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Study Human, Social, and Political Sciences at the University of Cambridge

Human, Social, and Political Sciences

Fact File

Magdalene Campus code: M
UCAS code: L000
Course duration: Three years – BA (Hons)
Typical offer: A-level: A*AA, IB: 41-42 points
Essential subjects: None
Useful subjects: Social 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 some combinations of two of these subjects, or sociology and criminology. Within the HSPS degree, it is also possible to take papers in Archaeology, Biological Anthropology, Psychology, Criminology, or the History and Philosophy of Science.


At Cambridge
At Magdalene
What we are looking for
Subject Requirements
Teaching Staff

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;
  • Social Anthropology and Religious Studies;
  • Sociology and Criminology;
  • Sociology and Social Anthropology.

Again, within these tracks it is possible to take papers from other subjects including Archaeology, Theology, Religion & Philosophy of Religion, Psychology, or the History and Philosophy of Science.

More details about the papers available and the structure of each of the optional tacks can be found here.


* Please note that applicants interested primarily in one of these additional subjects might alternatively be interested in applying to the single honours BA in Archaeology (for Archaeology and Biological Anthropology) or PBS (for Psychology).

At Magdalene, we aim to make five or six offers in HSPS each year, and in recent years we have received anywhere between five and ten applications per place.

The HSPS team at Magdalene which directs studies and teaches consists of Dr Ali Meghji, Professor Brendan Burchell, Dr Nicholas James, and Dr Marissa Quie. They are assisted by College Teaching Officers including Prof 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.

HSPS allows students to study society in innovate ways, to interrogate social and political systems, and to analyse cultural systems across the world. We are looking for students who demonstrate the analytical capabilities to engage in such academic work, while having a creative imagination to bring new ideas and theories to the table.

There are no set requirements for HSPS. A broad range of A-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 normally each have two interviews, each with two members of the College staff in HSPS subjects each interview will usually last about 20-25 minutes.

Candidates are asked to send in two A-level essays, or their equivalents, to be used as a basis for part of one of the interviews. Candidates might be 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 for HSPS at Magdalene are not required to sit a written admissions assessment.

Professor Brendan Burchell

College positions: Official Fellow

Brendan Burchell is a Professor in the Social Sciences and President of Magdalene College.

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Dr Ali Meghji

College positions: Director of Studies in Human, Social, and Political Sciences (Part I, and Part II Sociology)

Dr Ali Meghji is a Lecturer in Social Inequalities at the Department of Sociology, and Director of Studies in Human, Social, and Political Sciences (Part I, and Part II Sociology) at Magdalene College.

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Dr Marissa Quie

College positions: Director of Studies in Human, Social, and Political Sciences (Part II Politics), Joint Director of Studies in History and Politics

Dr Marissa Quie is an expert in Migration/Refugees, Peace and Conflict Studies. She is Director of Studies in Human, Social, and Political Sciences (Part II Politics) and Joint Director of Studies in History and Politics at Magdalene. Marissa is also a Fellow and Director of Studies in HSPS and History and Politics at Lucy Cavendish College. 

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Dr Nicholas James

College positions: Director of Studies in Human, Social, and Political Sciences (Part II Social Anthropology)

Dr Nicholas James is Director of Studies in Human, Social, and Political Sciences (Part II Social Anthropology). His research interests range from East Anglia to eastern India.

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