Human Social and Political Sciences

Study mode:On campus Study type:Full-time Languages: English
Foreign:$ 23.9 k / Year(s) Deadline: Oct 15, 2024
6 place StudyQA ranking:4229 Duration:3 years

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Human, Social, and Political Sciences encompasses politics and international relations, social anthropology and sociology. You can specialise in one or two of these but the flexibility of the course also enables exploration of a variety of subjects first if preferred.

Human, Social, and Political Sciences (HSPS) at Cambridge can be tailored from the start. This means it’s suited both to those with specific subject interests and to those looking for a multidisciplinary degree. 

The course comprises three core disciplines, taught by globally respected departments:

  • Politics and International Relations explores politics within and between countries, covering issues from human rights and democracy, to financial crises and international conflict.
  • Social anthropologists address ‘what it is to be human’ by studying social and cultural diversity – how people live, think and relate to each other around the world.
  • Sociology focuses on the nature of modern societies and the processes that shape social life, by examining social institutions and topics such as power and inequality.Depending on the subject(s) you choose, there may  be options to take individual papers in the other HSPS subjects or from other courses as well.

Why choose Cambridge?

Cambridge offers a world-class undergraduate education, and excellent teachers and learning facilities. The Faculty has two libraries and superb teaching resources including the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, computing facilities, multimedia-equipped teaching rooms, purpose-built laboratories and a rare collection of ethnographic films.

After Cambridge

The analytical and critical skills, intellectual versatility, multicultural sensitivity and international outlook you develop through this course are widely sought after by employers. Recent graduates have pursued careers in research (both academic and policy research), the Civil Service (including the Foreign Office), journalism, management consultancy, museums, conservation and heritage management, national and international NGOs and development agencies, the Law, teaching, publishing, health management, and public relations.

Teaching is provided through lectures, supervisions and seminars. Some subjects also include practical or laboratory classes and fieldwork. In the first year, you have around eight lectures and one or two supervisions a week.

Assessment takes place at the end of each year. In most cases, this takes the form of a three-hour written examination for each paper, though some are assessed by coursework. In the final year, you can choose to substitute one paper for a dissertation of up to 10,000 words.

Year 1 (Part I)

In the first year, you take four subjects. At least three must be from the core subject areas:

  • Politics
  • International Relations
  • Sociology
  • Social anthropology

Your fourth paper can either be another from the core subjects or chosen from the following additional subjects:

  • Archaeology
  • Biological Anthropology
  • Psychology

Years 2 and 3 (Part II)

In your second and third years, you can choose one of the following three single-subject tracks:

  • Politics and International Relations
  • Sociology
  • Social Anthropology

Alternatively, you can take one of three two-subject tracks (see details on the course website):

  • Politics and Sociology
  • Sociology and Social Anthropology
  • Social Anthropology and Politics

Please note that it’s not possible to change track between Years 2 and 3, unless switching from a two-subject track to one of the subjects within it. Some final year papers require you to have taken a relevant Year 2 paper.

Single-subject tracks

Politics and International Relations

Politics and International Relations engages with the nature of the political world within countries and between them. It asks questions about how and why national and international politics have developed as they have, and how people have imagined that they might be changed. It explores issues from human rights and democracy, to financial crises and international conflict.

Year 2

You take Comparative Politics, International Relations II, and History of Political Thought plus one of the following options:

  • another paper in politics and international relations
  • two 5,000 word essays on an aspect of politics and/or international relations
  • a paper on statistics
  • a paper offered in another HSPS subject
  • a paper offered in Archaeology, History or History and Philosophy of Science

Year 3

You study a general paper in politics and international relations, plus:

  • three optional papers from a range of politics and international relations subjects, one of which can be a dissertation, or
  • two optional politics and international relations papers, plus one chosen from the other HSPS subjects or a paper from a selection offered in the Archaeology and History courses

Social Anthropology

Anthropologists address ‘what it is to be human’ by doing in-depth participatory studies (fieldwork) on the amazingly varied ways people live, think and relate to each other in every part of the modern world: from love and intimacy in online worlds, to how Amazonian communities respond to deforestation; how globalisation affects factory workers in India, to experiences of citizenship and democracy in African cities.

Year 2

You take the following three papers:

  • Comparative Social Analysis
  • The Anthropology of an Ethnographic Area
  • Anthropological Theory and Methods

Your fourth is an optional paper.

Year 3

You take two core papers in advanced social anthropology:

  • Thought, Belief and Ethics
  • Political Economy and Social Transformation

And either two optional papers, or one optional paper and write a dissertation (which can be based on your own ethnographic fieldwork).

Optional paper topics in both Years 2 and 3 may include the anthropology of city life, gender, colonialism, law, development, medicine and health, and media and visual culture; as well as choices from the other HSPS subjects, and from Archaeology(archaeology and biological anthropology).


Sociology focuses on the nature of modern societies, how they’re organised and how they’re changing. It examines social institutions and the changing forms of power and inequality among other topics, and develops theories and conducts empirical research in order to deepen our understanding of the processes that shape social life.

Year 2

You take the following three papers:

  • Social Theory
  • Modern Societies II: Global Transformations
  • Concepts and Arguments in Sociology or a paper in statistics and research methods

Your fourth paper can be in sociology or can be chosen from a range available in the other HSPS subjects, Archaeology, History, History and Philosophy of Science, or Psychological and Behavioural Sciences (PBS).

Year 3

  • You choose three papers from several sociology and social theory papers (eg media and culture, gender, war and revolution, modern capitalism, health and medicine, education, criminology). If you wish, you can offer a dissertation in place of one of these.
  • Your final paper can be another in sociology, one from another HSPS subject, or one from the Archaeology or Psychological and Behavioural Sciences courses.
  • All applicants to the University of Cambridge must submit an application to UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service) by the relevant deadline.
  • The Attestat o (polnom) Srednem Obshchem Obrazovanii (Certificate of Secondary Education) is not considered to be suitable preparation for a competitive application to the University of Cambridge. We strongly recommend that you undertake further study if you wish to apply for an undergraduate degree. Examples of the qualifications that would be considered suitable for admission to Cambridge are A Levels, the International Baccalaureate (IB), five or more Advanced Placement (AP) courses, or possibly the first year of an undergraduate degree at a university outside the UK. We recommend that you contact the College that you wish to apply to directly for further advice and guidance.
  • IELTS – normally a minimum overall grade of 7.5, usually with 7.0 or above in each element.
  • Cambridge English: Advanced – grade A or B.
  • Cambridge English: Proficiency – grade A, B or C.

Admission assessment

All applicants are required to take the pre-interview written assessment for HSPS at an authorised centre local to them (for a lot of applicants, this will be their school/college).

Assessment format

  • Section 1: Reading Comprehension (60 minutes)
  • Section 2: Essay/text response (60 minutes)

You must be registered in advance (separately to your UCAS application) to take the assessment – the registration deadline is Sunday 15 October 2017. Your assessment centre must register you for the pre-interview assessment; you’re not able to register yourself. See the written assessments page for information about assessment centres and registration.

The pre-interview written assessment for HSPS will be taken on 2 November 2017. 

  • Cambridge Commonwealth, European and International Trust

Your living expenses may be higher than for a Home student (eg if you stay in Cambridge/the UK during vacations). The minimum resources needed in Cambridge for the year (excluding tuition and College fees) are estimated to be approximately £10,080 in 2017-18 and £10,310 in 2018-19, depending on lifestyle (you should allow for increases in future years).

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