The University of Oxford has established itself as the world’s overall top university in 2021. Furthering its prestige, the university is also ranked second worldwide for universities offering social sciences undergraduate degrees.

The most popular social science course offered at the university is Philosophy, Politics and Economics, commonly abbreviated as PPE. Integrating three of the most important approaches used to understand the world around us, this interdisciplinary course equips undergraduates with the skills and knowledge to advance in a wide range of career paths.

Last week, we heard from one of our mentors about what it was like for them as a History of Art undergraduate in Oxford. Today, we have invited another mentor to share their experience as a student studying PPE as a student in the University of Oxford.

What subjects did you do at high school (e.g:IB/A Level/AP etc) and what did you score?

I took A-levels in JC. My subject combination was H2 History, H2 Literature, H2 Knowledge and Inquiry, H2 Maths, and H3 History.

What were your CCAs and Leadership positions in high school?

I joined Softball, and was also the Wing Head for the school’s History and Current Affairs Society.

How does the workload of university compare with A level?

It’s about 30% more work, although there’s a lot more flexibility in your schedule.

How did you decide on your final university? Did you get offers elsewhere?

I always wanted to do PPE and Oxford was the university that offered the most rigorous curriculum and the greatest diversity of choices. In the UK, I also got offers from LSE and Warwick.

What is the cost of living and cost of school fees for the entire duration of the undergraduate degree?

The cost of living was about £1,100 per month. I think I spent about £600 on accommodation and £500 on general expenses. This was on top of the school fees, which were £25,000 per year.

How is the teaching and learning work in your school? Are the faculty accessible?

The faculty are usually friendly and you will have a lot of opportunities to interact with them.

How large is the cohort for your courses? How many Singaporeans are there?

There’s about 250 people in total, and at least 6 of them are Singaporeans. This is not exact and there might have been more.

Are people very competitive academically? How many exams are there in a year? 

It is less competitive than JC. There are “tests” every term but they don’t count towards your final grade. The only determinant of your final grade is the final exam when you are about to graduate, like A levels.

How would you describe the school culture?

It varies a lot so I’m not sure if you could fix a culture for the university as a whole.

Is there an established Singaporean presence at your university? How many Singaporeans are there per batch?

Yes, the Singaporean society is very active with a large number of active members. I would estimate that there are at least 40. Though there are probably more who just don’t show up for Singaporean-organised events.

How are freshmen/freshers welcomed to your university?

There is a “Fresher’s week” which is sort of an orientation, except with fewer “bonding” activities and more structured introductory talks. Socialising is usually a lot more informal.

Is your school “cliquey”? Do people tend to hang among people of their own major, social class, race and nationality only, or is there a high degree of integration?

It varies from college to college. My college was very inclusive, although cliques certainly did form. Personally, I integrated well with the rest of my college but I know of others who predominantly hung out with other Singaporeans.

How would you describe the following “scenes” in your college and its surroundings: shopping, drinking, clubbing, fine arts, and sports?

Shopping in Oxford was acceptable. Drinking and clubbing were decent, especially for a university town. Fine arts quite limited but there were many opportunities to play a wide variety of sports.

How’s the accommodation? Do most people stay in college dorms/halls, or independently? How should one look for accommodation?

Most people stay in college dorms in at least their first year. After that, they would usually move out for a year and then move back in for another year (depending on their college’s specific arrangement). There are housing agencies that open up listings in October, although you can wait until much closer to your move-in date if you don’t need a house in the centre of town.

How is the transport like? Does one need a car? If so, how should one go about getting a car?

Oxford is small so you could walk everywhere. The best thing to do would be to get a bike and cycle everywhere, as nothing should be more than 15 minutes away. Barely anyone has a car because it’s much more convenient to cycle.

Is Asian food readily available? If one is to cook, where can we get the Asian food from?

Yes there is an Asian supermarket and at least 5 Asian restaurants.

Do most people cook, eat at a catered facility or cafeteria, or eat out? How’s the catered food?

A mix of all 3. It’s usually decent quality, although they don’t do Asian food very well so be warned.

What are the laundry arrangements like?

There are laundry machines and dryers you can pay to use.

What’s the best experience you’ve had so far in college?

Rowing on the river with drinks in the summer after our exams.

Any final things you’d like to tell juniors about your school?

Oxford University is a fantastic university with lots of opportunities to explore what you are interested in.

We’ve heard that you went on to do a postgraduate degree. What did you do and where did you do it at?

I did a Msc International Trade, Finance & Development at Barcelona Graduate school of Economics.

How did you decide on your postgrad course of choice?

The course syllabus fit my academic interests perfectly.

How did you prepare for your postgrad application? What were your scores, if any (GMAT etc.)? Did you use any consultancy help?

I took advanced modules in my undergraduate years and read around my subject of interest. For the GRE (Graduate Record Examinations), I scored 170/170 for the Verbal Reasoning component, 168/170 for the Quantitative Reasoning component, and 6.0/6.0 for the Analytical Writing component.

How did you find the academic workload?

The university is very research-focus, so the academic workload is fairly heavy. But it was not more than when I was doing my undergraduate degree. 

What are some of the advantages of the postgraduate school and course you took?

The syllabus is fantastic, the course focuses a lot on practical applications, and the faculty- particularly for macroeconomics- is excellent.

What are some of the disadvantages?

There is not much in the way of extracurriculars or societies.

Do you have any advice for aspiring postgrad Juniors?

Pick a university that fits your research interests rather than one that is the most “prestigious”. Specialisation is a lot more important at the postgrad level.

Do you have any other questions that you would like to know the answer to? Let us know if that is so and we will get back to you shortly.