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Oxford -- PPE or Economics with Management

(211 Posts)
shockthemonkey Mon 27-Jul-15 13:24:13

This is the question one of my charges is struggling with.

We all know how hard PPE at Oxford is -- but its acceptance rate at 15% appears better than for Economics and Management at the same uni, with just 7% of applicants accepted.

Whilst he's looking closely at course content, and discovering more about the other four choices he'd be going for in either scenario (PPE or Econ with Mgt), does anyone have any thoughts about the programme choice?

I have no reservations about his academic level nor his commitment to doing what it takes to give him the very best chances. I just know, though, that he'll ask me whether one is "easier" to get in for than the other.

Before looking at the acceptance rates, I would always have said PPE is harder. Even looking at the 15% vs 7% I still think this may be the case -- Econ and Mgt may be attracting more "borderline" candidates than PPE because I cannot imagine schools in the UK encouraging anyone other than their very brightest to go for PPE.

Does anyone have any experiences to share? Thanks!

irregularegular Mon 27-Jul-15 13:34:49

Hi - I'm an Economics tutor at Oxford. I believe that you are right - the chance of a given candidate getting in to EM or PPE is actually very similar. Or, put another way, I don't feel that the marginal EM candidate is much stronger than the marginal PPE candidate. Part of the difference is due to the higher number of international candidates for EM who have a lower acceptance rate due not not 'self-selecting' as effectively. Also, there are still some schools whose applicants tend to be very successful that do not have any applicants for EM, but plenty for PPE.

It is far, far better to choose the course he is most interested in than the one that is easiest to get into.

Needmoresleep Mon 27-Jul-15 13:40:00

Shock, though they are both very popular courses E&M seems to be considered much the harder course to get onto. We know one very strong candidate who failed to get a place. The feedback was simply weight of numbers prevented him from being offered a place.

My understanding is that some consdider it the most competive course at Oxbridge.

Having said that, given both are very competitive, I think you might as well go for the course that appeals most. First because you will be more convincing at interview, and second because if you are good enough for one you might well be good enough for both. And look hard at alternatives as there has to be an element of luck.

Needmoresleep Mon 27-Jul-15 13:49:12

X post with Irregular. Obviously an Oxford economics tutor will know more! My information is based on DS' peers, a number of whom applied for one or the other. I agree re international students. Applications seem focussed on the more obviously vocational courses at top Universities. The more mathematical economics course at Cambridge seems to attract some very strong candidates.

shockthemonkey Mon 27-Jul-15 16:01:13

Thank you both very much!

Luckily, he went with his heart and has decided on Econ with Mgt. There is not enough opportunity to concentrate on Econ within PPE, he has decided. He loves philo but is not so sure about Politics... and above all, Econ is his first love.

I really appreciate your thoughts, sleep. Irregular, I had suspected that there was less self-selection for ME but had not guessed at the reason. Thank you so much for chipping in!

In the event, he didn't ask me which course gave him the best shot at Oxford. First time that's happened to me. How refreshing.

By the way, he's Bac S (Option Internationale) with very strong maths, in case that has any bearing on your answers.

Thanks again,

Needmoresleep Mon 27-Jul-15 16:43:10

In which case do encourage him to consider other courses. UCL, Warwick, Bristol, Durham etc. Indeed LSE has a new four year PPE course designed to allow a student to give each subject sufficient time.

One consistent theme here over the past couple of years has been the reluctance of French students to consider anywhere but Oxbridge/Imperial. The French seem to attach huge status to a very small number of British institutions, and disregard the rest. Almost all Oxford PPE/E&M candidates will be very well qualified. We know some super, A* everything plus a range of personal achievements, candidates who did not get offers. These candidates go to other well regarded Universities where standards are also very high and do very well.

