Human, Social and Political Sciences

  • UCAS Code: L000 BA/HSPS
  • Campus Code: 4
  • Duration: 3 years
  • Places per year: 6-8

The Human, Social and Political Sciences (HSPS) Tripos at Cambridge offers students the flexibility to explore papers taught primarily through the Departments of Politics and International Studies, Sociology, and Social Anthropology before pursuing advanced study in one or two specific subjects in the second and third years. The HSPS Tripos also offers a unique and exciting range of subjects to study from across the University, such as Archaeology and the Psychological and Behavioural Sciences. Students graduating with an HSPS Tripos from Cambridge have the advantage of specialising in one or two main subjects, but are also exposed to a broad background across the human, social, and political sciences, reflecting the inter-disciplinary world in which we live.

Course Overview

The HSPS course comprises three core disciplines:

  • Politics and International Relations explores politics within and between countries, covering issues from human rights and democracy, to financial crises and international conflict.
  • Social anthropologists address ‘what it is to be human’ by studying social and cultural diversity – how people live, think and relate to each other around the world.
  • Sociology focuses on the nature of modern societies and the processes that shape social life, by examining social institutions and topics such as power and inequality.

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


HSPS at Trinity Hall

Trinity Hall is known for its friendly and collegiate atmosphere, with students, fellows and staff all enjoying the vibrant community spirit present within the College. Studying the Human, Social and Political Sciences (HSPS) Tripos at Trinity Hall is no different, as the spirit of the College is maintained throughout the course. First years will join a small but vibrant community of undergraduate HSPS students from across all years of the College. The many College societies also allow students reading different subjects to mix, further fostering the community spirit so important to life at Trinity Hall.

The Jerwood Library at Trinity Hall is particularly well suited for HSPS students. It has a wide range of books that will support your studies, and it is open 24 hours a day, allowing students to study at their own pace in a modern space with beautiful views of the River Cam.

How You Learn

For the first year of the course in HSPS, students follow four subjects. For each of the four, they typically have two lectures a week, which introduces them to a topic. After the lecture, students will usually read a mixture of books, chapters of books and articles from academic journals to deepen their understanding.

Having been to the lectures and read the texts, roughly fortnightly, they will write an essay of around four or five sides of A4 on a chosen question. These are submitted to a supervisor and then students meet with the supervisor and usually one other student who has written on the same topic to talk about their work and the issues more generally for around one hour.

With similar schedules in four different subjects, that means students might attend 32 lectures, read 4 chapters a day, and write 12 essays for twelve supervisions during each of the first two eight–week terms.  If students take one of the non-HSPS optional papers, such as Archaeology and Biological Anthropology, include more practical or hands-on elements.

During the third term, students choose topics to revise, and using their notes from the lectures, readings, their own essays and the supervisions, prepare for four three-hour exams.

In the third year of the course it is typically possible to replace one of these exams with a dissertation.

All Part I students have a one-hour supervision for the short dissertation during Lent Term.

Typical Offer Conditions




41-42 points, with 776 at Higher Level


See the University’s Entrance Requirements page

Subject Requirements 





Written Work

Two school essays, at least one of which should preferably be related in some way to politics, international relations, sociology or anthropology. For further information on submitting written work, please read our How to Apply page.

Admissions Assessment


General Comments

There is no ‘typical’ educational background for a student in HSPS. We do not require any particular subjects at school. However, you should be intellectually curious and you should enjoy reading and thinking about how states and societies are organised, how things could be different, and about why people, in different places and times, have done things the way they have.

It may sound obvious, but the two main challenges that students of HSPS face are reading closely a lot of long texts, and writing a lot of essays. The most useful background is a love of reading and of writing. The only way to work out whether you are interested in these subjects is to read books about them. One very good way to improve your essay writing is to read essays, and to think about what you make of the argument, the evidence, and the style in which they are written. Print and online sources, such as Harpers magazine, History Today, the London Review of Books (LRB), The New Yorker and the New York Review of Books all contain beautifully written essays on relevant subjects and from diverse perspectives.