Human, Social and Political Sciences

What is the HSPS Tripos?

In their first year of study HSPS students choose four papers from a range of ten options, including Politics, International Relations, Psychology, Social Anthropology, and Sociology.  They can also take a number of papers ‘borrowed’ from other Triposes, such as History and the Philosophy of Science.

From second year onwards, they can specialise in any one of three disciplines (Politics and International Relations, Social Anthropology, or Sociology) but continue to choose from a range of other exciting papers. Alternatively, there are two two-subject tracks: Politics and Sociology, or Sociology and Social Anthropology.

Further information can be found on the HSPS home page.

Why study HSPS at Corpus?

Corpus has a strong tradition in many of the subjects that make up the HSPS course, and it has become one of our most popular subjects. We have Fellows and supervisors across the broad range of papers that are offered, which makes for an exceptional learning environment. We typically admit around 6-8 students per year, but this figure is sometimes higher in particular years (up to 10 offers in recent admissions rounds).

  • Biological & Social Anthropology. These subjects have a long and distinguished history at Corpus, extending back to the time of William Stukeley, who is generally regarded as the first major ‘field archaeologist’, in the seventeenth century.  Over the past thirty years, the College has developed a particularly strong interest in these subjects, with a succession of Fellows working in many different areas of the world (Europe, Africa, South America and Asia).  Corpus is unusual amongst Colleges in having several senior members of staff from the Department of Archaeology and Anthropology, including Prof William McGrew (Biological Anthropology) and Dr David Sneath (Social Anthropology).
  • Politics, International Relations and Sociology. Politics and International Relations engage with the nature of the political world within countries and between them. Corpus has two Politics Fellows who share the responsibilities for directing studies – Dr David Blunt and Dr Aaron Rapport.  There is also a number of other Corpus Fellows who work in these areas and other related subjects, such as Philosophy.
  • The Gerard Duveen Society. Corpus has a thriving community of students who are interested in human, social, political and psychological themes.  The College’s Gerard Duveen Social Sciences Society meets thrice termly to discuss a range of topics and listen to a variety of speakers in an informal setting. Previous talks have been given by Lord Ramsbotham, former Chief Inspector of Prisons, who spoke on prison reform; Dr Chris Brooke, who discussed Tony Blair’s autobiography; and Helen Lockett from the Centre for Mental Health, who discussed employment and mental health problems.  All of the College’s undergraduates and graduates are welcome to attend, and the talks are a great opportunity for inter-disciplinary discussion.

Prof Bill McGrew
Biological Anthropology


Dr David Sneath
Social AnthropologyDSneathCrop1

Dr Sophie Zadeh

Dr David Blunt

Dr Harald Wydra

Dr Aaron Rapport

Dr Kai Ruggeri
Director of Studies

To get a flavour for the intellectual life at Cambridge and Corpus, you can listen to Prof McGrew deliver a fascinating lecture on chimpanzee behaviour below:


What does Corpus look for in HSPS applicants?

There are no particular subjects at A Level (or equivalent) that are required. HSPS is a broad course, so a range of subjects will provide a good background – from Mathematics to social sciences (e.g. Psychology, Politics and Geography) and arts (e.g. English, History and modern languages). We typically ask for two examples of written school work to be submitted ahead of the interview.

We are frequently asked if there is anything in particular that students should read before coming to an interview. The answer is no. We don’t expect applicants to have read certain things and we aren’t looking to test knowledge acquired from specific books. Reading, however, is central to learning and 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 while studying these subjects at Cambridge.  Here you can find a short-list of suggested reading that might give you a flavour of the different types of subjects in the HSPS course.

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