Curriculum

The PPE programme in Utrecht has a duration of three years. Each year consists of four study periods with two courses each.

Below the course overview, you will find an explanation of the study programme.

Year 1
Study period 1
Comparative Democratic Institutions
This course introduces students to comparative political decision-making, focusing on political institutions and their consequences.
Major Debates in Global Economic History
This course gives an introduction to the study of economic history, looking at large debates that have been going on between the 18th and the 21st century.
Study period 2
Ethics & Public Policy
The course explains the main theories about what it is to act in a morally right or wrong way. It then links these theories to political and economic institutions.
Microeconomics
This course analyses the practice of supply and demand in the market, using the theory of consumer and firm behaviour.
Study period 3
Macroeconomics
This course discusses large-scale economics in light of economic policy. Students start with models of ‘short-term‘ and ‘long-term’ economics and apply them to the real world.
Politics & Policy-Making
The course introduces students to the role of politics in the policy-making process and addresses questions like - who makes the laws, who ensures law implementation, and who (and how) elects those with law-making power?
Study period 4
Political Philosophy
This course introduces the classical texts of Western political philosophy – such as Plato, Hobbes, and John Stuart Mill – and zooms in on their ideas of the human being, society, legitimacy, freedom, order, and justice.
The History of Politics
This course addresses the many forms of politics in the last four centuries, such as the changing forms of political organisations and institutions.
Study period 1-4
Interdisciplinary skills
This course introduces first years students to the academic research world. Which interdisciplinary skills do they need?
Professional development
This course teaches students how to act in a professional way.
Year 2
Compulsory
Study period 1: Doing Research (1): Qualitative Methods
This course explores the basics of doing qualitative research.
Study period 2: Doing Research (2): Quantitative Methods
This course explains quantitative statistics, which is useful for students in their own research.
Study period 3: Reasoning and Argumentation
This course talks about basic logic and reasoning, frequently made mistakes in logic and argumentation, and the effect of bias on reasoning.
Study period 4: Knowledge in Debate
Each week, students have a debate about methodology. These debates show differing views on the truth and justice of these approaches.
Track The Welfare State
Study period 1: The Welfare State: Past en Present
This course explores the historical origins, development, variety and political logic of welfare states. Furthermore, we will discuss the ways in which welfare state arrangements can be seen as instruments for states to govern and control their populations.
Study period 2: Principles of the Welfare State
In this course we analyze the values and principles underlying the welfare state from an economic and a philosophical perspective.
Study period 3: Capstone Project
This course will focus on researching and writing an individual research paper. The paper is interdisciplinary.
Study period 4: PPE in Society
In the final course of the Welfare track, students ‘go out into the field’ and find a way to create social impact.
Track Markets and Regulators
Study period 1: Regulatory Responses to Market Failures
The course analyses the interaction between private companies, markets, and the government. The course combines core concepts with insights from mainly economics, law, political sciences and history, but also from geography and biology.
Study period 2: The Role of Corporations
This course will focus on corporations and corporate governance. It discusses the historical emergence and changes in corporate governance, as well as the ethical and political theories surrounding the corporations, and the interplay between both.
Study period 3: Capstone Project
This course will focus on researching and writing an individual research paper. The paper is interdisciplinary.
Study period 4: PPE in Society
In the final course of the Regulation of Markets track, students ‘go out into the field’ and find a way to create social impact.
Track Sustainability
Study period 1: Governance of Sustainibility
This course looks at the plurality of actors involved in governing global sustainability and environmental protection. Governance theory states that complex problems cannot be solved by one actor alone, but have to be addressed by combinations of actors and instruments.
Study Period 2: Crafting Effective and Fair Sustainable Policies
The relation between human action and the natural environment poses complex challenges for the present and the future. From a philosophical perspective, students will learn to reflect upon deeper issues related to our view of nature, and the relationship which humans have with the non-human environment.
Study period 3: Capstone Project
This course will focus on researching and writing an individual research paper. The paper is interdisciplinary.
Study period 4: PPE in Society
In the final course of the Sustainability track, students ‘go out into the field’ and find a way to create social impact.
Track Democracy
Study period 1: Foundations of Democracy
This course starts from the idea that an analysis of present-day and future challenges to democracy requires a thorough grounding in the history and principles of democracy.
Study period 2: Challenges to Representative Democracy
This course center-stages challenges to contemporary representative democracy. It is argued that representative democracy is under pressure from challenges from within as well as from outside the political domain.
Study period 3: Capstone Project
This course will focus on researching and writing an individual research paper. The paper is interdisciplinary.
Study period 4: PPE in Society
In the final course of the Democracy track, students ‘go out into the field’ and find a way to create social impact.
Year 3
Study period 1-2
Profile area
You are free to take courses at other departments of the university or at other universities, or do a combination of courses and an internship.
Study period 3-4
Profile area
You are free to take courses at other departments of the university or at other universities, or do a combination of courses and an internship.
PPE thesis
This course guides students through the process of writing a thesis, using the knowledge and skills gained from the PPE programme.

