Oxbridge Interviews Blog

Will Oxbridge help my career?

by Laura on

Oxford and Cambridge are renowned the world over for their academic excellence. Producing a disproportionate share of the world’s top academics and pioneering some of the cutting edge techniques in research, it is hardly surprising the two universities are not given the credit they perhaps deserve for preparing students for the world of work. But Oxbridge can and will help your career in ways you might not even have considered. Here is why:

What does an Oxbridge degree say about you?

hardwork

A lot of the courses on offer at Oxford and Cambridge are not vocational degrees in the traditional sense of the word. With the exception of perhaps Medicine, most degrees are highly academic and not necessarily geared towards any one career path. But Oxbridge graduates still, by and large, go on to have more successful careers than graduates of most other universities, and one of the reasons for this is that holding a degree from Oxford or Cambridge says a lot about you as a person, and the kinds of skills you will be able to transfer to the workplace.

Your degree indicates you are highly intelligent, capable of synthesizing and critically analysing information with great accuracy and at a high speed. It shows you are used to communicating both aurally and in writing, and that you regularly discuss and debate ideas with top level academics. But above all, employers know how heavy the workload of an Oxbridge student is, and they recognise that, by coming out the end of the process with a degree, you are extremely hard-working, have great time-management skills and can handle a high volume of work without crumbling under the pressure. These are skills that are invaluable to many employers, and an Oxbridge education uniquely prepares you in a way few other universities can.

World-class careers service

careerslibrary

Alongside their obvious academic facilities and resources, both Oxford and Cambridge boast world class careers services, that provide free guidance and support to all students, past and present, and take a keen interest on the destinations of those it supports. The careers services keep detailed records on a huge bank of the top graduate employers, and have libraries filled with information not only about what a career is like in each industry, but also past application forms and resources to help secure your target job.

A network of Oxbridge alumni

network

The careers services also like to maintain contact with as many graduates as possible, and many take part in online chatrooms and forums with current students to discuss and advise on how to get into different job sectors. A large part of success in the current job market involves the ability to network, and holding an Oxbridge degree immediately gives you common ground with a vast network of high-achieving individuals, who will be more than happy to help you get to where you want to be.

The stamp of approval

stamp

Oxbridge is often, quite unfairly, criticised as a marker of elitism, and the predominance of Oxbridge graduates in high-status positions of public life is cited as a social ill that needs to be redressed. This is an unjustified critique, and completely fails to recognise that Oxbridge is where the best and most competent high achievers go, and therefore it is only natural that a higher proportion of these individuals will go on to enjoy successful careers and occupy the top jobs in society.

What Oxbridge gives its graduates is a stamp of approval, which rightly or wrongly opens up doors that would otherwise not be open to them. It is why places are so sought after and it is why the workload is so intense. Oxbridge graduates have earnt the right to put Oxon or Cantab after their name, and whilst this unique signature is not on its own a fast-track pass to the good life, it plays its part.

Access and Bursary Interviews

by Laura on

Our team at Oxbridge interviews all had fantastic experiences studying at Oxford and Cambridge, and we are passionate about ensuring every high achieving student has a chance to fulfil their potential and enjoy the same opportunities that we did, regardless of their educational background.

For every hour of paid support we offer, we guarantee to offer an equivalent hour of free support for students who qualify for our bursary scheme.

In order to qualify for a bursary interviews you must have achieved at least 5 As or A*s at GCSE and must also meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Neither of your parents attended university
  • There is no tradition of students at your school attending top universities
  • You receive free school meals

If you would like to be considered for one of our limited bursary places, please complete the form below.

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Why it pays to book interview practice sooner rather than later

by Laura on

At this stage of the process, it is understandable that all your focus is on your personal statement and interviews probably seem a long way off. Add to this the fact that it will be a few weeks before you know if you have been invited to interview and booking interview practice probably seems like a task for the future. But in reality, it is important to get in early. Here is why…

You will probably be offered an interview

By its very nature, the Oxbridge application process attracts only the highest achieving candidates. With so little to choose between the exam grades and admissions test scores of those who apply, Oxford and Cambridge tend to interview the majority of applicants. Last year, for example, Cambridge interviewed over 80% of those who submitted applications.

