Our Economics course develops your understanding of economics and gives you insights into social and political issues which will be valuable in whatever future career path you take.
Economics at Cambridge
Our course provides a sound understanding of core, pure and applied economics. However, while you study economics in considerable depth in this specialised degree, you employ ideas and techniques from many other disciplines too – these include history, sociology, mathematics and statistics, and politics. Therefore, our graduates are extremely well qualified for a wide range of jobs and further courses.
Teaching and resources
Past and present Faculty members, such as Alfred Marshall and John Maynard Keynes, have played a major role in the subject's development and several have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Economics (Sir John Hicks, James Meade, Sir Richard Stone, Sir James Mirrlees and Amartya Sen). The present Faculty remains committed to using economics to improve public policy and recent staff have been active on, among other bodies, the Monetary Policy Committee of the Bank of England and the Competition Commission, and advise international agencies such as the United Nations, World Bank, IMF and OECD.
Other benefits for Cambridge Economics students include access to an extensive range of statistical databases and software, and the Marshall Library of Economics, which holds a comprehensive collection of books, journals and other papers in economics.
The student-run Marshall Society organises social events and informal lectures from distinguished visiting speakers such as the Governor of the Bank of England.
It's possible to combine Economics with another subject, for example by taking one or two years of Economics and then transferring to another subject such as Law or Management Studies. You can also study another subject such as Mathematics for one year before transferring to Part IIA Economics. Several students make such changes each year.
Careers and research
At Cambridge, you develop skills in understanding complex arguments, analysis of practical issues and of data, and effective communication. Such skills are valuable in many careers, but particularly in professional, financial and managerial occupations. They also provide an advantageous foundation for numerous Masters degree courses.
Many graduates go on to professional training in chartered accountancy, actuarial work and similar fields. Others are employed by financial institutions, or as professional economists in industry, government and management consultancy. Former undergraduates include the recent Governor of the Bank of England, Sir Mervyn King, and the Chairman of the Financial Services Authority, Lord Turner.
Teaching is provided through lectures, classes and supervisions and you can expect between 10 and 15 lectures each week in the first year.
Assessment is through formal written examinations that take place at the end of each year, and the compulsory dissertation in Part IIB. Typically, you have one three-hour exam for each paper covered that year. There is also a project within the Econometrics paper in Part IIA.
Part I provides an introduction to the subject, a common core of knowledge which can subsequently be extended. There are five compulsory papers:
- Quantitative Methods in Economics
- Political and Sociological Aspects of Economics
- British Economic History
Through these papers you cover topics such as supply and demand, the role of prices and markets, employment, inflation, the operation of financial institutions and monetary policy.
The Quantitative Methods paper provides an introduction to the use of mathematical and statistical techniques in economics, and is assessed by a written exam.
Part IIA consists of three compulsory papers
- Theory and Practice of Econometrics
You also take one optional paper, chosen from:
- Economic Development
- Modern Societies
- Mathematics for Economists and Statisticians
- Analysis of Modern Politics
- International Relations
Through these papers you acquire a knowledge and understanding of a range of key topics and analytical techniques in microeconomic and macroeconomic theory, develop knowledge of key econometric techniques, and learn the IT skills needed to undertake a project in applied econometrics. An optional paper in a supporting discipline enables you to undertake more advanced papers in Part IIB.
The final year consists of two compulsory papers:
- Microeconomic Principles and Problems
- Macroeconomic Principles and Problems
In addition, you take two optional papers and write a compulsory dissertation of 7,500 words.
One of the objectives of the final year is to extend your knowledge of economic theory and train you to apply this theory to practical issues and public policy. Therefore, the optional papers available can vary from year to year but recent examples include:
- Economic Theory and Analysis
- Banking, Money and Finance
- Public Economics
- The Economics of Developing Countries
- Theory and Practice of Econometrics
- World Depression in the Interwar Years
Essential A Level/IB Higher Level Mathematics
Useful AS or A Level/IB Higher Level Further Mathematics, A Level/IB Higher Level Economics, A Level Business Studies/IB Higher Level Business and Management (if Economics is unavailable)
Economics and Further Mathematics are considered useful preparation but are not essential. A Level Business Studies can be helpful if you are unable to take Economics.
Check College websites for College-specific requirements. See also Entrance requirements and our Subject Matters leaflet for additional advice about general requirements for entry, qualifications and offers.
