains very little - you take a statistics module in your first year, but this is an equivalent level to S1 at A-Level - I managed it with little difficulty despite having no Maths background.

Rigorous
Both PPE and Geography are rigorous in their own way. PPE is rigorous in that it will challenge your ability to construct Philosophical Logic, and contains lots of political and economic theory. However, Geography is rigorous in that it forces you to be critical of the world around you. Especially in Human Geography, you take much of what is held to be conventional (including a lot of PPE content), and have to challenge traditional narratives - rather than thinking in terms of supply and demand curves, you think in terms of human agency - how people act and the social forces that underlie these decisions. In this way, I would say Geography has a much more human focus than PPE, whereas PPE is more concerned with theory (a completely valid approach, it just depends on your interests).

Employment Prospects
The employment statistics are out there if you want to find them, but I would always encourage you to look past subject-based statistics. Both PPE and Geography will prepare you for enviornmental policy jobs - honestly the biggest discriminating factor for employability is how much you use the Oxford Careers Service and the amount of extra-curricular you do. I used the Careers Service and managed to secure an internship at the Institute of Economic Affairs, a thinktank following many of the values taught and discussed in PPE. Therefore, my most important advice is to choose what you find interesting, not what will get you a job at the end.

PPE then Environmental PhD
This is completely doable - if you choose a Public Policy PhD, you'll have the policy foundaiton from Undergrad, and will just need to learn the climate stuff - but this will be taught in any respectable PhD.

IR in Geography
You will definietly look at IR and Politics in Geography, but as said above, we are generally critical of conventional theory. Rather than considering game theory as in PPE, we take feminist and postcolonial, and 'imaginative geography' perspectives to critically analyse world relations. This may sound flowery, and I certainly thought it was when I started, but actually I found it much more interesting dissecting situations using Marxist and feminist theory then taken it as read. If you're really into strategy of international conflict, then PPE is more for you though.

General
Of course, the main difference between the two is the Physical component of Geography, which PPE doesn't cover. This is compulsory in your first year at Oxford (and many other Universities), so if this really doesn't interest you in the slightest, PPE may be for you. However, I have immensely enjoyed the Physical Geography this year, much to my own surprise, and I'm sure someone interested in environmental research would do too. Geography is less rigid than PPE, you're right there. However it is constantly evolving as a discipline, which I greatly enjoy. The variety really let's you pursue your interests - a tutorial partner and I had a essay on borders last term - with the same question, I talked about the biopoliitics of the biometric border, and she investigated the mail-order bride industry. There is lots of emerging research to explore which is great.

I realise you have already chosen (congrats on getting in!), but anyone in the same situation, hopefully this can help a little! Send us a message if you have more questions! - Oxford Geography Society
Hi, thanks for the counterpoints! They blow my comments out of the water if I’m honest. As it happens, I've actually just started a book by a Marxist geographer (David Harvey) and so far I’m enthralled.

Congratulations on your internship at the IEA btw
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OxGeogSoc
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(Original post by NGExplorer)
Hi, thanks for the counterpoints! They blow my comments out of the water if I’m honest. As it happens, I've actually just started a book by a Marxist geographer (David Harvey) and so far I’m enthralled.

Congratulations on your internship at the IEA btw
Great to hear, David Harvey is essential reading in all Geography courses. Definitely keep on reading his work, it tells a very different story to that of Hayek and Friedman - always remember to be critical though, Harvey's work is captivating but doesn't always hold up to real-world analysis. If you'd like other books that view capitalism in a different light, I'd recommend Doughnut Economics by Kate Raworth - lots to be critical of here too, but a very different take on what you will experience in any Economics degree!
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Gohome
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(Original post by NGExplorer)
I chose PPE in the end and thankfully managed to get in. I eventually fell out of favour with Geography because I felt it seemed to tackle the issues of its subject with a very peripheral lens in the sense that it never got to the heart of a problem in the same way a subject like economics would try to do.I soon realised that in trying to cover both human and physical aspects of the world, the subject as I knew it missed the point of both. Of course, this experience is highly anecdotal but at the time I did scour books and the internet to get a flavour of what Geography was like. In a way, the fact that the discipline is relatively new (only 100 or so years old) means that it has less of a solid foundation as compared to others. Geographers could research anything from 1950s holiday photos to the erosion of monuments due to the weather. Above all, the obsession with trying to frame everything 'spatially' as opposed to studying subject material in its own right did not appeal to me and I settled with PPE.I would recommend you not to go by admissions statistics as these are not really reflective of difficulty in any meaningful way. In any case, apply for the subject you are most passionate about and the simple truth is that if you are academically able enough, you will find yourself a place.
Which A-level subjects did you take? I am doing Maths Economics Geography and Politics and while it would be wise to drop politics and keep maths, I find the subject dry and time-consuming. Do you believe that maths is a necessity for PPE (in terms of both admission and content) and do you know of anyone that did not take maths at A-level? My EPQ is a statistical analysis using R - could that perhaps make up for the lack of a full maths A-level?
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OxGeogSoc
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(Original post by Gohome)
Which A-level subjects did you take? I am doing Maths Economics Geography and Politics and while it would be wise to drop politics and keep maths, I find the subject dry and time-consuming. Do you believe that maths is a necessity for PPE (in terms of both admission and content) and do you know of anyone that did not take maths at A-level? My EPQ is a statistical analysis using R - could that perhaps make up for the lack of a full maths A-level?
Hello there, sorry for the late reply - it was moving out time this weekend. I took French, Spanish and Geography (and AS Politics), and haven't found the lack of Maths to be a hindrance to me in Geography, with the only part needing Maths being a statistics module similar in standard to S1 Maths. However, an in-depth knowledge of R will stand you in VERY good stead for 2nd and 3rd year dissertations - many of the climate modules focus on R-based modelling. If you are applying to Geography, I would say Maths is non-essential enough (especially with an R-based EPQ) that it wouldn't hold you back in your degree. However, don't discount how useful maths is in any job you may want in the future.

Unsure on Maths in PPE, will ask my PPE friend and get back to you with his response.
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OxGeogSoc
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(Original post by Gohome)
Which A-level subjects did you take? I am doing Maths Economics Geography and Politics and while it would be wise to drop politics and keep maths, I find the subject dry and time-consuming. Do you believe that maths is a necessity for PPE (in terms of both admission and content) and do you know of anyone that did not take maths at A-level? My EPQ is a statistical analysis using R - could that perhaps make up for the lack of a full maths A-level?
I've asked my PPE friend, who had this to say on Maths for PPE - "It would be very very difficult to do it without maths honestly, admissions would be stacked significantly against you and the actual economics is a nightmare without it". So I think this is quite a strong recommendation against PPE without Maths A-Level. While there is a coding element that R would help you with (a program called Q-Step), the Economics has a lot of A-Level Maths.

Do let me know if you'd like to ask him anything further. One thing I would say, having done AS-Level Politics, is that A-Level Politics is very dissimilar to Uni-level Politics. In fact, often Universities prefer you to have no Politics A-Level, as this removes any chance of a blank slate you would have to learn University Politics (I'm by no means an expert on this though, might be something to ask if you go on an Open Day - this ISN'T the case with Geography) btw. Hope this helps!
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