So whilst it might be tempting to wait and see if you’ve been offered an interview, this could well leave it too late to have vital interview practices. It pays to assume you will get an interview.

It maximises your preparation time

Our advice is that it is always better to get your interview practice in as early as you can. Our interviewers are all highly trained subject-specialists, and they provide detailed written and oral feedback for you to take away with you, as well as the option of having your session filmed so you can later view a DVD of your performance.

This feedback is most useful to you the more time you have between the practice sessions and the real thing in which to work on improving. If you have a practice session only a few days before the real interview, you won’t be as able to learn effectively from the experience.

We book up quickly

We work with several of the top independent schools in the country, and a large number of private clients. Our popularity increases year on year and this year we expect our interview days to become fully booked earlier than ever before.

It is a problem all those who book with us face, but waiting until late November, when you hear if you have been invited to interview, before booking practice with us is probably going to be too late. Given the chances of being offered an interview are strong, it makes more sense to book earlier and avoid missing out.

You can always cancel

If you are still concerned, do not fear! Our cancellation policy means that, should you wish to cancel a pre-booked interview with us, you can do this up to five working days in advance and receive a full-refund (minus a small administration fee). So in the unlikely event that you do not get offered an interview you can still get your money back.

Brand New – Skype Interviews!

by Laura on

skype

Oxbridge Interviews are proud to announce that we will now be offering all of our interview services via Skype!

We appreciate that for a lot of students, particularly those based abroad, getting to London or Oxford for our interview days can be difficult, and so we have decided to solve that problem by arranging for our interviewers to give interviews over Skype.

The format of all interviews will remain the same, and our range of support sessions offered in person is reflected over Skype, but now our support is available to everyone, no matter where you live.

For more information about how we can support your application, call our team of Oxbridge graduates on 0207 607 5370.

Keeping it Current: English Literature

by Laura on

book

The fascinating thing about Literature is that it is always current. Whether it is a new novel or play, or a new interpretation of an old text, unlike non-fiction, literature never really becomes dated. Indeed, some writers are so ahead of their time that their work only becomes current years after it is released. So keeping it current is very much central to an understanding of English Literature. 

empathy

Research carried out by social psychologists at the New School in New York City has recently demonstrated the importance of literary fiction in developing our empathetic skills, forging one of the first empirical links between critical theories about the function of literature and psychological theories about its cognitive impact. The experiment focused on four groups of test subjects, each of which was provided with a different kind of writing: non-fiction, genre (or popular) fiction, and literary fiction (the fourth group received nothing to read at all). Literary fiction tends to depict characters with far greater psychological complexity, and the emotional inconsistencies portrayed in such works were found to demand a heightened empathetic attitude in their readers, when compared to popular fiction, which tends to feature linear, predictable plots. Researchers Emanuele Castano and David Comer Kidd, have analogised the different psychological requirements for popular fiction and literary fiction to the literary theorist Roland Barthes’ distinction between ‘lisible’ (‘readable’) and ‘scriptible’ (‘writable’) texts – the latter of which being a more sophisticated category of fiction that requires the reader to ‘complete’ the text he or she is reading, rather than passively imbibe it as in the case of ‘lisible’ texts. Do you think literature makes you more empathic? What techniques do writers use most effectively to draw you into a character’s emotional life? Is there a role for literature in modern life, beyond merely escapism? Find out more here.