DS was told that the maths for E&M would not be much more demanding than Further Maths A level, which I understand from other posters is similar to, or not as good as, Bac S. One thing he has found, studying economics elsewhere, is that whilst he is really enjoying the step up to University level work, others are floundering. A level grades, and presumably Bac grades, especially in Maths don't seem to be that accurate a predictor of University performance. I assume the challenge for Universities is to identify potential, regardless of what school system someone comes from. One good thing is that economics at University seems far more interesting than A level.

Bonsoir Tue 28-Jul-15 13:13:10

"One consistent theme here over the past couple of years has been the reluctance of French students to consider anywhere but Oxbridge/Imperial. The French seem to attach huge status to a very small number of British institutions, and disregard the rest."

This is not the case (I have the data from UCAS).

Bonsoir Tue 28-Jul-15 13:17:48

shockthemonkey - when looking at Oxbridge acceptance rates you need to be aware that they are significantly lower than published rates for French bac candidates.

I have known several Oxford PPE candidates (but no E&M candidates) over the past few years. Many candidates got interviews (in fact, only clear no hopers didn't) but I have only known one candidate get and fulfill an offer and he was a superstar in every way (OIB S with many fluent MFL and extraordinary extra-curricular from a very cosmopolitan and intellectual background).

irregularegular Tue 28-Jul-15 13:26:30

Bonsoir - you may want to update your information as interview rates have changed significantly in recent years. For both EM and PPE, only 2.5-3 candidates are interviewed per place. Given the number of applications, that means that for PPE, less than half are interviewed and for EM, less than a quarter. This is likely to be even lower in the future. There are certainly very good PPE candidates that are not interviewed - not just 'clear no hopers' by any means.

Bonsoir Tue 28-Jul-15 13:38:24

irregular - that particular bit of "information" was anecdote (was that not clear) about French bac candidates and meant to let shockthemonkey know that places for French bac candidates for PPE are, seemingly, like gold dust. Just so that her candidate doesn't get his hopes up ;)

halvedfees Tue 28-Jul-15 14:02:41

My son's school called PPE and E&M the "graveyard courses" for many a candidate who would get into many other courses. They dsaid the selection process was "brutal and not always correct"!

irregularegular Tue 28-Jul-15 14:03:24

All I meant to say was that a few years ago it was true that only a few, obviously weak, candidates weren't interviewed. But there has been a very rapid change, so the chance of an interview is lower, but given you have an interview the chance of a place is higher. Whether your information is anecdote or data, if it is a few years old then it is out of date.

For all candidates, obviously, not French Bacc in particular.

Bonsoir Tue 28-Jul-15 14:13:36

I'm just going on anecdotal observation of French bac candidates applying for PPE in the last 5 years (including this year). I'm a very harsh judge, however ;) so my "no-hoper" candidates still get offers at Warwick/Bath etc

Bonsoir Tue 28-Jul-15 14:15:47

Interesting, halvedfees. Presumably you are talking about an English school?

JeanneDeMontbaston Tue 28-Jul-15 14:32:30

I'd say it's always worth applying - I've never heard an admissions officer refer to any candidate as a 'no-hoper', even off the record, so slightly shocked that you refer to yours that way, bonsoir. Not very professional.

I'd say if someone is able to get an offer from somewhere like Warwick, they can't possibly be a 'no hoper' for Oxford. There's just not that much variation between the two, I don't think. But, not an admissions officer, so perhaps my info is out of date too, I don't know.

Bonsoir Tue 28-Jul-15 14:40:24

I have to disagree there, Jeanne. UCAS only lets candidates apply for five courses/universities and some subjects (such as Economics) are fantastically competitive for French bac candidates. Wasting even one of the five choices is a huge mistake. Remember, candidates from overseas often only apply to "top courses" for their own profile because their back-up choice will usually be to stay at home (or go to yet another country).

halvedfees Tue 28-Jul-15 14:43:48

Yes, an English private school.

I know from experience of my son. School said - "apply for History - you'll get in". Son was arrogant confident enough to say "I'm good - I'll give PPE a go". School goes "high-risk strategy". Offers for PPE at Durham and Warwick. Oxford interview at St. John's, then letter of rejection in January despite Achieving an equivalent of a 1st in the Economics interview and 2.1s on the other 2 interviews!

