For many decades, the social sciences have rewarded narrow specializations in both topic and methodology, believing this to be the best way to achieve results. The established systems of higher education have also strongly supported this trend through the development of stand-alone departments. However, today, the task of addressing real-life economic, social, political and environmental issues and designing appropriate policy responses requires a combination of approaches and bodies of knowledge across different sciences and intellectual traditions. Real-world problems like climate change, environmental degradation, crime, disease, policy failures, technologies running amok, and loss of trust in institutions recognize no state borders, so the tradition of insulating disciplines, methodologies and geographic areas of expertise is harmful because it allows disciplinary biases and blind spots to obscure needed solutions.
Faced with these challenges, academics, activists, and policymakers should build on a growing trend towards research and policymaking that promotes creativity and sustainability by explicitly working at the interdisciplinary crossroads of the social sciences and the humanities and within teams of open-minded individuals from diverse intellectual and cultural backgrounds.
The Master’s Programme ‘Politics. Economics. Philosophy’ offers training that cuts across core disciplines in the social sciences and the humanities. This Programme combines attention to current challenges and an emphasis on rigorous social research methods provided by the ‘Political science’ component of the curriculum in order to produce evidence-based policy advice and expertise with sensitivity to normative and ethical issues required to implement policies in the real world. Launched in 2013 and with the first intake of students in 2014, the Master’s Programme ‘Politics. Economics. Philosophy’ follows in the traditions of the great thinkers of the past (‘standing on the shoulders of giants’) and the spirit and purpose of the Oxford-style ‘Politics, Philosophy, and Economics’ (PPE) programmes to address the pressing issues of today.
The Master’s Programme ‘Politics, Economics, Philosophy’ encourages students to do research into the political, economic, and moral dimensions of real-life social problems of various origins and to integrate tools and insights from the core disciplines in the Programme’s name with an eye on changing the world for the better.
In 2021, the Programme launched its second track, ‘Russia in Comparative Perspective: Politics, Society, Cultures’. It follows the model of established ‘Russian Studies’ programmes in the US and Europe. So why is there a ‘Russian Studies’ track within a PPE-style programme? The answer is obvious: any meaningful understanding of contemporary Russian reality requires interdisciplinary approaches to research Russian history, society, politics, economy, culture, etc. In other words, this track is a reasonable and inevitable continuation and application of the PPE approach to a highly complex object of study – Russia. However, the curriculum of this track has been designed by experienced Russian academics with an eye on the practical benefits of professional expertise in Russia coupled with a strong background in political science and other related scientific disciplines.
What are the target groups of the Programme?
The ‘Politics. Economics. Philosophy’ Master’s Programme is designed for individuals who are not fully satisfied with either the narrow undergraduate specialization or the lack of rigorous intellectual training and who are ready to study hard to create a better future – for themselves and their respective communities. The Programme welcomes undergraduates with a solid background in quantitative methods (mathematics, econometrics, computer modelling, etc.) who wish to apply them to the most pressing social and economic problems. The Programme welcomes graduates of the humanities faculties concerned with controversies in contemporary social science and worried about the gaps in their education to deal with real-life issues.
Aspiration to strengthen personal intellectual outlook and capacity, to confront uncomfortable ideas, appetite for acquiring additional skills, determination to master new professional and career tracks are among a few universal requirements for the Programme’s prospective students.
Advantages of the Programme and Career Opportunities
It is believed that PPE undergraduate programmes have been producing generalists instead of specialists. As ‘Politics. Economics. Philosophy’ Master’s Programme welcomes prospective students with different educational backgrounds, ‘generalist’ usually go through rigirious social research training, and ‘specialists’ can become familiar with new disciplinary directions and analytical frameworks and may become more sensitive to ethical issues. As a result, students master tools that address not only standard tasks characteristic of most social science programmes, but also the approaches applied in goal-setting activities, implying analyses of values and harmonizing interests in social and economic classes or groups.
The most immediate field to apply graduates’ skills is political expertise and organization: analytical support of decision-making in governmental bodies, political parties, NGOs and businesses. Other options include think tanks and research centers, especially those focused on interdisciplinary problems of institutional reforms and social policy. The double and triple training of the graduates allows them to prepare and initiate strategic decisions and take leading functions in their implementation, thus claiming for key positions where joint competencies from politics, economics and philosophy are most relevant.
Our graduates also go on regularly to prestigious PhD programs in major European and American universities. When choosing an academic career, PEP graduates have a comparative advantage in the research fields at the intersection of sciences. It is these very fields from which new scientific ideas usually originate and where the most pressing problems of contemporary societies can be reasonably tackled and resolved.
The advantages listed above apply equally to both tracks of the Programme. For the ‘Russian Studies’ style track, there are some extra benefits. Students of the track will study Russia in Russia’s capital and at the country’s leading university (ranked among the top 100 universities in the ‘Politics and International Studies’ category in the QS World University Rankings by Subject); will cooperate with many of the leading Russian studies researchers, including opportunities to join research teams of well-known academics both in Russia and abroad; will benefit from the programme’s comparative approach to research, which combines materials on Russian politics and society with interregional (e.g., Post-Soviet) and global trends.
About the PPE Programmes
The first ‘Philosophy, Politics, Economics’(PPE) programme at the undergraduate level was introduced at Oxford in the 1920s as an updated alternative of classical educational programmes called ‘the Classics’ or ‘the Greats’, which had been well known for their emphasis on ancient history, classical philosophy and languages. The PPE programme was presented as ‘Modern Classics’, or ‘the Modern Greats’, and was initially intended for young people seeking to enter the public service. For them, ‘the Classics’ were considered obsolete and unable to deliver the knowledge and skills necessary for public service in a modern state.
Oxford’s PPEs became an important source for replenishing the British and international political elites. Among their notable graduates are former Prime Ministers of the United Kingdom Harold Wilson, Edward Heath, and David Cameron; outstanding political and military leaders from other countries, including Benazir Bhutto, Solomon Bandaranaike, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Wesley Clark, Tony Abbott, Ed Milliband, Imran Khan; as well as famous social thinkers, including Isaiah Berlin (held ‘the Classics’ and ‘the New Classics’ degrees), Roy Bhaskar, Guido Calabresi, and many influential journalists and business leaders.
Following the Oxford model, many universities in the UK launched their own PPE programmes (York, Warwick, Manchester, Lancaster, Durham etc.). Likewise, some prestigious US universities, such as Yale (‘Ethics, Politics and Economics’), Carnegie Mellon and others did the same. In recent years, this trend has spread to continental Europe, especially Germany (Hamburg, Witten, Konstanz, etc.), Italy (LUISS, Rome), and elsewhere: China, Japan, Australia, South Africa, Israel, Turkey, etc.
In the UK, Master’s programmes of the PPE type are currently offered at the London School of Economics and the University College London, as well as in the Universities of York, Essex, Edinburgh; in Germany – at Witten/Herdecke University (North Rhine-Westphalia) and Bayreuth University (Bavaria); in the Netherlands at Erasmus (Rotterdam) and Leiden Universities; and in Switzerland at Bern and Basel Universities.
PPE programmes provide advanced training in the core disciplines of political science, economics and philosophy, enriching opportunities for its graduates to choose educational and professional tracks in the future and preparing them for jobs requiring a broad outlook and the ability to work in an interdisciplinary environment. The qualities and skills of PPE graduates are much needed in such fields as political and socio-economic forecasting, analytical support for decision-making, institutional design, assessment of new social phenomena in emerging knowledge-based societies and new trends in the social sciences.