shakespeare

Perpetuated initially by his contemporaries, one of the most popular myths about Shakespeare was that he was distinct from all other writers, transcendent even. A flawless epitome of perfection, Shakespeare has long been regarded as operating on a different plane. More recent analysis however, paints Shakespeare as a part and product of the socio-economic circumstances of his time. nowhere is this critical shift better epitomised than in Jonathan Bate- and Eric Rasmussen’s recent edition of Shakespeare’s collaborative work, William Shakespeare and Others. With this new collection of plays, Bate and Rasmussen have strengthened the case for Shakespeare’s dramatic involvement with these works, and further illuminated the way in which Shakespeare collaborated with his fellow playwrights. The new edition is important because it forces us to view Shakespeare as a product of the social and economic energies in late sixteenth-century England – he wrote for money, not just aesthetic satisfaction – and inextricably linked with the collaborative culture that surrounded playwriting at the time. Do you think it matters that Shakespeare was less the transcendental artist he is traditionally depicted as, and more a jobbing playwright with financial motives behind some of his artistic choices? Is it important that Shakespeare wrote with other playwrights (not as a solo genius) much more than previously thought? And why would it matter if we started to think about Shakespeare as a fallible creative force that made mistakes and went back to correct them – as it’s obvious he did on the Sir Thomas More manuscript, below – rather than the embodiment of literary perfection? Find out more here.

dragontatto

Among British readers there is a growing demand for translated fiction, with foreign novels experiencing a boom in the United Kingdom. Thanks in part to the success in recent years of Scandinavian fiction, and in particular Stieg Larsson’s Millenium books, British readers are flocking in increasing numbers to devour foreign literature. “The perception of translations is not what it was 10 years ago”, says Chris White, fiction buyer for Waterstones, adding “they are now just seen as great books”. Earlier this month, large-scale book launches were held across the country to celebrate the latest release from Haruki Murakami, a Japanese author whose novels have become a global phenomenon. Some critics have argued that the publishing industry in the UK underestimates the Great British public, driving at the bottom line of sales and assuming people will not want to read about the experiences of people in Sweden or China. The changes in attitudes have been attributed to the the global nature of modern events, and a changing culture of interconnectedness, helped in large part by the rise of social media. What do you think is behind the shift in attitude toward foreign fiction? What implications will this shift have for publishing in the UK? Is it a positive thing that the homogeneous monopoly of British and American novels in the mainstream has been broken? Or does this shift threaten the identity at the heart of what we mean by ‘English’ Literature? Find out more here.

Below are some other useful websites and resources for those considering applying to study English literature or other related subjects.  

World of Tales – A really nice little site featuring folk tales from around the world. With the increasingly globalised nature of modern literature, and the fluidity of genres and formats, this site is a good tool for getting to grips with the cultural differences in literary works.

Bibliomania – This is a good online database, for when you’d rather not spend the money on a book or on your Kindle, then you can access a lot of the classics for free.

Luminarium – Another great online anthology, densely packed with poetry, plays, novels and prose dating back over centuries. There is also a useful index that allows you to find authors and playwrights by genre and time period.

The Poetry Society – The official site of the Poetry Society, this is full of poems, new and old, articles and features on writing, critiquing and understanding poetry, as well as podcasts from some of the country’s foremost poets, and information on upcoming poetry events.

Keeping it Current: Classics

by Laura on

classics

‘Keeping Classics current? Surely that’s a contradiction?’ These are not uncommon objections to the study of this discipline. So, what is the point of studying a dead language, dead civilisation? Well the point is that Classics is not dead at all. The inventions, ideas and social movements founded in classical times live on into modernity, and what Classics and classicists have to say about the world today is as relevant now as it has ever been.

marybeard

Mary Beard, a well-known classicist who also teaches at Cambridge, is no stranger to misogyny. An opinionated and forceful political commentator, and a widely respected academic, Beard has been outspoken in the debate about online trolling, after receiving a barrage of abusive messages about her appearance via Twitter. In its brief history, social media has often been used as a forum for hate speech and prejudice, and women in particular have often had to endure aggressive and offensive remarks. Beard has suggested that modern misogyny may to some extent be rooted in the views of the ancients. How might modern day gender stereotypes derive from the social conventions of classical civilisations? Are the sentiments expressed ultimately similar to the views of ancient times, just through a new forum? Is Twitter a utopian expression of Athenian democracy, or a twisted mutation of that ideal?  You can find a recording and full transcript of the talk she gave to the London Review of Books here.

