History of PPE

The PPE degree was founded at Oxford just over 100 years ago, in 1920. It was designed to supersede Greats (Literae Humaniores) as the first choice for students preparing for public office and service. Like Greats, PPE would include the discipline of philosophy, but the classicists’ study of ancient civilisation was to be replaced in the PPE curriculum by the study of the principles of modern society. Within a few decades, PPE became one of the largest Honour Schools in the arts and humanities. Today there are PPE courses on offer at over a hundred universities worldwide. You can read more about the history and origins of PPE in this report written on the hundredth anniversary of the degree. You can also watch a panel event that took place to mark the centenary, featuring PPE alumni Evan Davis, Pete Buttigieg, Monica Ali, and Mary Ann Sieghart: see the Humanities Division website for details.

PPE Centenary Professorship

A PPE Centenary Visiting Professorship was created to mark the hundredth anniversary of the degree. This post was made possible thanks to an anonymous gift from an Old Member of The Queen’s College and a friend of University College. The first Centenary Visiting Professor in PPE is Professor Mathias Thoenig from the School of Business and Economics (HEC) at the University of Lausanne. Professor Thoenig joins the University for the academic year 2022-23. A recording of Professor Thoenig’s PPE Centenary lecture, ‘The Power of Narratives in Nation Building’, is available on the Economics Department website, along with a schedule of his lecture series in Hilary and Trinity Term 2023. Professor Christina L. Davis will take over in 2024-25 as the second Centenary Visiting Professor in PPE. Professor Davis will be visiting from the Department of Government at Harvard University. This Visiting Professorship rotates annually between the two colleges and the individual subjects that make up the PPE course. The aim of the Professorship is to generate and inspire thinking across disciplinary boundaries and at undergraduate, postgraduate, and Faculty level. You can read more about the Visiting Professorship on the Economics Department website.

Women in PPE Portraits Exhibition

Oxford began admitting women to its degrees in 1920, the same year that PPE was introduced. Over the past century, women involved in the PPE degree at Oxford have been responsible for some of the most important contributions to its component disciplines. Celebrating that century of women in PPE, this exhibition presents portraits of some of those who carry the PPE torch today at Oxford. A group of world-leading academics from all three disciplines, their research and teaching illuminate contemporary PPE and provide inspiration to its students. Each academic has offered some reflections on the significance of PPE, which you can find printed alongside their portraits. Taken together, these paint an exciting picture of the ongoing relevance and intellectual depth of the “modern Greats”. You can find the exhibition on the First Floor of the Manor Road Building, near the Lecture Theatre. You can view the portraits online here.