Has gone on to get 43 in his IB (676 UCAS points or 4A*s and an A at A level equivalent)

Graveyard indeed.

JeanneDeMontbaston Tue 28-Jul-15 14:52:09

It's not a waste. If a student is good enough to get into somewhere like Warwick, I reckon they have a fighting chance of getting into Oxbridge.

I've only had a little to do with admissions, but I've talked a lot to admissions tutors about this, and they say what irregular is saying, too. I don't know how long ago you were involved in admissions and whether you were 'judging' as a teacher preparing students or as an part of the admissions process, but I wonder if your memories are a bit off, or skewed by coincidences of what happened?

irregularegular Tue 28-Jul-15 15:33:36

Halvedfees - -if he got over 70 in the Economics interview and over 60 in both the other interviews then he was extremely close. And you have no guarantee that he would actually have got a place for History. Congratulations on the IB and I wish him all the best at Warwick/Durham, both excellent universities. Assuming he has no plans to reapply to Oxford.

Good candidates are turned down for all courses, I'm sure.

Bonsoir Tue 28-Jul-15 15:41:10

Jeanne - I coach French bac candidates with admissions to universities in the UK every year and, I promise, I do a great job ;). Your UK-centric perspective is not going to help with French candidates whose equation in made up of different variables.

halvedfees Tue 28-Jul-15 15:54:25

irregularegular he got 75 % in his Econ and 67 and 68 % in his other two. The comment was that he was not "equally good in all interviews".

I know he wouldn't necessarily get History - but the school feels PPE and E&M are basically down to luck (all the candidates are outstanding) that History (where the candidates are excellent but a tier down from PPE) is a better bet.

Just out of interest would you go for PPE at Durham or risk it all and go for Oxbridge History?

irregularegular Tue 28-Jul-15 16:09:19

Halvedfees - I'm sure you understand that your question is impossible to answer in the abstract. He clearly had a preference for PPE in the first place, so I'd be inclined to say go for that (btw, Warwick is a better Economics department than Durham). But I understand that some students are very drawn by the idea of Oxbridge.

Would he make good use of a year out? How would he feel if he still didn't get in a second time?

Why not apply to PPE again post-qualification, if that's what he really wants to do? Unless he has a really good story, I'd be afraid the History tutors might look at his application and conclude that he really wants to do PPE, but thinks History will be easier to get into.

Full Disclosure: I was (am) the St John's Economics tutor.

halvedfees Tue 28-Jul-15 16:23:33

OMG irregularegular!!

He's torn - he loves History ( got the all-time record at his school for IB HL History) but also loves the other 3 (won the St.John's Ancient Philosophy essay competiton in 2014). Difficulty is got 775 in his IB HL (History, Ancient Greek, Maths). Mistake was to take HL Maths as PPE wants 766. However 5 is equivalent to an A at A level but universities tend not to see that ( apart from Warwick!)

He loved Oxford (who doesn't?!), but the school have advised against going again for PPE as it is such high risk (esp missing the third 6 at HL), and if he does they recommend History for all the UCAS choices. He is thinking of USA if we can get a good scholarship.

Technically he is a "near-miss" for Durham because of the 5 - but Warwick have accepted him. It's just that Warwick is so - well - soulless.....

halvedfees Tue 28-Jul-15 16:25:07

Sorry meant "St. John's Ancient Philosophy essay competition"

JeanneDeMontbaston Tue 28-Jul-15 16:50:23

I'm sure you do do a great job. I'm sorry you've had unsuccessful experiences.

I was commenting on whether or not it is worth a candidate who could get into Warwick applying to Oxford. In my view, it is. You're seeing students you know very well and personally, and it can be really hard to figure out why one person doesn't get in and another does. You also know in great detail exactly how much better you think one person is than another. But, for universities, the difference between a student who can get into Warwick and one who has a good hope of Oxford isn't huge.

I hope that clarifies a little bit.

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