parthenon

If you have been to the British Museum, you will doubtless have sought out the Elgin Marbles, the magnificent sculptures which adorned the Parthenon in Classical Athens. If you haven’t, we recommend doing so. The treasures were controversially removed and brought back from Athens to England by the Earl of Elgin in the early 19th Century, and in recent years, Greece has been calling for their return, even completing a state of the art museum in which to house the pieces, situated under the acropolis in Athens. Journalist and art critic Jonathan Jones, who has previously argued for the monuments to remain at the British Museum, has been convinced by a recent visit to the acropolis that Greece is their rightful home. The issue has been given more mainstream coverage following the release of Hollywood blockbuster The Monuments Men. Is it correct to claim that the marbles ‘belong to’ Greece? Some argue that the Parthenon sculptures are an item of global rather than solely Greek significance, and as such they should stay in a museum which is both free to visit, and located in one of Europe’s most visited cities. What is the basis for this assertion? And what does it say about our attitudes to classical art and artefacts, and classics more broadly? Find out more here.

sappho

Two poems, believed to have been written by enigmatic Ancient Greek poet Sappho, have been discovered by an Oxford University papryologist. A famously elusive and mysterious poet, Sappho is believed to have hailed from the Greek island of Lesbos, and her work is characterised by her emotional outpourings of love and desire, often for other women. The two new poems came to light when an anonymous art collector in London showed the fragments to papyrologist Dirk Obbink, who has said that the poems are “indubitably Saphho’s”. This assertion is based on the fact that not only does the subject matter of the new fragments link to poems already known to be by her, but the metre and dialect are of a style that points to Sappho. Have you read Sappho’s poems? What do they tell us about ancient attitudes toward homosexuality? What factors lead to the loss or destruction of ancient writing? What role might the subsequent homophobia of Christian Europe have played? Find out more here.

Below are some other useful websites and resources for those considering applying to study Classics or other related subjects.

Euripides’ Medea at the National Theatre – From ancient art to ancient drama: the National Theatre’s production of Euripides’ Medea starring Helen McRory (Narcissa Malfoy in the Harry Potter films) is sold out (why study classics indeed!). You can queue for tickets on the day of the performance; alternatively cinemas nationwide are screening the final night live on the 4th September.

Suda Online – around a thousand years ago, an encyclopedia of knowledge of the ancient Mediterranean world was assembled. With 31,000 entries, the Suda is in part a dictionary of grammar, and in part a collection of articles on classical literature that includes descriptions of, and quotes from, works that have long since disappeared. This great lexicon has recently been made available online.

Numen: The Latin Lexicon – this is a great site for supplementing your school language classes, or for taking your first steps in the language. With an online dictionary, video tutorials and various other interactive resources, the website is engaging as well as informative.

The Secret History by Donna Tartt – not strictly an online resource, but we couldn’t resist the opportunity to encourage you to read one of our favourite novels. A dark tale of evil and intrigue, the story follows Richard, who, taken in by the strange and charismatic classmates of his Ancient Greek class, is dragged further and further into their insular and fantastical world, where the boundaries of reality and mythology are sullied, and a terrible secret awaits. This novel alludes to some of the great mysteries of the ancient world, and is a brilliant read.

