Human, Social, and Political Sciences

If you want to study a uniquely flexible and exciting course in the human, social and political sciences, this is the course for you. The Faculties of Archaeology and Anthropology (A&A) and Politics, Psychology, Sociology and International Studies (PPSIS) merged into a single School of Social Sciences with two strands: Human, Social and Political Sciences (or HSPS) and Psychological and Behavioral Sciences (PBS). Two additional strands have been added in 2016: Archaeology Tripos and the joint History and Politics Tripos; for details see the relevant subject pages. For students, this configuration means both expanded choices in terms of individual papers on offer in any single year as well as expanded choices in terms of individual papers on offer in a single year as well as expanded options in terms of the sort of degree they wish to pursue over the course of their undergraduate career at Cambridge. In general terms, HSPS is designed to offer interested students a broad set of options across the social and political sciences whereas the focus of PBS is more specifically focused on social and experimental psychology and is defined as a science subject. In both cases, however, the possibilities exist to specialise in a single discipline or to follow a more interdisciplinary route to a final degree from the University. One of the most innovative aspects of the HSPS Tripos is the possibility to graduate with a dual degree, such as Social Anthropology and Politics; or Politics and Sociology (see all of the possible combinations below).  Thus students can build on the broad range of courses they follow in the first year, or they decide to concentrate on a single trajectory of study. Although some colleges are identifying the specific tracks they are most interested in supporting, Pembroke is keen to encourage students to explore the range of subjects of most interest to them at the outset and then to provide guidance and the freedom to shape their remaining subject choices during their final two years.

HSPS at Pembroke Pembroke has an established track record in supporting interdisciplinary as well as disciplinary studies in the social sciences. This includes our permanent fellowship (which currently includes specialists in Criminology, Experimental Psychology, International Relations, Politics and Social Anthropology), our visiting Fellows (who we encourage to interact with undergraduates), and our Junior Research Fellows as well as our graduate students, all of whom are encouraged to interact with the students through the supervision system as well as in the broader College initiatives.

Human, Social and Political Sciences (HSPS)

Year one choices

Every student takes four papers from a wide range of choices; these should be made in consultation with the Director of Studies Choices include (in alphabetical order):

  • International Relations
  • Politics
  • Social Anthropology
  • Social Psychology
  • Sociology

As a fourth paper you can also choose one of the following:

  • Archaeology (including field trips)
  • Biological Anthropology
  • Cultures of Egypt and Mesopotamia
  • Egyptian and/or Akkadian Language

During the course of the Easter term, students begin to think about the choices they have for their remaining two years: either to specialise in a single discipline or to follow set combinations.  Students who wish to follow a purely psychology track will apply to shift into Psychology and Behavioural Science (PBS); students who wish to follow a track in archaeology or biological anthropology will apply to shift into the new Archaeology Tripos.

Year Two choices

(unless otherwise noted, all second year papers are assessed by a three hour exam)


Here the three core papers include comparative politics; international relations; and the History of Political Thought (which is borrowed from the History Faculty). For the fourth paper, student may:

  • opt to write two 5,000 word essays (one submitted in January; the other in April) on a topic chosen from a list provided by the Politics Division;
  • choose another paper in politics
  • choose a paper on statistics
  • or take a paper from another HSPS, History, Archaeology, or History and Philosophy of Science (HPS) subject


SOCIAL ANTHROPOLOGY: this course requires two core papers: Comparative Social Analysis; Anthropological Theory and Methods. The third paper focuses on one ethnographic area from a choice of four, which are specified by the Division each year. The fourth paper is chosen from one of four optional subjects offered within the Division (such as Medical Anthropology; the Anthropology of Socialist and Post-socialist life; the Anthropology of Media and Visual Culture; Science and Society; Cities and Space; Development; the Anthropology of Law;), or from one of the other HSPS or PBS subjects.

SOCIOLOGY: this track offers two core papers taken by exam: Social Theory and Modern Societies. The third required paper combines the possibility of either a course on concepts and arguments in Sociology or a course on statistics and research methods. As with the other subjects, the fourth paper may be chosen from options offered by the Division, or taken from another HSPS, PBS, subject or History and Philosophy of Science.

COMBINED PART II OPTIONS Students who wish to continue their studies in more than one discipline will now find it much easier to do. Possible combinations include:

  • Politics and Sociology
  • Social Anthropology and Politics
  • Social Anthropology and Sociology


Regardless of how students combine or specialise their subjects, their degree will be formally titled Human, Social, and Political Sciences. The course is designed as a one year Part I and a two year Part II; thus, it is normally not permitted to change tracks between years 2 and 3. Third year students are invited (but not required) to undertake individual dissertation research (which may be library or field based) and may substitute one of the papers with a dissertation of up to 10,000 words. Further information about the course can be found on the page about HSPS on the University website. 

Admissions No particular A-level (or equivalent) subjects are stipulated or deemed inappropriate, and some applicants apply with a mixture of arts and science subjects. We are looking for evidence that students are capable of taking on new information and thinking about it logically and analytically. Those skills may be learned from, for instance, Mathematics, History, Philosophy, or English Literature as well as from more science oriented subjects. The admissions process will consists of two interviews, one with the Director of Studies, who will usually be accompanied by another specialist member of staff, and one with another non-expert academic.  Beforehand, applicants will be asked to send in two school essays of their choice.  These may be discussed at one of the interviews.

All applicants for HSPS will be asked to take the pre-interview written assessment for HSPS, which will take place in schools or at a designated assessment centre on 2nd November 2017. You must register in advance (separately to your UCAS application) to take the assessment.  The registration deadline is 15th October 2017. Your assessment centre must register you for the pre-interview assessment.

Should you have any questions, please contact the Admissions Office in the first instance at Questions about the specifics of the course can be addressed to our Director of Studies, Dr Hildegard Diemberger.