Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) is a popular interdisciplinary undergraduate/post-graduate degree which combines study from the three disciplines. The first institution to offer degrees in PPE was the University of Oxford and this particular course has produced a significant number of notable graduates such as David Cameron, the current Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Ed Miliband and Danny Alexander.
The PPE course has been described as being fundamental to the development of political thought in the UK, since it established a connection between politics and philosophy.
The programme is rooted in the view that to understand social phenomena one must approach them from several complementary disciplinary directions and analytical frameworks. In this regard, the study of philosophy is considered important because it both equips students with meta-tools such as the ability to reason rigorously and logically, and facilitates ethical reflection. The study of politics is considered necessary because it acquaints students with the institutions that govern society and help solve collective action problems. Finally, studying economics is seen as vital in the modern world because political decisions often concern economic matters, and government decisions are often influenced by economic events. The vast majority of students at Oxford drop one of the three subjects for the second and third years of their course. Oxford now has more than 600 undergraduates studying the subject, admitting over 200 each year.
Oxford is an attractive city, famously associated with it’s University it has a diverse economic base. Its industries include motor manufacturing, education, publishing, and a large number of information technology and science-based businesses.
The influx of migrant labour to the car plants and hospitals, recent immigration from south Asia, and a large student population, have given Oxford a notably cosmopolitan character, especially in the Headington and Cowley Road areas with their many bars, cafes, restaurants, clubs, ethnic shops and fast food outlets, and the annual Cowley Road Carnival. Oxford is one of the most diverse small cities in Britain with the most recent population estimates showing that 27% of the population were from ethnic minority groups, including 16.2% from non-white ethnic minority ethnic groups (ONS).
The City is also famous for The Bullingdon Club, an exclusive society at Oxford University, noted for its grand banquets and boisterous rituals, such as ‘trashing’ of restaurants and college rooms.
Founded perhaps as early as 1780, the Bullingdon was originally a sporting club, dedicated to cricket and horse-racing, although dinners gradually became its principal activity. Membership of the club is expensive, with tailor-made uniforms, regular gourmet hospitality and a tradition of on-the-spot payment for damage.Its ostentatious display of wealth attracts much controversy, since many ex-members have moved up to high political posts, most notably the current British Prime Minister David Cameron, Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, and Mayor of London Boris Johnson.
Other notable traditions include Eights Week, also known as Summer Eights, is a four-day regatta of bumps races which constitutes the University of Oxford’s main intercollegiate rowing event of the year. The regatta takes place in May of each year, from the Wednesday to the Saturday of the fifth week of Trinity Term. Men’s and women’s coxed eights compete in separate divisions for their colleges, with some colleges entering as many as five crews for each sex.
Summer VIIIs has seven men’s divisions alongside six for women’s, encompassing a total of 171 boats and around 1,500 participants. Including the qualifying rounds, in which success is termed ‘Rowing On’
The racing takes place on the Isis, a length of the River Thames. The ultimate aim of a crew is to become “Head of the River” (top of the first division) and stay there. This entitles the winning crew to commission trophy oars in their college colours with the names and weights of the successful crew on them — commonly called ‘winning blades’.
Eights week is high on the social circle and it’s no exaggeration when I state that the turn out reflects every stereotypical view that you may have of Oxford University. College blazers are proudly on display, college colours painted on faces and “money” is clearly evident.
Champagne and Pimms are drank by the bucketful, strawberries and cream are only £3.00 a helping, and people picnic beside the river.
I was there yesterday and took a few of these pics with my phone and I apologise for the quality. As for why I was strolling along the river during eights week, well let’s just say it’s a long story.
The sporting prowess on display was very admirable, as was the sense of fun and occasion.
I think it’s great to see young people excelling at their chosen sport and I can state that the actual racing was enjoyable to watch.
There was one comic moment that I noticed while negotiating the crowds; sitting on a bench, largely ignored by the people watching the races were a group of four people who can best be described as coming from the other side of the tracks. Instead of Pimms, the drink of choice was Carlsberg Special Brew. Transplant the bench and it’s occupants to Scotland and the Carlsberg would be replaced by a bottle of Bucky. Hopefully you get the picture.
It was while watching all this spectacle that I started to think about this blog entry. I found myself asking myself whether attending Oxford University to study PPE in any way prepared a young person for a life in Parliament. For instance, is Eights week representative of the life for the majority of people in the UK? On yesterdays experience I would confidently say that it is not.
Interestingly enough, a couple of miles away across town there is a housing estate called Blackbird Leys, where every social issue that blights working class areas is present. It’s the part of Oxford that the tourists don’t get to see. Did Dave, Ed and Danny spend time there and get to know the locals? I very much doubt it.
Still Better Together and the Tory, Labour and LibDem parties will have us believe that the way of life that was on display on the banks of the river Isis yesterday is the perfect school of life for future Prime Minsters that wish to represent Scotland’s interests. I definitely doubt that!
It’s definitely a colourful spectacle and I’m not going to knock it for it’s entertainment value but do I want people from this background to make decisions that will effect my life?
Of course the answer to this question is No but Alistair Darling and his team are trying to sell the lie to Scotland that we should trust their judgement and be governed from a distant London where the elite were educated in an equally distant University setting.
If the future politicians and elite enjoying the early summer weather during the Eights had turned around from the boating and stopped to look at the four lost souls supping the extra strong lager they may, just may have had a reality check on what really defines modern Britain….or maybe not.
Still Scotland does have a choice. Do we really want to be governed by individuals who have studied Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford or do we want something better and more relevant to Scotland’s requirements?
We have a decision to make on September 18th.