Oxford and Cambridge: Dispelling the myths

by Laura on

Despite attempts to improve their PR, Oxford and Cambridge still seem to be institutions shrouded in mystery. Whilst there is plenty of information out there if you are willing to look, the mythical, ancient status of these two prestigious institutions means that many people are bought in by the stories they hear, and sadly in some cases may be put off applying as a result. This article should help to dispel a few of those preconceptions, and encourage you that Oxford and Cambridge are not so alien after all…

5. “Oxbridge is only for the rich”

upperclasstwit

It is an unfortunate truth that, once upon a time, Oxford and Cambridge did used to be elitist institutions. However, much effort and campaigning has taken place throughout the last few decades to redress this, and ensure that admission is based not on class, income, race, gender or any other demographic factor, but on academic prowess and a rigorous and meritocratic selection system.

It is a great shame that the media continue to portray Oxbridge as a symbol of inequality and privilege, when in reality it is really a symbol of academic excellence. Yes, there are a disproportionate number of students who attended the top fee-paying schools, but all of them got their place on the basis of the strength of their application, not their background. And that is what is so great about Oxbridge, because once you are there, it is really a level playing field. Whether you went to a prestigious boarding school, or an inner city comprehensive, you receive quite simply the finest education in the world.

I personally attended an ordinary comprehensive, and very nearly didn’t go to Cambridge because I feared I would somehow be an outsider, but thankfully I changed my mind and enjoyed the best three years of my life there! Don’t let the media scare you – if you’re bright enough, Oxbridge will welcome you, wherever you are from.

4. “Oxbridge students don’t have any fun”

stressed-student

This is a major fear for many prospective applicants. They assume that an Oxbridge degree involves spending every waking moment of your day in the library, with little or no room for leisure of any kind. Whilst any course requires a great deal of work, this simply means students spend their free time more productively.

Oxbridge students engage in any number of extracurricular pursuits. The universities are home to hundreds of sports teams, ranging from loosely organised fun to elite level competition. Theatre and performing arts also boast a rich tradition in the two cities, who can name dozens of famous actors and comedians among their alumni. This doesn’t simply have to be by joining a club – there is an abundance of interesting and creative people at Oxford and Cambridge, and you do not have to look far to find inspiration. Whatever your interest, no matter how obscure, you can guarantee that, somewhere in the university, someone else will share it.

And if it’s just a cracking night out you’re looking for, then Oxford and Cambridge have a buzzing and varied nightlife that competes with any other university.

The one thing you might have to sacrifice is getting up at 12 everyday and watching day-time TV, but you’ll soon come to realise a fascinating degree and an active social life are infinitely preferable to a few episodes of Loose Women…

3. “If I’m good at sport, then I’ll definitely get in”

boatrace

The Oxbridge rumour mill is full of stories about people being accepted for the wrong reason, and nearly all of them are nonsense. The best one I’ve heard is that at one Oxford college as you enter the interview room, a rugby ball is hurled at you. If you catch it, you get in. If you catch it, and then drop-kick it into the bin, you get a full scholarship.

Whilst it is true that sport plays a huge role in the history and culture of the two universities, and that colleges pride themselves upon their best sportsmen and women, the application process is about one thing and one thing only, and that is how good you are judged to be at your chosen subject. It really doesn’t matter to admissions tutors and interviewers whether you’re a county tennis player or a talented rower. If you are academically excellent, you will get in, if you are not, you won’t. It is really that simple.

2. “Oxbridge only care about academia. It won’t help me get a good job”

diploma

This is categorically not true. Both Oxford and Cambridge invest a huge amount of money into the university careers services, and take immense pride in the myriad diversity of interesting jobs their graduates go on to do. Of course, if individuals are particularly talented at their subject, the university encourages them to undertake post-graduate qualifications, and pursue a career in academia, but will actively support them in whatever they choose to do.

Whilst most of the Oxbridge courses aren’t strictly vocational in the sense of courses at some other universities, what an Oxbridge degree says about an individual on a more general level is what makes graduates of these two universities so successful. An Oxbridge degree shows that you are very bright, can synthesise information quickly and efficiently and that you can work extremely hard. All of these are invaluable assets to any company, and you’ll find that, whilst your degree is not the automatic ticket to career success that some believe it to be, it will make you stand out to employers, and may give you the edge you need in an ever more competitive job market.