The table below sets out the ways in which each College assesses applicants for this subject. For more information about these methods of assessment and why we use them, see the main Admissions tests and written work page.
|College||Assessment of applicant for this subject|
|Christ's||School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview|
|Churchill||School/college essays; Preparatory study at interview|
|Clare||Interview only; Preparatory study at interview|
|Corpus Christi||Test at interview|
|Downing||Mathematics test at interview|
|Emmanuel||Preparatory study at interview|
|Fitzwilliam||Preparatory study at interview|
|Girton||Test at interview;|
|Gonville and Caius||Test at interview|
|Homerton||School/college essay; Test at interview|
|Hughes Hall||Test at interview|
Preparatory study at interview
|King's||Preparatory study at interview|
|Lucy Cavendish||School/college essays; Test at interview|
|Magdalene||School/college essay; Preparatory study at interview|
|Murray Edwards||Test at interview|
|Newnham||School/college essays; Preparatory study at interview; Test at interview|
|Pembroke||Written test at interview|
|Robinson||Written test at interview|
|St Catharine's||Preparatory study at interview|
|St Edmund's||Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA)|
|St John's||Sent article few weeks before interview; Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA)|
|Sidney Sussex||Test at interview|
|Trinity||Preparatory study at interview|
|Trinity Hall||School/college essays; Test at interview|
|Wolfson||Not available at this College|
Find out more about Economics at Cambridge
- Course website - Explore Economics in more detail on the course website.
- Paper outlines - A detailed guide to the Economics degree.
- Course slideshow - An introductory slideshow for the Economics degree.
- Course FAQ and guide - Frequently Asked Questions about the Economics course, plus a guide to first year papers.
Improve your knowledge of Economics
- Preparatory reading - Guidance on preparatory reading for applicants interested in Economics.
Tools to help you with your Economics application
- Thinking Skills Assessment (TSA) Preparation - Resources to help prepare for the TSA (required for Economics at some Colleges). Includes practice tests, suggested textbooks and further reading.
From September 2012, every undergraduate course of more than one year's duration will have a Key Information Set (KIS). The KIS allows you to compare 17 pieces of information about individual courses at different higher education institutions.
However, please note that superficially similar courses often have very different structures and objectives, and that the teaching, support and learning environment that best suits you can only be determined by identifying your own interests, needs, expectations and goals, and comparing them with detailed institution- and course-specific information.
We recommend that you look thoroughly at the course and University information contained on these webpages and consider coming to visit us on an Open Day, rather than relying solely on statistical comparison.
You may find the following notes helpful when considering information presented by the KIS.
- The KIS relies on superficially similar courses being coded in the same way. Whilst this works on one level, it leads to some anomalies. For example, Music courses and Music Technology courses can have exactly the same code despite being very different programmes with quite distinct educational and career outcomes.
Any course which combines several disciplines (as many courses at Cambridge do) tends to be compared nationally with courses in just one of those disciplines, and in such cases a KIS comparison may not be an accurate or fair reflection of the reality of either. For example, you may find that when considering a degree which embraces a range of disciplines such as biology, physics, chemistry and geology (for instance, Natural Sciences at Cambridge), the comparison provided is with courses at other institutions that primarily focus on just one (or a smaller combination) of those subjects.
- Whilst the KIS makes reference to some broad types of financial support offered by institutions, it cannot compare packages offered by different institutions. Different students have different circumstances and requirements, and you should weigh up what matters to you most: level of fee; fee waivers; means-tested support such as bursaries; non-means-tested support such as academic scholarships and study grants; and living costs such as accommodation, travel.
- The KIS provides a typical cost of private (ie non-university) accommodation. This is very difficult to estimate as prices and properties vary. University accommodation can be substantially cheaper, and if you are likely to live in College for much or all of the duration of your course (as is the case at Cambridge), then the cost of private accommodation will be of less or no relevance for you. The KIS also provides the typical annual cost of university accommodation and the number of beds available. Note that since most universities offer a range of residential accommodation, you should check with institutions about the likelihood of securing a room at a price that suits your budget. Knowing the number of beds available is not necessarily useful: it may be much more important to find out if all students are guaranteed accommodation.
- Time in lectures, seminars and similar can vary enormously by institution depending on the structure of the course, and the quality of such contact time should be the primary consideration.
- Whilst starting salaries can be a useful measure, they do not give any sense of career trajectory or take account of the voluntary/low paid work that many graduates undertake initially in order to gain valuable experience necessary/advantageous for later career progression.
The above list is not exhaustive and there may be other important factors that are relevant to the choices that you are making, but we hope that this will be a useful starting point to help you delve deeper than the face value of the KIS data.