PPE students have expressed anger this week after the unexpected announcement of changes to their course.
From next year, core final honour school topics in Economics will be divided into three exam papers instead of the current two, limiting the number of optional subjects students can take.
One PPE student from Balliol said that the optional papers are “infinitely more interesting” than the core subjects and claimed that students resent “not having been consulted”.
However, Dr Nicholas Owen, Chair of the PPE Committee (which made the decision) said: “The changes were discussed in the Undergraduate Joint Consultative Committee for Economics, and approved by the PPE Committee, on which there is student representation from all three subjects.”
Margaret Stevens, Director of Undergraduate Studies at the Department of Economics, added: “We believe that the student experience will be much improved as a result of the changes. They also have very strong support from economics tutors.”
Several people complained about the timing of the decision. One student said: “I received the email a day before I had to state my preliminary choice on which subject to drop next year.”
Max Goplerud, in his first year at Balliol, commented: “I think there is something quite problematic about the fact that it affects our year, even though we had no idea of this when we applied, or during the first year.”
Goplerud also claimed the changes could have an impact on their choice of which discipline to give up in their second year. He said: “Some of us had already decided which branch to drop and chose options this year to match up with that. Someone who was going to economics (but now won’t because of the changes) would probably have done different philosophy topics – or at least been more diligent and interested in doing them.”
Leo Henghes, of New College, added: “The changes made my decision to drop economics easy.”
However, other students have said the changes will not have such a big impact. Sarah Edwards, a PPE student at Balliol College, said: “It’s a real shame that we now get one less option, especially when I was at least partly drawn to PPE because of the breadth and choice, but it won’t stop me from continuing with economics.”
Dr Owen explained that the change was meant to “give students the space to study the core subjects as three papers rather than two. This was partly in response to student feeling that the course was too crowded.”
A first year PPE-ist at Wadham said: “Of course, it might put people off economics if they think they get less choice than the other two branches. On the other hand, it would put people off if they thought there was more work in economics than in the others.”
Goplerud said that he “would much rather be able to go into more depth on one [optional] topic than go further into the core papers and arguably have less work.”
Edwards also said: “From my point of view the best next step would be to make PPE a four year course, so you can cover the important base work which is necessary, without losing the time to study options you find personally interesting. After all, the huge choice that the degree offers has always been a major attraction.”