Why Study Economics?
For many the appeal of Economics is that the issues it studies play an important role in almost every aspect of life, with local, national and international events having both economic causes and consequences. Thus to study Economics is to study the workings of contemporary society, with new and unexpected phenomena emerging all the time.
Another reason that makes Economics such an attractive field is that it exposes students to many different forms of intellectual enquiry and, in turn, demands a variety of skills. Students may find themselves writing an essay one day, while having to solve a set of maths problems the following day and to assess various claims using a statistical model of the economy the day after. Closely related to that is the importance of the ability to draw on a wide range of disciplines (including not just Maths, History and Philosophy, but also Statistics, Politics, Geography and others).
Finally, in terms of careers, an Economics degree is usually considered to open many doors and to close very few.
The Economics Tripos
Economics at Cambridge is a three-year course (called the Economics Tripos). In the first year of the Economics Tripos (referred to as Part I) all students study five subjects (also called ‘papers’): Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, Quantitative Methods (Mathematics and Statistics), Political and Sociological Aspects of Economics, and British Economic History. In the second year of the Tripos (Part IIA) all students take three compulsory subjects: Microeconomics, Macroeconomics and Econometrics (the application of statistical methods to economic data). In addition, all students must choose one optional paper from among Development Economics, Labour, Mathematics, International Relations, Politics or Sociology. In the third and final year of the Tripos (Part IIB) all students take two compulsory subjects, Microeconomics and Macroeconomics, and choose two optional papers from a wide range of specialist subjects, which are offered each year. In addition, all third-year students must write a dissertation on an economic topic of their own choice. More detailed information about the courses and the Tripos is available on the Faculty website (http://www.econ.cam.ac.uk/index.html).
The Teaching and The Fellows
The teaching for the Economic Tripos is shared between the Economics Faculty and the College. For each course, the Economics Faculty organises the lectures and the examinations for all the students enrolled in the Tripos. In the College, the Director of Studies in Economics is responsible for organising the small-group teaching, called ‘supervisions’, which supplements the lectures. During these typically highly interactive supervisions, the supervisor covers the supervision assignment (consisting of problems and/or essays, most of which are suggested by the Faculty lecturer), gives feedback on the supervision work you turned in, and answers any questions you may have about the material.
There are two Fellows and one Bye-Fellow in Economics at Homerton:
- Dr Juliana Cavalcanti, Director of Studies, Macroeconomics and Labour
- Dr Pauline Goyal-Rutsaert, Director of Studies. Microeconomics and Industry.
- Dario Palumbo, Bye Fellow.
In order to ensure high quality supervisions for all courses, a system of supervision swaps has been set up with other colleges. For some courses therefore supervisions will be given by fellows from other colleges, usually experts in the relevant field. A number of supervisions for third year students are organised through the Faculty and given by Teaching Fellows, who are often Ph.D. students in Economics.
Homerton accepts on average 8 to 10 undergraduate students in Economics per year, which forms a community of about 25 to 30 undergraduate students across the three years. Students come from various educational background and countries. For example, at the moment, alongside UK nationals, we have students from Germany, Cyprus, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam and China.
After graduating, many students start working in the private sector, the public sector or in international organisations. Some choose to continue studying Economics for a MA/MPhil or Ph.D. degree.
- Q&A with students, who have now all successfully graduated.
- Impressions about Economics at Homerton by recent graduates.
Who Can Study Economics?
Both Arts and Science subjects provide a suitable school background to Economics at University and there is not one, ideal, combination of subjects you should be studying. While most students have taken Economics at school, this is not a requirement.
However a strong background in basic mathematical and statistical methods is a core requirement for admission into Cambridge's economics program. This is because economists have found that mathematical modelling provides a useful tool in analysing economic issues and behaviours, especially when there are trade-offs involved. Mathematical approaches are used to characterise the behaviours of individuals, firms, and countries. Mathematical techniques are relied upon to analyse data and test hypotheses relating to these behaviours and their outcomes.
Fluency in mathematics can be achieved by doing very well in an A-level course in Mathematics or its equivalent (such as Higher level Mathematics in the International Baccalaureate). If as an applicant doing A-levels you can take Further Mathematics as well, we encourage you to do.
Alongside A-level students, we welcome applications from students enrolled in other programs. In recent years, we have admitted a number of people who studied the International Baccalaureate, German Abitur and many other qualifications.
What We Are Looking For
What we are looking for are students who have excellent analytical and communication skills and are ready to apply them in various ways to economic issues. The students should be interested in learning how to investigate and analyse complex economic issues, combining mathematical and verbal approaches. They should be committed to supplementing the lectures by in-depth independent study and they should be keen to excel in their supervision and project work. Good organisation skills are essential to manage the short but intense term as they help deal with the significant amount of individual work.
In addition to nominating Cambridge as one of your selected universities on the UCAS application form, most also choose a College of preference (the alternative is to submit an Open Application). We hope you will think about applying to Homerton. Many criteria can be used for choosing a College of preference, including such factors as the size of the student body, location, architecture and accommodation, and academic, musical or sporting opportunities. If you are able to visit Cambridge (preferably on a College Open Day) you may get a better idea of the location, atmosphere and facilities of various Colleges. You could also consider attending a summer course run by organisations such as the Sutton Trust School Economic Programme. Homerton College offers its own Summer School for a wide variety of subjects including Economics.
Interviews And Selection
All applicants are required to take a pre-interview written assessment for Economics at an authorised centre local to them (for a lot of applicants, this will be their school/college). This pre-interview written assessment consists of a problem-solving/maths MCQs part (80 minutes) and of a data response/comprehension part (40 minutes). Please click on the link below for more details about the format of the assessment as well as for sample questions.
Economics Admissions Assessment Specification
To take the pre-interview assessment the applicants must be registered in advance (separately to their UCAS application) by the authorised local assessment centre. Please note that applicants are not able to register themselves; see the pre-interview written assessments page for more information about assessment centres, registration deadline and date of the assessment.
The performance in the pre-interview assessment will be used, alongside the UCAS application, to select candidates for the interviews. Short-listed applicants are normally interviewed early December by Homerton Fellows in Economics. The aim of the interviews is to try to determine applicants' potential to benefit from the Economics Tripos. There are usually two interviews, one involving economics and more general questions, and another focusing on quantitative methods and problem solving. The interviews have no fixed format; they typically involve engaging in a series of questions and answers, like what happens in a supervision session. Each interview usually lasts about 30 minutes.
The College normally makes a conditional offer to successful applicants, in which case you would have a guaranteed place provided you achieve your target; the precise target conditions are assessed individually. Entry requirements are likely to be minimum A*A*A at A-level (including Mathematics), or comparable grades in other qualifications. Although there are exceptions, for students who take A-levels Homerton typically asks for A* in Mathematics (though usually not in Further Mathematics).
If you are able to come to a College Open Day, we will be glad to tell you more about the College and the course in person. If you are not able to come, we will be happy to answer any queries you may have that are not covered by the normal literature. Please address any such enquiries to the Admissions Tutor, Homerton College, Cambridge, CB2 8PH, or by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may also be interested in viewing the video on studying economics at Cambridge University on the following webpage:
Also the following video from the American Economic Association may be informative: