Major in Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (BA)

Politics, Philosophy, and Economics (PPE) is an interdisciplinary course of study that originated at Oxford University in the 1920s. It has spread to many other universities in the United Kingdom and is increasingly popular at universities and colleges in the United States and elsewhere. The PPE major aims to provide students with the ability to apply the tools of ethical, microeconomic, and quantitative analysis to a wide array of fundamental social, political, and economic problems in the contemporary world.

For a sense of how the PPE degree is seen in the United Kingdom (and beyond) you might find this essay from The Guardian (UK) and this handful of replies to the essay helpful. Interested in the range of matters covered by PPE? Have a look at this anthology or this text. You might also want to check out the journal Politics, Philosophy and Economics, the new PPE book series at Oxford University Press, or the PPE Society page.


The Department of Political Science and the Department of Philosophy are the parent departments for the PPE major. The faculty PPE coordinator in each department is:

Political Science
Professor James Johnson
312 Harkness Hall

Professor Rosa Terlazzo
521 Lattimore Hall

Students who want to declare a PPE major or who are just curious about pursuing a PPE major should see Professor Terlazzo or Professor Johnson.

Requirements for the Major

Students are strongly encouraged to take three gateway courses, and they must take 12 other courses, for a total of 15 courses, achieving a minimum overall GPA of 2.0 in these courses. No course used to fulfill one component of the requirements can also be used to fulfill any other component.

Gateways (Three Courses, Strongly Recommended)

Recommended: At least one course from each of the three disciplines.

  • Economics: ECON 108 Principles of Economics (Normally necessary as a prerequisite for ECON 207, which is required for the PPE major)
  • Philosophy: Either PHIL 102 Introduction to Ethics or PHIL 103 Contemporary Moral Problems
  • Political Science: Either PSCI 101 Introduction to Comparative Politics, PSC 104 Introduction to Political Philosophy, PSCI 105 Introduction to American Politics, or PSCI 107 Introduction to Positive Political Theory

Core Courses (Three Courses, Required)

  • PSCI 287: Theories of Political Economy
  • PHIL 223: Social and Political Philosophy
  • ECON 207: Intermediate Microeconomics

Analytical Methods (Two Courses, Required)

Statistics (One Course, Required)

One of the following:

  • PSCI 200: Data Analysis I
  • PSCI 205: Data Analysis II
  • ECON 230: Economic Statistics
  • STAT 212: Applied Statistics I
  • STAT 213: Probability and Mathematical Statistics

Seminar (One Course, Required)

Thematic Concentration (Five Courses, Required)

Choose an additional five courses in a thematic concentration, which is a set of courses tied together conceptually, oriented toward a particular problem or area of particular interest to the student. At least three of these five courses must be at the 200 level or higher. The aim of this requirement is to encourage students to focus their major in an imaginative, individualized way. Possibilities include Urban Ecologies; Sustainability – Economic and Environmental; Scientific Inquiry, Expertise and Democratic Politics; Poverty and Economic Inequality; Political-Economic Development; Personal Liberty and Public Health in a Pandemic. The range of possibilities is very wide. Students are expected to formulate the thematic concentration for their major in consultation with their major advisor.

Paper Presentation

Each student must complete a research paper for one of their theme courses and, in spring semester of their senior year, present the paper to all PPE majors and affiliated faculty. Attendance at paper presentations is required, except in extenuating circumstances. The program faculty coordinators will arrange a colloquium for this purpose.

Upper-Level Writing

Take at least two courses designated as ‘W’ courses.

Humanities or Social Sciences?

Students will designate their PPE major as either social sciences or humanities for distributional purposes. That determination will be made in consultation with their major advisor. The general rule will be that at least six of the student’s major courses would be from the relevant division—humanities or social sciences—not including PPHE/PHIL/PSCI 293 (Politics, Philosophy, and Economics), which, for the sake of this determination is assigned to neither division.  In no case can the PPE major be used to meet the natural sciences distribution requirement.


A student majoring in PPE who wishes to undertake an honors project during their senior year must do so via the established processes in either Political Science or Philosophy. This means meeting the eligibility criteria that each department has established. The expectation is that students who opt to identify their major as social sciences would pursue honors in Political Science while those who identify their major as humanities will do so in Philosophy.

Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and Transfer Credit

Questions regarding credit for AP and IB courses and for courses transferred from other institutions will be governed by the rules established by the relevant department (Philosophy or Political Science) for their own majors. Decisions regarding such credit will be made by the program advisors. Students may be approved to use IB and AP courses or transfer courses to meet gateway recommendations, the statistics requirement, or as part of a thematic concentration. With very rare exceptions, students are not allowed to use courses transferred from other colleges or universities to replace core courses, analytical methods, or the PPE seminar. In no instance will more than three courses transferred from elsewhere (including AP and IB credit) count toward the PPE major.

Overlap Policy

PPE majors are subject to the College's "overlap policy" with respect to double majors and a major and minor. The policy applies to all students in the College. No more than three courses may overlap between any two majors, and no more than two courses may overlap between a minor and either a major or another minor. If a cross-listed course (such as PSCI/ECON 288) is listed under two majors, it counts toward the overlap limit even if it is listed under the Political Science number in one case and a cross-listed number in the other case.