CH, Degrees and PPE (not the Coronavirus sort)

Anything that doesn't fit anywhere else, but that's still CH related.

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rockfreak
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CH, Degrees and PPE (not the Coronavirus sort)

Post by rockfreak »

I'm currently reading Robert Verkaik's fascinating book 'Posh Boys - How English Public Schools Ruin Britain'. In it he details how many people have kicked off their lucrative public careers by getting a degree in the proverbial Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxbridge or some similar grand ancient university. It really is a sobering list. Interesting too because I've read someone else who went on to make a name for themselves saying what crap the Economics bit was at Oxford. Anyway, it seems particularly to be the way for ambitious, well-connected Yahs to get a degree when they can't think of anything more useful to study, going on into politics, the City or the media.

It occurred to me that CH was probably a bit lacking in PPE graduates since it has fewer Yahs - although there were a number posing as such when I was there. So what is the general tendency of successful graduates from CH? Has there been a discernible bias in any one discipline?
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Re: CH, Degrees and PPE (not the Coronavirus sort)

Post by MrEd »

PPE is the original 'Media Studies' degree, it's just got Oxford's branding. If the author of the book you cite has a theory that rewrites economic science I'd be happy to see an elaboration of it. Does he deny that taxation and regulation, the soundness of money, private property and the rule of law (or lack of it) play any part in economic development?

Can you tell me what you mean by 'the City'? Since I believe 500,000 people or so work there, there seems to be a lot to cover. If you want fewer jobs in the media going to PPE graduates (how many graduates are there a year in this degree btw? They must be awfully busy for such a bunch of shysters)

Looking at the Prime Ministers in my lifetime, degrees, from the top of my head, sorry if I am mistaken:

Harold Wilson (Oxford, Economics?)
Ted Heath (no idea, Masters in Saddam and Deng Studies at SOAS after Oxford)
Jim Callaghan (was he a graduate, he was ex-RN)
Margaret Thatcher (Chemistry, then law, called to the Bar)
John Major (failed bus conductor, successful banker)
Tony Blair (law, called to the Bar)
Gordon Brown (history?, rather prodigious)
David Cameron (PPE)
Theresa May (Oxford, Geography?)
Boris Johnson (Classics or whatever they call it, Oxford)

i can't see a pattern, except that public spending never went down.
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Re: CH, Degrees and PPE (not the Coronavirus sort)

Post by Fitzsadou »

An original, and most prestigious, Oxford degree used to be Lit Hum or Mods* and Greats (Ancient Greek and Latin Literature followed by Ancient Greek and Latin History and [I think mainly Greek, but also some more modern] Philosophy). It has been a four year BA course, even in the days when almost all other Oxford bachelor degrees were three year courses.

PPE was introduced** in the 1920s and known as ‘Modern Greats.’ In the 50s (and I suspect today also) PPE allowed its students an option to specialise in P, P or E (to the extent of studying up to about 70% of the degree in the favoured subject.


Footnotes from Wikipedia

* ”Moderations in Classics has been called one of the hardest examinations in the world.” (In my opinion the part 1 of a French medical degree must be worse, for it has a pass rate of near 20%, but there are complicated reasons for this.)

** " … because it was thought as a more modern alternative for those entering the civil service” Is this a media studies degree?
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Re: CH, Degrees and PPE (not the Coronavirus sort)

Post by Katharine »

In my day*, several subjects had Mods as their First Public Exam, which just meant you received a classification in it, as I did in Maths. Most Mods were at the end of your first year. Other subjects had Prelims (presumably Preliminary Exams), History had theirs at the end of their first term, many others after two terms.

The then current comment about Lit Hum Mods was that the only comparable exam in the world was entrance to the Imperial Chinese Civil Service! I doubt if anyone had personal experience of both!

These are personal memories from my time at LMH 1966-69
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Re: CH, Degrees and PPE (not the Coronavirus sort)

Post by sejintenej »

Fitzsadou wrote: Fri Jun 12, 2020 7:19 am
* ”Moderations in Classics has been called one of the hardest examinations in the world.” (In my opinion the part 1 of a French medical degree must be worse, for it has a pass rate of near 20%, but there are complicated reasons for this.)
And not just their medical!
However, think of the IOB exams when I had to take them. I can't remember which but either Finance of Foreign Trade or the law exam sometimes had passes of under 10%. The finance one was a right so-and-so because you had to do multiple complex maths calculations but calculators and slide rules were forbidden. Compulsory Q 1 used to take virtually the whole of the time allotted for the entire paper.
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Re: CH, Degrees and PPE (not the Coronavirus sort)

Post by loringa »

Fitzsadou wrote: Fri Jun 12, 2020 7:19 am
PPE was introduced** in the 1920s and known as ‘Modern Greats.’ In the 50s (and I suspect today also) PPE allowed its students an option to specialise in P, P or E (to the extent of studying up to about 70% of the degree in the favoured subject.

