PPE at Oxford
UCAS Personal Statement
Studying the relationship between parliament and the government led me to read a blog post on Oxpol on the impact of Brexit on this balance of power between the executive and the legislature. Fleming and Zubek convincingly argued that it was the existing institutions and how they have changed in recent years, rather than Brexit itself, that has driven the government’s decreasing dominance over parliament. From the well-structured argument, I was able to gain a different perspective on the impact of the 2011 Fixed Term Parliaments Act, and its facilitation of Tory dissent in the 2018 meaningful votes. I appreciate the argument that, despite many claiming that UK politics is in crisis, Fleming’s detailed analysis looks at the long term, and at arguably more prominent causes.
Through my EPQ I have been researching the powers of the US President, and how they are restricted by the Constitution. In analysing the many instances of the last three Presidents acting ultra vires, I discovered a direct parallel between Donald Trump’s shut down of Congress following their refusal to provide funding for a border wall and Johnson’s recent 5-week proroguing of parliament.
Discussions with my peers over the extent of free speech encouraged me to read John Stewart Mill’s ‘On Liberty’, which sparked my interest in Political Philosophy. I found Mill’s argument that freedom of discussion is crucial in developing society into a ‘marketplace of ideas’ very interesting. In a meeting of my college’s feminist society, I was intrigued by the debate on freedom of speech – whether it should be prioritised over societal order and safety. In reading ‘On Liberty’, I discovered inherent similarities in the arguments presented by my peers advocating for free speech, and Mill’s argument, in that the expression of ideas that are contrary to the general consensus are necessary to keep ideas alive, thriving and convincing. In recent years I have been following the actions of the Westboro Baptist Church in the US and was intrigued by the 2011 Supreme court verdict that allowed them to picket the funeral of a deceased soldier. This highlighted the importance of institutions in upholding liberal freedoms in the US, as opposed to the restriction of hate speech in the UK. The case also, in my view, raised problems with Mill’s advocacy of free speech, as it does not restrict hate speech other than speech likely to incite harmful action. The clear link between Mill’s 19th Century writings and crucial current tensions between the rights of different groups against free speech is what I find extremely interesting.
My study of History and Politics stimulated my interest in the study of Economics. Studying the communist economic system, the extreme use of manpower and state planning presented a stark contrast of the Liberal free market ideology in politics, as well as the intrinsic capitalism in day to day life. A podcast by The Economist completely changed my view on the nature of philanthropism, Anand Giridharadas’ argument that philanthropy is harmful to society, as it creates a culture of people believing that problems can be, and are, solved by the top 1%. In practise this problem is worsened by the philanthropists then being able to avoid taxes which consequentially reduces funding for foreign aid. Giriharadas argues that higher taxes should replace philanthropy, which I personally find appealing.
I find the interdisciplinarity of Politics, Philosophy and Economics endlessly fascinating. The conceptual nature of philosophy along with the practical applications of politics, and economics creates a foundation for analysing current issues from Brexit to climate change. The three subjects in unison provide an unparalleled view from multiple perspectives, to answer the most important questions from a local to an international level.
Behind the Statement
How did you make start on your personal statement or begin planning?
I had a lot of help from my sixth form college, and began by collecting ideas from subjects I was interested in (some that stemmed from my a level subjects) then listened to podcasts, read a book and looked at some articles (the website Oxplore is also very helpful to look at big ideas to read around)
How did you decide what experiences to include in your personal statement? What did you cut out?
I cut out almost all of my extracurriculars as the paragraph at the end of my ps I feel didn't really contribute to any of my points or support why I wanted to do PPE. I managed to fit in my attendance at femsoc but apart from that I left out extracurriculars. Because of this, my personal statement became largely about 'supercurriculars'.
How did you get these experiences in the first place?
I only wrote about the feminist society at my sixth form college, which I attended out of interest in first year, and my EPQ was offered to me in first year
How did you structure your personal statement?
I began with an introduction, and ended with a sentence or so to conclude - I felt that this was important as I was applying for joint honours. As I knew most about politics, my first and largest paragraph was about politics, then I did a small paragraph on my EPQ. Following this, I wrote about what I'd read about philosophy, and then a paragraph on economics.
How did you decide on an introduction for your personal statement?
I really just thought about why I wanted to do PPE, and because I was passionate about it through rewrites I eventually found an introduction that expressed my passion.
How did you decide on a conclusion for your personal statement?
I think I referenced the introduction, as well as just trying to tie all three subjects together.
What do you think are the strengths of your personal statement?
I hope that my passion for the subjects came across, despite maybe a lesser linguistic strength
Is there anything you wish you knew beforehand/advice?
You don't need to read a million books - I only read one!
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