Key facts

Average number of students offered a place per year


Average number of applicants per year


Our standard conditional offer for this subject is usually A*AA at A level or 41 - 43 points overall and 7, 7, 6 at Higher Level in IB.  All Colleges may modify offers to take account of individual circumstances.  Further information can be found here.

The flexibility of Human, Social, and Political Sciences at Cambridge allows you to explore a variety of subjects, many of which may be new to you, before pursuing advanced study in one or two specific subjects in your second and third years.

The Human, Social and Political Sciences (HSPS) degree at Cambridge allows you to combine the study of Sociology, Social Anthropology, Politics and International Relations. This a unique range of related disciplines, which can be studied in many combinations, or with a concentration on a single discipline. The most exciting aspect of this degree is the opportunity of interdisciplinary study of subjects which are deeply connected yet offering distinct avenues to understand our social world.

Some of these subjects might be new to you; maybe you did not study previously sociology or international relations, or you are not too familiar with social anthropology or politics. What this degree offers you is a solid foundation on these disciplines whilst you start tailoring the course to suit your interests. When you get to your second year you can decide to follow a single track with the possibility of taking one individual paper in other subject or you can decide to do a combined course.

All three Departments which contribute to the teaching of the HSPS Tripos are widely regarded as world-leading and the University is uniquely placed to offer a multidisciplinary degree allowing you the flexibility to adapt the course to suit their interests and strengths.

Sociology is the study of modern societies and how they are changing today. Ever wonder why nationalism continues to be such a powerful force in the modern world? Why there are protests, riots, and uprisings? Why Europe is in crisis? Why politicians are not trusted? Why Africa is so poor? Why racism persists? What does decolonizing means? Why Latin America is presented either as exotic or as violent? Why same-sex marriage causes such controversy? How globalization is changing our lives? Whether societies could ever be more just? Then Sociology is the subject for you. 

The Department of Sociology, is one of the world’s leading centres for teaching and research in Sociology. With 50 years of experience, it is consistently ranked first among all Sociology departments in the UK by the Guardian, the Times and the Independent, and Cambridge ranks top in the UK (and fifth in the world) in the Shanghai ranking of world universities. But while vibrant, It is also a friendly, open and diverse department with some of the world’s leading sociologists on its staff.

Social Anthropology addresses the really big question – what does it mean to be human? – by taking as its subject matter the full range of human social and cultural diversity: the amazingly varied ways that people live, think and relate to each other in every part of the world. If you are interested in undertaking fieldwork in order to find out about your own and other people's cultures, societies and economies, in how they differ and what they have in common, Social Anthropology is the subject for you. 

The Department of Social Anthropology was established in 1900 and has been home to many of the most distinguished anthropologists in the history of the discipline. It is regularly at the top of the tables in assessments of research and in the published rankings of teaching departments. Today, it has a large and cosmopolitan body of teaching staff, each one at the forefront of their field. 

Politics and International Relations is the study of national and international politics and political thought. If you are interested in democracy, the causes and outcomes of war, human rights, elections, economic crises and political thinkers, Politics and International Relations is the subject for you.

The Department of Politics and International Relations was established in January 2009 to provide a new institutional focus at Cambridge for teaching and research on politics in all its dimensions; international and comparative, theoretical and empirical, abstract and practical. With around thirty teaching staff, and three members of the Department hold prizes awarded by the University for outstanding teaching It has particular research strengths in international politics, international history and international law, comparative politics and political thought.

NEW! A new joint Sociology/Criminology track within HSPS will be available to 2nd year students who enter the HSPS course from October 2017. Click here for more information. From October 2018, a new exciting Joint Sociology/Criminology Track will be available to 2nd year students who entered the HSPS course in October 2017.

In part IIA and part IIB they will be able to combine modules taught by the Sociology Department, and the Institute of Criminology.

The Director of Studies for HSPS for part I is Dr Monica Moreno Figueroa, who would be pleased to answer your questions as a prospective applicants via email. Dr Monica Moreno Figueroa is the Director of Students for Part II Sociology and Social Anthropology, Dr Harald Wydra is the Director of Studies for Part II Politics & International Relations. Dr Wydra can be contacted via email.

Applicants will have a variety of relevant examination qualifications. There are no specific subject requirements. A useful preparation would be arts subjects, or an arts/science mix. Most important in success is willingness and enthusiasm for exploring the unique opportunities offered by this interdisciplinary Cambridge course.

