Economics has a strong tradition in the College, associated in particular with the name of the former Fellow Alfred Marshall (1842-1924), who first formulated many of the concepts still used by economists today. Marshall believed that the purpose of Economics is to improve human welfare based on analytical understanding, and this philosophy still guides our teaching of the subject today. We aim to teach our Economics students how to use the analytical framework of the subject to think about issues such as why some countries are rich and others poor. The ability to reason as an economist and to assess economic evidence is valuable to a student in later life even if he or she does not become a professional economist.
St John’s admits about eleven undergraduates each year. All supervisions in micro and macro are done by Fellows of the College, usually in small groups of about three but also in larger classes or seminars, depending on the subject. The College makes generous book grants available and has a well-stocked Economics section in the library. There is also an active College Economics Society, run by the undergraduates.
Courses in Economics
The undergraduate course in Economics in Cambridge, commonly called the Economics Tripos, is a three-year program that leads to the degree of Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Economics. There is an exam at the end of each year.
The first year (Part I) of the Economics Tripos consists of five compulsory subjects: Microeconomics, Macroeconomics, Quantitative Methods, Political and Sociological Aspects of Economics, and British Economic History.
The second year (Part IIA) consists of four subjects of which three are compulsory: Microeconomics, Macroeconomics and Econometrics. The optional subject is chosen from the following list: Development Economics, Labour Economics, Sociology (which is offered by the Department of Sociology) and Mathematics for Economists.
The final year (Part IIB) of the Economics Tripos consists of two compulsory subjects, Microeconomics and Macroeconomics, two optional subjects, and a compulsory dissertation. A large range of optional subjects is available: Economic Theory and Analysis; Money, Banking and Finance; Public Economics; Economics of Underdeveloped Countries; Industry; papers in Economic History; papers in Econometrics; and a number of papers in Sociology and Politics (offered by the Department of Sociology and the Department of Politics and International Studies). The dissertation is on an economic topic chosen by the student and counts for a fifth of the Part IIB coursework.
It is possible to change from the Economics Tripos to other Triposes, for example to Law or History after Part I, or to Management Studies after Part IIA. It is also possible to switch to Part IIA of the Economics Tripos from certain other Triposes, such as Mathematics.
UCAS Code: L100
Mathematics A-Level is essential.
We do not require applicants to have studied Economics. However, Mathematics at A-level (or Higher Level for IB) is essential. In addition, Further Mathematics at A-level is very useful. We look for strong mathematical and overall academic ability in our Economics applicants. We require as part of our conditional A-level offer an A* in Mathematics. Our standard offer level for Economics is A*A*A at A Level. If you are studying the IB we would normally only invite students for interview with a predicted overall score of at least 42 and at least 7 in Higher Level Mathematics.
Those who are invited to attend for interview will have two interviews: one with the Tutor handling your application and one with the Director of Studies and another Teaching Fellow in Economics. The aim of these 20-minute interviews is to find out about your motivation, intellectual curiosity and aptitude for the subject. We conduct our interviews in a friendly and informal manner, and you should not feel too daunted by the prospect of them. We will send you a short article some weeks before the interview and part of the interview will be based on discussion of this article. Apart from reading and thinking about this article, no special preparation for the interview is necessary, or indeed desirable. The interview with the Economics Fellows will mainly be concerned with subject-related topics, but if you have not studied Economics at school we will of course not expect you to have detailed prior knowledge of the subject. Nor, if you have studied Economics, will we try to catch you out by asking detailed technical questions. The interview is not a test of memory, but is concerned rather with exploring your analytical ability to think through the implications of particular questions and issues which are of interest to economists.
Applicants for Economics will need to sit the University's Pre-Interview Admissions Assessment, more information on which is available here.