Footnotes from Wikipedia

** " … because it was thought as a more modern alternative for those entering the civil service” Is this a media studies degree?
Whilst, in my somewhat limited experience, Oxford scholars have tended to look down upon PPE, I suspect this was largely due to its being seen as 'new-fangled' rather than down to any lack of intellectual rigour in either its teaching or its examination. It may also have been seen as tending towards the vocational with the inclusion of economics which may have had some of the more traditionalist dons choking on their Earl Grey in the senior common room (or wherever elderly dons mess at Oxford). Harold Wilson read PPE and, according to JDS, achieved the best results in the subject ever awarded (funny what sticks from one's education). 'Sunny Jim' Callaghan did not go to University as his family couldn't afford it although I believe he achieved the necessary standard in whatever the equivalent of A Levels were in the late 1920s; he passed the Civil Service and became a tax inspector and Trades Union official. He gave up his reserved occupation to serve in the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve and soon gained his commission, ending the war as a Lieutenant (although I think he was subsequently promoted to Lieutenant Commander on the Retired List). Whatever one may think of Callaghan as PM or as the holder of the other 3 great offices of state, he always struck me as a thoroughly decent bloke and was highly successful at building unity in the Labour Party.

So, totally agree with Fitzadou's question about comparing PPE with Media Studies. As for whether Media Studies as a degree subject has its merits, that's a subject for another topic ...
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Re: CH, Degrees and PPE (not the Coronavirus sort)

Post by rockfreak »

I'm not sure how media studies (as opposed to say a journalism course) stacks up academically. Many moons ago local papers were in the habit of taking on bright sixth formers rather than uni graduates because, it was said, they were keener and happy to start at the bottom. I blundered into magazine journalism through a side door due to contacts I already had. I think that these days you have to have a degree just to get an internship (unpaid work).

I raise the quibble about economics degrees and politicians partly because of David Cameron (double first at Oxford I believe). He failed to heed the advice of a more eminent old Etonian, John Maynard Keynes, who would have told him that you wait until the economy is recovered before you start imposing your austerity, you then phase it in gradually, and you phase it in on those who can afford to pay rather than those who can't. This is why an economy that had already started to recover under Alastair Darling's stewardship went back into the doldrums again in 2010 and has been bumping along at well below normal growth rates ever since, even with the bank base rate at 0.5% for several years. And of course austerity shouldn't be confused with rationing, as per 1945. Rationing is the sharing out of scarce resources. The Cambridge economist Ha Joon Chang who has written several crossover books on the subject believes that the basic principles of economics are common sense, and of course it helps to be of an age when you have some frame of reference on parties, chancellors and economic cycles.
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Re: CH, Degrees and PPE (not the Coronavirus sort)

Post by rockfreak »

Well come on guys (and one gal - well done Katharine for hanging in there after all this time). How does CH split up as regards degrees? Is there a pattern here? Arts, Literature, Humanities, Classics, Modern Languages or the STEM disciplines? This was my original question. I had hoped that CH was a bit less like the posh schools where Oxford's signature degree course got you on track for making lots of money, prestige, fame (cont P94...).
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Re: CH, Degrees and PPE (not the Coronavirus sort)

Post by LongGone »

Well, since I went even less than red brick (Prifysgol Bangor), I’m not sure CH would even tally mine. For what it’s worth my bachelors was in Zoology/Oceanography. After emigrating to Saskatchewan the Oceanography became somewhat moot and all my later work was in Molecular genetics/Cell biology.
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Re: CH, Degrees and PPE (not the Coronavirus sort)

Post by sejintenej »

rockfreak wrote: Fri Jun 12, 2020 3:50 pm I'm not sure how media studies (as opposed to say a journalism course) stacks up academically. Many moons ago local papers were in the habit of taking on bright sixth formers rather than uni graduates because, it was said, they were keener and happy to start at the bottom.
As an employer I strongly preferred brighter ex-school so that they could start at the bottom and, whilst progessing over the years, they would see how to handle problems which occurred only infrequently. they ended up knowing the business really thoroughly.
By contrast I had a graduate foisted on me by Head Office (family connections) and he was such a danger and caused so many problems because "I have a degree therefore I am right" he was eventually sacked. His degree was not in common sense, not following the rules nor even language - I don't even know what it was.
I blundered into magazine journalism through a side door due to contacts I already had. I think that these days you have to have a degree just to get an internship (unpaid work).
My daughter did many years unpaid work at the V and A; despite getting a history MA (and several other diplomas etc.) she was not sufficiently educated to be paid by the V and A!
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Re: CH, Degrees and PPE (not the Coronavirus sort)