At present applicants receive two twenty-five minute interviews on the same day, each with either one or two interviewers. Both interviews are largely subject-based, although more general questions may also be asked. Applicants will be asked to submit, in advance of interviews, two pieces of written work produced in the course of their studies, to be used as the basis for part of the discussion in one of the interviews. These should have been produced in the course of your A-Level (or equivalent) studies and marked by a teacher, not specially written for the interview.

If you wish, you may include a short post-script suggesting how you might add to or alter your essays in the light of more recent study and thought. One of these pieces of work might be used as the basis of discussion in at least one of your interviews.

Further advice about entry requirements and interviews for all subjects can be found in the Applying to Downing section of this site.

These titles are given as a guide to help applicants gain a better understanding of the subject matter. They are not intended as preparatory reading and interviewers will not expect candidates necessarily to have read any of these titles.

We don't expect applicants to have read certain things and we aren't looking to test knowledge acquired from certain books. Reading, however, is central to learning and reading broadens anyone's horizons. Applicants can also get a good sense of what some of the subjects available in HSPS are like by reading some of the books that students encounter studying these subjects in Cambridge. Below are short lists of some important books in the individual subjects on offer in the degree. If you want to pursue independent reading from these lists, don't try to cover them all. Pick the subject or several subjects that interest you and read from that list.


Alexander, J. C. and K. Thompson (2008), A Contemporary Introduction to Sociology; Culture and Society in Transition. London/Boulder: Paradigm Publishers.

Peter L. Berger. Invitation to Sociology: A Humanistic Perspective (1999) Anchor Books.

Anthony Giddens and Phillip Sutton (2013)." Sociology. 7th edition. Polity Press.

Anthony Smith (2013) Nationalism. 2nd Edition.Polity

Jack Goldstone. ed. (1994) Revolutions: theoretical, comparative, and historical studies. Harcourt Brace College Publishers.

Kristin Surak (2012) Making tea, Making Japan: Cultural nationalism in practice. Stanford University Press.

Nira Yuval-Davis (2011) The politics of belonging: Intersectional contestations. Sage.

R W Connell (2009) Gender (2nd edition); Polity.

Richard Sennett (2012) Together: The rituals, pleasures and politics of cooperation. Yale University Press.

Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett (2010) The spirit level: why equality is better for everyone. Penguin.

Zygmunt Bauman (2001) Thinking Sociologically (2nd edition); Wiley-Blackwell.

Browse through books that have won prizes by the American Sociological Association


Adam Kuper (2014) Anthropology and anthropologists: the modern British school. Routledge.

Joel Robbins (2004) Becoming sinners: Christianity and moral torment in a Papua New Guinea society. Vol. 4. University of California Press.

Lila Abu-Lughod (1986) Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society; University of California Press. 

Michael Carrithers (1992) Why Humans Have Cultures: Explaining Anthropology and Social Diversity; Oxford University Press.

Michael Stewart (1997) The Time of the Gypsies; Westview Press

Rita Astuti, Jonathan P Parry, and Charles Stafford (eds) (2007) Questions of Anthropology; Oxford University Press.

Sharon E. Hutchinson (1996) Nuer Dilemmas: Coping with Money, War, and the State; University of California Press.

Thomas Hylland Eriksen (1996) Small Places, Large Issues. Pluto Press.

Wacquant L.J.D. (2004) Body & Soul: notebooks of an apprentice boxer. Oxford University Press.

BBC series From Savage to Self, see    

The Cambridge Anthropology Podcast:   


Bernard Crick (2002) Democracy: A Very Short Introduction; Oxford University Press.

David Runciman (2014) Politics, Profile Books 

John Dunn (1992) Western Political Theory In The Face Of The Future (revised edition); Cambridge University Press 


Chris Brown and Kirsten Ainsley (2009) Understanding International Relations (4th edition); Palgrave Macmillan 

Henry Kissinger (1994) Diplomacy; Simon & Schuster 

James Mayall (2000) World Politics: Progress and its Limits; Polity 

Jussi Hanhimaki, Joseph A. Maiolo, Kirsten Schulze, and Anthony Best (2008) An International History of the Twentieth Century and Beyond (2nd edition); Routledge 

Saskia Sassen, (2014) Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Economy; Belknap.

Further details about Human, Social, and Political Sciences course can be found at the University of Cambridge site.

For additional resources, visit, and search for your subject interests. 

Love Your Subject: HSPS