Human, Social, and Political Sciences
Human, Social, and Political Sciences at Cambridge offers an innovative and comprehensive opportunity to investigate modern humanity from many perspectives.
The course encompasses politics and international relations, social anthropology and sociology. All applications for HSPS are treated equally, regardless of preferred specialisation in the second and third years. After the first year, students choose to focus on a particular track: politics, sociology, social anthropology, or a combination of any two. Within the HSPS degree, it is also possible to take papers in Archaeology, Biological Anthropology, Psychology, Criminology, or the History and Philosophy of Science.
The Cambridge HSPS degree is very flexible, and allows students a broad range of options across the study of Human, Social, and Political Sciences.
In the first year of the course, all students take four papers. At least three of this must be from the core subjects of Politics, Sociology, International Relations, and Social Anthropology. The fourth paper can be from another of the core subjects, or from one of Archaeology, Biological Anthropology, or Psychology.*
In years two and three, students then specialise, choosing to follow one of six tracks, either a single-subject track:
or a two-subject track:
- Politics and Sociology;
- Social Anthropology and Politics;
- Sociology and Criminology **
- Sociology and Social Anthropology.
Again, within these tracks it is possible to take papers from other subjects including Archaeology, Psychology, or the History and Philosophy of Science.
* Please note that applicants interested primarily in one of these additional subjects might alternatively be interested in applying the the single honours BA in Archaeology (for Archaeology and Biological Anthropology) or PBS (for Psychology).
** This is a new track, available for the first time in 2018-19.
At Magdalene, we aim to make five or six offers in HSPS each year, and we usually have about four applications per place.
The HSPS team at Magdalene which directs studies and teaches consists of Dr Brendan Burchell for Politics, International Relations, and Sociology, Dr Nicholas James for Social Anthropology, Dr Marissa Quie, and Dr Ali Meghji (from October 2019). They are assisted by College Teaching Officers including Dr Finbarr Livesey, Dr Simon Stoddart (Archaeology and Biological Anthropology), Dr Catherine O'Brien (Psychology), and Dr Adam Coutts (Sociology).
Magdalene College co-operates with many of the other Colleges to ensure that, where desirable, students are supervised by specialists in their chosen options. There are typically 8 lectures and 2 supervisions a week. The friendly reputation of Magdalene College is evident among the students. Co-operation between students is encouraged, and there are several social functions arranged throughout the year for all the Magdalene HSPS students.
There are no set requirements for HSPS, but A-level Mathematics is desirable at Magdalene, and some experience of the social sciences is a slight advantage. A broad range of A/AS-level subjects can be beneficial, as can the inclusion of at least one essay subject.
Typical offer conditions are A*AA at A-level or 41-42 in the IB with 7,7,6 at Higher Level.
Interviews, Written Work and Assessments
The interviews in HSPS aim to explore candidates' interests in, and knowledge of the social sciences, and their aptitude for the study of the social sciences. Candidates invited to Cambridge for interview will each have two interviews, each with two members of the College staff in HSPS subjects each interview will last about 20-25 minutes.
Candidates are asked to send two A-Level essays, or their equivalents, to be used as a basis for part of one of the interviews. Candidates are given a passage to read just before one interview. Extra-curricular activities that show a strong interest in the social sciences can be influential in decisions over admissions.
Applicants will also need to take a written assessment. The assessment for HSPS is a pre-interview assessment. This means that you will have to register to sit the assessment at an assessment centre near to you (for most applicants this will be your school or college). Registration for the pre-interview assessment is separate from your UCAS application and it is essential that you are registered by your centre before the deadline, which is 15 October 2018. The pre-interview assessments this year will take place on 31 October 2018. More information about registering for the assessment on the Pre-interview assessment webpage.
The admissions assessment for HSPS will last for two hours and consist of two parts: a comprehension section (60 minutes) and an essay/text response section (60 minutes). More details about the format of the assessment, including some sample questions, can be found here. Please note that your performance in the pre-interview assessment will not be considered in isolation, but will be taken into account alongside the other elements of your application.