Post by MrEd »

How does CH split up as regards degrees? Is there a pattern here? Arts, Literature, Humanities, Classics, Modern Languages or the STEM disciplines?
From my time, mid-1980s, I certainly felt that CH regarded the science A-levels (and science degrees) as rather unworthy, despite there being two science blocks. I seem to recall the bias (in the least pejorative sense, as in 'orientation') being towards Arts and Language A-levels, but there's nothing concrete other than a teenager's perception. We had around 15 doing A-level Physics with the excellent Dr Hackett, fond of riding his bicycle around without holding the handlebars and one day he told us how on getting home he had realised that both his hands were full of papers and he couldn't brake, and he buried himself in his hedge. I imagined the scene with him calmly calculating the g force, kinetic energy, momentum and anything else Newtonian as action resulted in reaction.

After doing a biological sciences degree many moons ago, I recently enquired about an M.Sc in Marine Biology at Aberystwyth, I have to say that I was delighted to have been offered a plaice.
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Re: CH, Degrees and PPE (not the Coronavirus sort)

Post by LongGone »

[quote=MrEd post_id=148130 time=1592167274 user_id=205After doing a biological sciences degree many moons ago, I recently enquired about an M.Sc in Marine Biology at Aberystwyth, I have to say that I was delighted to have been offered a plaice.
[/quote]

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Re: CH, Degrees and PPE (not the Coronavirus sort)

Post by Ajarn Philip »

MrEd wrote: Sun Jun 14, 2020 9:41 pm ..., I recently enquired about an M.Sc in Marine Biology at Aberystwyth, I have to say that I was delighted to have been offered a plaice.
:lol: :lol: :lol:
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Re: CH, Degrees and PPE (not the Coronavirus sort)

Post by rockfreak »

Mr Ed has actually struck on the broader point that I was trying to make. I note that I put the STEM subjects at the end of my list. Perhaps in Germany for instance they would been at the front. I'm not trying to decry PPE, ancient languages, classics, HUMS (as they're quaintly called these days) - merely to ask whether we as a country are not top heavy with these subjects and whether perhaps this is a leftover from the old days of the boarding schools. It's good that we should encourage abstract thought. It's good that we should try and stay in touch with ancient civilisations (as we only just did in the so-called dark ages). It's good that we should research the history of politics, philosophy and economics going back perhaps to the Ancient Greeks. But unless people are going to teach, research or write about these subjects, how much do the rest of us need to know about them?

Wouldn't sixth form at a decent school (especially with teachers like Chern) or maybe a one-year top-up course at a uni (or even an old-fashioned style polytechnic) be enough for most people? It seems to me that the subjects favoured in the boarding schools, even today, are still harking back to the old days when certain degrees gave you the patina of being a "gentleman" as opposed to someone who actually did anything useful. And no comment about music journalism please because I've never made any claim to have done anything useful.
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Re: CH, Degrees and PPE (not the Coronavirus sort)

Post by sejintenej »

rockfreak wrote: Tue Jun 16, 2020 7:55 pm
Wouldn't sixth form at a decent school (especially with teachers like Chern) or maybe a one-year top-up course at a uni (or even an old-fashioned style polytechnic) be enough for most people? It seems to me that the subjects favoured in the boarding schools, even today, are still harking back to the old days when certain degrees gave you the patina of being a "gentleman" as opposed to someone who actually did anything useful. And no comment about music journalism please because I've never made any claim to have done anything useful.
I can certainly see your point about ancient languages etc though a form of Latin is still used in medicine. In today's world languages are essential to back up import, export and the legal professions and business with Chinese and Spanish being most important of those. Geography;; well, unless you are going to be a specialist then I reckon what we did in primary school and the Prep would be completely sufficient. History - apart from not repeating past mistakes, what's the use of all the detail? As for the more practical subjects like physics, chemistry and biology and what we referred to as "manual" IMHO the big problem is the courts. We used to carry out experiments etc. but now with 'elf and safety those have to be dome by the teacher or preferably not done at all.
Although I have certain reservations there is something to be said for the french system where they actually have more practical schools in many subjects. The standard is remarkably high and when (at last) they start work then they know what they are doing and get on with the job without tea breaks. This is achieved because the apprentiship is carried out primarily in the schools. It gets a bit far sometimes - a sister to my adopted niece specialised at school at rugby (the game) in place of almost everything else from the age of 14. (She went on to captain "Les Bleus" youth team). Far too specialised for later life IMHO.
The amount of bad Covid-19 jokes being circulated is starting to reach alarming figures
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