Academic Programme

The goal of our Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) Bachelor's programme is to provide the multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary knowledge and skills needed to address urgent and important societal questions. Instead of ad hoc links between disciplinary programmes, the PPE programme offers a well-designed and coherent set of courses that combines a fundamental education in the three core disciplines. Seminars, independent research, and international study and internship opportunities help to integrate these core components.

The teaching in PPE courses is generally divided equally between lectures and seminars. The lectures’ primary focus is on the transmission of knowledge but, whenever possible, students will also be activated during the lectures, for instance by letting them participate in pop quizzes or vote on statements relating to the lecture material. The seminars’ primary focus is on obtaining a deeper understanding of the material in small groups (at most 20 students) in a mostly problem-oriented, highly interactive approach. In the last year, the students follow a tutorial (four students per tutor).

Assessment methods vary and throughout the year, frequent moments of assessment typify our teaching methods. Students are trained on soft skills such as presentations and group work, but we also offer rigid education on academic research skills. We encourage students to connect PPE theory to practical, real-world problems, and to understand the political and social mechanisms, within which solutions to these problems can be developed and enacted. To facilitate these moves between all disciplines as well as between theory and practice, the PPE Bachelor's programme employs an active learning model that actively engages students using a wide range of pedagogical tools and didactic methods, including case studies, group discussion and projects, and community immersion.

PPE in Practice courses are a special feature of PPE at the JSMC (offered in period 3 and 6 of each academic year). These courses bring together the theories and skills students will learn in their disciplinary courses in Economics, Philosophy, and Politics and apply them to real-world policy issues.
For example, in one course we discuss how we should respond to climate change. We study how economics can be used to compare the benefits of producing and consuming goods now with the costs to the environment and people who will exist later. We also consider existing political compromises and agreements, like the Paris agreement, and discuss what kinds of agreements might - or should - be made in the future.

At the end of these courses, students work in a group to produce a paper that defends a policy solution to these kinds of problems. Other PPE in Practice courses consider topics like labour markets (What's wrong with sweatshops? Is there a natural rate of unemployment? Should governments design and regulate pension schemes, and if so, how?), technology (How do companies like Uber or AirBnB affect existing industries? Should we be worried about the loss of privacy that results from data collection?) and global aid (What is the economic effect of providing aid to low income countries? Does aid work? Are we morally obliged to provide this aid?).

Internationalization and diversity are built into the programme at a fundamental level, facilitating cross-cultural encounters that encourage students to think beyond their own background. PPE has exclusive partner programmes abroad, is setting up an international network and has many international PhD students as seminar-lecturers.

Third Year: study abroad or do an internship
In the first semester of the third year, students either opt for a stay abroad or take up an internship. During the stay abroad, and depending on the study abroad programme, the students have the possibility of taking up specialized courses within their chosen tracks or can opt for one or more integrative courses. PPE Exclusive partners:

  • Australian National University
  • Fudan University
  • George Mason University
  • Indira Gandhi Institute
  • University of Milan
  • University of East Anglia
  • University of South Carolina
  • Texas A&M
  • Waseda University

The internship / study abroad components are essential parts of the programme which support the applied aspect. The academics and cultural exchanges students experience abroad, gives them not only a new perspective, but also allows students to develop a network of connections that will be advantageous for their future careers.

JSMC offers talented and motivated Bachelor’s students the opportunity to study PPE in greater depth. The PPE Honours Programme of 30 ECTS can be followed alongside the regular courses of the programme. Students showing good performance in their first year (GPA of at least 7.5) and a strong motivation, are eligible for participation in a Honours Programme. PPE students have two options: they can either do the internal PPE Honours Programme or an external VU Honours Programme.

The internal PPE Honours Programme involves doing all three - instead of only two - tracks in the second and third year of the Bachelor's programme. Alternatively, qualified students can participate in other VU Honours Programmes, particularly those at the Faculty of Humanities, the Faculty of Social Sciences, or the School of Business and Economics. The external Honours Programmes are also 30 ECTS and each consists of two parts: an 12 ECTS part of coursework at the faculty of choice, and an 18 ECTS ‘interdepartmental’ part consisting of courses at VU Amsterdam, the University of Amsterdam (UvA), or the Amsterdam University College (AUC).

Successful participation in either the internal PPE or one of the external VU Honours Programmes, will be formalized by an Honours Certificate and mentioned on the BSc diploma.