Economics

Economics has been described as the study of the ways in which society allocates scarce resources between competing ends. 'Macroeconomics' includes theories about the level and growth of a nation's economic activity, about international interdependence, and about the causes of unemployment and inflation. 'Microeconomics' studies the behaviour of individuals making economic choices in a variety of roles: people who are choosing jobs and deciding how to spend their income; managers who are organizing production and devising strategies to sell what they produce; as well as politicians and civil servants who are seeking to promote public welfare, even if it is to produce a satisfied population who might then further the politicians' own careers.

At Fitzwilliam College we pride ourselves on being friendly and international. As economics is one of the larger subjects in Fitzwilliam, normally admitting between six and eight students each year, the college's economics students form a varied and supportive peer group, which is essential for lively and successful studies.

Economics has also a long and established tradition at the College. Fitzwilliam offers a great deal of support for students in economics, not only from the College Fellows who teach the subject, but also from students working together, both within and between years. The College Economics Society puts on social events and informal talks, and gives an opportunity for undergraduates, postgraduates and Fellows to socialise. Our exam results are very good, with a healthy proportion of first class degrees.


Director of Studies and Fellows

The Director of Studies for Economics is Dr Anna Watson.

Professor Sean Holly is a Professorial Fellow and Director of Research in the Faculty of Economics. Professor Holly was formerly Professor of Economics at the University of Sheffield, and is a Senior Research Fellow at London Business School. His research interests include macroeconomics and econometrics, and he teaches macroeconomics, statistics and econometrics.

In addition to the Director of Studies, all students at Fitzwilliam have an appointed Tutor who is a Fellow of the College. Tutors oversee their students' personal and social wellbeing, and keep regular contact to the student throughout the academic year.


Course structure

If you have studied economics at school, the course's central topics will be familiar, although their treatment at Cambridge is naturally deeper and broader.  The course is divided between Part One in the first year, and Part Two in the second and third years. Specialisation increases each year.

Part One has five compulsory papers, examined at the end of the third term:  microeconomic principles; macroeconomic principles; quantitative methods in economics; political and sociological aspects of economics; and British economic history.  Aside from maths, no previous knowledge of any subject is assumed.

The second year (Part IIA) has three compulsory papers:  microeconomic theory; macroeconomic theory; and econometrics (the analysis of economic data using statistical techniques). Second year students are also required to take a fourth paper from among four options:  mathematics for economists, sociology, economic development or labour economics. 

In the final year (Part IIB), there are two compulsory papers, again divided between microeconomics and macroeconomics but now with an emphasis on the application of the student's cumulated theoretical knowledge to economic problems, plus a compulsory dissertation (7,500 word maximum) on a subject chosen by the student. Third year students must then choose two additional papers from among a dozen or more options that include advanced economic theory, industry, financial economics, public economics, and topics in economic history, as well as papers that follow on more directly from the second year options in mathematical economics, development, or sociology.  Part I and Part II examinations are all classed at Cambridge, with all papers (and the third year dissertation) carrying equal weight; that is, there are five components in the Part I classification, four components in the Part IIA classification, and five components in the Part IIB classification.

Teaching at Cambridge comprises lectures organised by the Faculty, and supervisions organised by the College. In the first year supervisions, typically with two students, an hour is spent with the supervisor discussing a topic for which the students have prepared in advance by writing an essay or solving a set of problems. Because students submit the supervision work in advance, the supervisor has an opportunity to give detailed feedback and students are able to enjoy continuous learning on a more personal level than would be possible in larger groups.

The total workload, with around fifteen lectures and two or three supervisions per week, can be very demanding. Nonetheless, the vast majority of students enjoy a variety of extra-curricular activities. University-wide organisations cater for almost any special interest, many of which have counterparts within Fitzwilliam. As well as fielding teams across a wide range of sports, the College provides especially well for students with musical interests.


Requirements

We aim to attract well-motivated applicants who find economics an exciting subject, and who wish to learn as much about it as Cambridge can teach them. Many Fitzwilliam economists have studied Economics at 'A' level, but it is certainly not a requirement for the course. A lively interest in economic issues is much more important than school study, although students without 'A' level would be well advised to do some reading on the subject during the summer before they come up to Fitzwilliam - the first year lectures assume no previous knowledge of economic theory, but cover a lot of ground very quickly.

Mathematics is by far the most important preparation for university economics.  Modern economic theory is expressed in mathematical terms, and the teaching at Cambridge reflects this.  A Level (or equivalent Mathematics) is therefore required, and Further Mathematics is very useful.  In general, the more maths the better. Many other school subjects, whether within the arts or the sciences, can make a useful contribution to success as a student of economics.

A typical A Level offer for Economics is A*A*A and Fitzwilliam College usually requires that one A* mark be in mathematics.  The standard IB offer is 40-41 points with 776 at Higher Level.

We welcome candidates from outside the UK. Successful applicants are normally in the top five per cent of their cohort in their country of origin. As well as proficiency in English, qualifications in Mathematics are important, and you should provide as much evidence as you can about your examination achievements.

If you are selected for interview in December, we will, amongst other things, ask you to attempt a maths-based problem, which you will be given when you arrive for your interview. Don't worry if you have not studied economics at school: we are not going to test your knowledge about economics, but are rather interested in your ability to analyse and solve simple real-life problems by using logical and critical approaches. The interview is also aimed at assessing your motivation, enthusiasm and potential for future development.

Applicants are also required to sit the Economics admissions written assessment prior to being called for interview.  More information can be found on the University website.


Life after Cambridge

With a good degree in economics from Cambridge, the world is your oyster! Cambridge economics graduates are sought after, and they end up in a wide variety of interesting professions for there are few graduate-level jobs that do not have a significant 'economic' component. Banking, management and financial consultancy, public sector and economic research organisations are probably the most common career destinations. Some graduates go on to further study in economics or in related fields such as international relations. Whatever other specifications they may require, most employers recognise a Cambridge Economics degree as an extremely valuable qualification.


More information

Faculty of Economics >>

Fitz believed in my ability to excel. My time here not only brought me happiness, knowledge and lifelong friends, but prepared me for the next stages of life.
Milan Thomas, BA and MPhil in Economics