Human, Social & Political Sciences

Everything you are about to read has been written by current and recently graduated students at the University of Cambridge, to give you honest information about what it’s like to be a student at Cambridge.

Human, social and Political sciences is a very broad course which incorporates a number of exciting topics. You can choose four subjects from a broad range of social sciences, including politics, social anthropology and sociology. The teaching takes you from the bottom up, so no prior knowledge at all is required, all you really need is the ability to think independently and the passion to learn. My friends are always commenting on the diverse and interesting nature of what I’m studying, and I couldn’t agree more with them!

HSPS Credit: Cambridge University

What about the Human, Social and Political Sciences course at Cambridge appealed to you?

Elinor, Human, Social and Political Sciences, Jesus College, 1st Year
Jesus College, 1st year

It is particularly the flexibility of the course Human, Social and Political Sciences that appeals to me. Being supported by two dedicated subject libraries, the HSPS course allows you two explore a variety of different subjects in your first year, of which many are likely to be new to you, to then pursue advanced study in one or two of those subjects in your second and third year. My favourite thing about the cause is that you can tailor the course to suit your particular interests right from the beginning while retaining the ability to take papers in other subjects as well. Eventually, I hopefully will be able to graduate having specialised in one or two subjects but also having the advantage of a broad subject background which reflects the interdisciplinary world in which we live.

How have you found the structure of the course?

Daro, Human, Social and Political Sciences, King's College, 1st Year
King's College, 1st year

All first-year students takes four papers, allowing everyone to acquire a broad understanding of various social sciences of the HSPS course. Within each paper there is great flexibility in the reading and writing students wish to focus on. Supervisors actively encourage us to challenge ourselves, suggesting further reading and tailoring the set essay questions to elaborate on previous discussions. My specialisms within papers tend to go hand-in-hand with covering breadth of understanding. My reading for Social Anthropology, while of vastly different nature, regularly challenges the materials analysed in Politics, for example. Cross-referencing enables you to critically assess your work from various perspectives. It is this unique, multifaceted nature of the HSPS course which allows me to draw in knowledge from all four papers in writing my essays. The course structure will definitely challenges your ability to think critically on a daily basis.

What is your faculty/department like?

Coprus Christi College, 1st year

Due to the diversity of the course, there are a number of lecture sites around town which you will visit. The main sites are the Mill Lane lecture rooms and the Downing/New Museums sites in the middle of town, where the main faculty libraries are. All these lecture and faculty sites are fairly modern, except for the haddon library which is wonderfully traditional and makes you feel a bit like you’re exploring hogwarts library! You’ll have your supervisions either in the Cambridge college to which your supervisor is linked or in the faculty department related to your course - most of which are situated on the Downing/New Museums sites which is very convenient when you’re hopping from lecture to library to supervision in quick succession.

What types of work do you have to do?

Elinor, Human, Social and Political Sciences, Jesus College, 1st Year
Jesus College, 1st year

Most of my time is spent with preparing and producing work for supervisions. At lectures, a first and broad overview of the individual topic is given. Then, I normally receive a reading list from my supervisor and search the two subject-specific libraries for the specified books. With the books, I then take notes on different aspects and develop and essay plan that answers the question given. Ultimately, I select the most suitable sources and write the essay. Having discussed the essay during the supervision together with a small group of other students, I then go back and reflect upon the feedback given. At this point, a new essay has already been assigned to me and I would start the process again

Do you have career plans?

Daro, Human, Social and Political Sciences, King's College, 1st Year
King's College, 1st year

Because HSPS is such a broad course, students are not at all restrained to certain careers. It is the open-mindedness of students which draws them into all kinds of professional careers. Personally, I would like to pursue a career in international politics or diplomacy. Other students might want to apply their acquired skills differently; they seek work in journalism or management. Generally, HSPS students tend to be internationally orientated and express their interest in working for NGOs, non-profit organisations or think tanks. The flexibility of the HSPS course is definitely reflected in the ability of graduates to work in a wide array of sectors.

What about your course would you change?

Coprus Christi College, 1st year

I think the only thing I would possibly change would be to make sure all the lecture sites are close together, as sometimes travelling between the sites in 10 minutes is a bit challenging if you’re a slow walker like me. Due to the fact that there are 4 different topics in the first year which are supervised separately, you can sometimes get in the situation where you’ll have a few deadlines quite close together, but this can be easily solved by sorting out your supervisions at the start of term - and supervisors are generally quite flexible if you need to change a date.

Typical timetable of a 1st year Human, Social and Political Sciences student

- Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
9am - - - - -
10am International Relations Lecture Politics Lecture - Politics Lecture International Relations Lecture
11am - Social Anthropology Lecture Lecture - Social Anthropology Lecture
12am - Lecture - - -
1pm Supervision - Seminar - -
2pm - - Seminar - -
3pm - - Seminar - -
4pm - - - - -

What has been going on at Human, Social and Political Sciences?

- Recent Events -

Ban Ki Moon receives honorary degree

UN secretary Ban Ki Moon visited the Senate House on February 3rd to receive his honorary degree of the University of Cambridge. A former student of International Relations, the Secretary-General gave a lecture to members of the university

Digital Revolution Talk

Anthony Giddens, one of the world’s most prominent sociologists and fellow of King’s, will likely address the social, economic and political consequences of the Digital Revolution this coming term, in a (previously cancelled) talk.

LGBT+ Homelessness talk

I went to a fascinating talk on LGBT+ homeless youth, where they discussed the ways in which LGBT+ individuals are overrepresented in the homeless community. This gave me an insight into what its like to work for a charity who help homeless individuals.

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