The first year

During the first year you will take eight compulsory courses that introduce you to philosophy, politics, economics and history. You will take two courses in each discipline, but you will always study two different subjects at the same time (e.g. economics and history). In the last week of each study period, you will work on a project that challenges you to combine the knowledge you have gained in both fields, thereby learning how the disciplines complement each other when one approaches and looks for solutions to the most pressing global issues.

The second year

In the second year you will dive deeper into a topic that interests you by choosing a specialised track from within the political and economic domain. The PPE Bachelor’s programme offers four tracks:
 

  • Challenges to the The Welfare State
  • Markets and Regulators
  • Pathways to a Sustainabe Future
  • Democracy and its Discontents

Each of these track consists of four courses, of which you will take one per study period. By working on real-world cases, you will receive thorough training in combining knowledge from philosophy, politics, economics and history. The second course in each study period will be part of the Methods Sequence, where all students will learn the basic skills necessary for doing academic research. Examples here include the Quantitative Research Methods course or Reasoning and Argumentation. While the tracks allow you to deepen your understanding and examination of a particular topic of interest, the Methods Sequence is designed to teach you how to do academic research and report on your findings.

The third year

In the third year you are free to design your own curriculum by choosing elective courses (45 credits in total). You can do a second PPE track, for example, or take courses from other programmes at Utrecht University. You can also decide to study abroad or do an internship. Internships can be done at a key social partner such as a bank, international organisation or government ministry with which we have an already established contact or at any organisation of your choice (given the approval of your study advisor). A combination of these options is also possible. In the final two study periods of the year you will write a thesis on a topic of your choice (15 credits).

Extracurricular activities

In addition to our regular courses, we also offer a dynamic extracurricular programme that encourages and helps you to start your own projects, join in a variety of activities to have fun and socialise, and get acquainted with the professional field. Though supported by PPE teaching staff, the extracurricular programme is student-run. By organising activities together with fellow students, you can satisfy your own curiosity whilst learning how to take initiative and collaborate with others – and contribute to building and strengthening the PPE community!

Teaching methods

As with all other academic programmes at Utrecht University, instruction is in the form of lectures, tutorials and group work. The PPE programme also uses some distinctive teaching methods. Whereas most Bachelor’s programmes focus on one field of study, PPE combines four fields to address challenging issues from an interdisciplinary perspective (interdisciplinary learning). Second, we explicitly bridge theory and practice by having students work on real-life societal case studies (case-based learning). Finally, we provide a small-scale and intensive academic experience in which you collaborate closely with your lecturers and peers. In addition to providing supervision, PPE teachers also count on you to contribute input to help improve and shape the programme.

You will have approximately 16 contact hours a week. In the first year the ratio between the learning formats is:

Lectures 10%
Tutorials 15%
Group work 15%
Independent study 60%

Group size

Each PPE cohort will consist of 75 students. In the first year, you and your fellow students will take the same courses, attending all lectures together. Courses will be taught in the format of a 2-hour lecture and 6-hour work group (seminar). Work groups consist of up to 25 students and are often split into smaller groups of 3-6 students for group work, supervised by the lecturer. 

Academic Year Calendar

For an overview of important dates during the academic year, including the start and end dates of terms and non-teaching weeks, see the Academic Year Calendar (PDF).

Binding recommendation on continuation of studies

Like all Dutch universities, Utrecht University works with binding recommendations regarding the continuation of studies (bindend studieadvies, BSA). Students must complete a minimum number of credits to be allowed to continue the programme. For PPE, this minimum is 45 credits (of the total of 60 credits that can be awarded). If you do not achieve this minimum, you will have to end your enrolment. In that case, the study advisor can help you find a programme that may be more suitable for you.

Grading system

The grading system in the Netherlands might differ significantly from the grading system you are used to. See here for more information.

Tutor

When starting the PPE programme, you will be assigned a tutor for the full duration of your study. Tutors are members of the academic staff who supervise groups of 10-12 students. They can answer any questions you may have about the programme and also help you get the most out of the programme. They also assess students’ extracurricular activities.