Mount Allison has recently announced a new arts degree: Philosophy, Politics, and Economics (PPE). Mt. A is following in the footsteps of Oxford University, the first school to offer this broadly focused undergraduate degree.
The early years of the multidisciplinary program will require students to take a number of specific courses, giving all students in the program the same fundamental basis. The Mt. A press release states that taking the required courses in first and second year gives students “greater flexibility to tailor the curriculum to their specific interests during their third and fourth years.”
The United Kingdom’s prestigious Oxford University was the first to offer the PPE program. The idea was conceived in the 1920s as a modernization of an interdisciplinary classics program, with an eye towards preparing students for the civil service.
While the idea of a PPE program is enormously popular in the UK, and to a lesser degree in the United States, Mt. A is only the third Canadian university to offer the program.
Wilfrid Laurier University has offered the program in the past, while the University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus also offers the program. Mt. A will be the first Canadian university east of Ontario to offer students the PPE program.
As UBC Okanagan states on its website, the major is “recommended for students who wish to pursue a career in business or government or who intend to undertake studies in law, business, commerce, journalism, social work, education, or public administration.”
The major’s broad overview of ethics, logic, political institutions, and the sort of global trade that characterizes modern economics makes this degree ideal for any student wishing to get a stable footing in a number of disciplines.
Associate Professor Roopen Majithia of Mt. A’s philosophy department said, “the way we’re looking at it is it’s a program that hopefully gives students three sets of lenses to look at the world,” adding that “any feature of the modern world requires that you come at it from a variety of points of view.”
However, in some cases, the emphasis on breadth of studies, instead of focusing on depth, is criticized as producing too many generalists, rather than increasing students’ expertise in any one particular field.
The suitability of the degree for work public office becomes apparent when looking at the breakdown of Oxford’s PPE alumni. In the UK, the program dominates the education history of public political figures, with Prime Minister David Cameron, Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband, and several more members of the cabinet and shadow cabinet all having taken PPE majors at Oxford.
PPE joins the ranks of other interdisciplinary programs at Mt. A, such as International Relations, Canadian Studies, and Classics, which aim to produce informed and critically thinking students.