1. “I’m not good enough to apply”

Self-Doubt

Every single student who has ever attended Oxford or Cambridge, at one time or another has felt that lingering sense of doubt that they are not good enough. “Maybe I only got in because of an administrative error”, “I’m not as clever as everyone else”, “Soon I’ll be exposed as the fraud I really am”. You ask anyone who’s been to Oxbridge and they’ll recognise these patterns of thinking, and these are people who successfully navigated the admissions process, often going on to achieve first-class degrees.

For many, Oxbridge can seem such a daunting prospect that they assume they are not good enough to apply. Well I can tell you if you are reading this you most certainly are good enough, you just need to show it. Oxbridge are looking for bright, articulate and engaged young people, who are passionate about their chosen subject. Don’t undersell yourself – if that describes you then go for it! You’ll never know if you don’t try.

Keeping it Current: Law

by Laura on

law

We live in a time of legal upheaval. With new technologies now advancing at an ever more rapid rate, the legal system faces a daunting task to keep pace with the scope of social change, a battle in which it has so far looked unconvincing at best. Further, following the Snowden revelations of unprecedented surveillance of the public by governments, domestic and international Law is under increased scrutiny to uphold and protect the civil liberties of its citizens. Far from being a static and verbose discipline, modern Law is dynamic and fluid like never before.

surrogacy

In response to international outrage over the Gammy case, Attorney General George Brandis has added his voice to the widespread calls for urgent reform of the laws regarding international surrogacy arrangements. The case came to prominence after an Australian couple travelling to Thailand to adopt a child were accused of abandoning a baby because he had Downs Syndrome. As controversy mounted, it was also revealed that the father, who adopted Gammy’s twin sister, was a convicted sex offender, previously jailed on multiple counts of child abuse. Following the incident, the military government in Thailand have given preliminary approval for the banning of commercial surrogacy agreements, but the case has raised wider questions about the law in general. The Hague Convention “protects children and their families against the risks of illegal, irregular, premature or ill-prepared adoptions”. What factors in the reading of the law do you think have contributed to this grey area? In what sense is the way we legally define ‘parenthood’ a critical factor? Should the surrogate parents be legally responsible for Gammy? Should any punitive measure be taken against them? http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/aug/15/australian-couples-hit-thai-surrogacy-ban

missouri

In the U.S., protests and demonstrations have taken place in Ferguson, Missouri, after teenager Michael Brown was shot dead following an altercation with police in a St. Louis suburb. Witnesses claim to have seen Brown, who was “clearly unarmed”, run away from police, stop after being hit by one bullet to put his hands in the air, before being shot multiple times. The incident has sparked fury and outrage among St. Louis’ predominantly African-American neighbourhood, and has stirred up a debate about the profiling of young black men. The issue is a highly charged one in America, where African-Americans are still reeling from the verdict in the case of Trayvon Martin, and the issue is also salient this side of the Atlantic, where only 3 years ago the fatal shooting of Mark Duggan set the fuse for a summer of rioting and civil unrest in the UK, and raised wider questions about the scope of police power in the line of duty. Do you think that police powers have gone too far, or are cases like this simply anomalies, where rogue individuals have acted outside of the remit set out for them? Should police protocol go further than common law, in the name of public protection? Based on the law on the permissible use of deadly force, did police act unlawfully in shooting Michael Brown? http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/8/12/michael-brown-policeexcessiveforce.html

sharia

Across the middle-east and parts of Africa, Islamic fundamentalism continues to present difficult legal and moral questions. Advocates of an extremist interpretation of the Qur’an push for full Sharia Law, and in some states this has been adopted, often leading to a negative impact on human rights. Most prominent has been the treatment of women under Sharia Law, with particular concerns surrounding child marriage, education and female genital mutilation, amongst a range of ultra-conservative attitudes. Whilst historically religion has often played a key role in the formation of law, with many legal principles owing to the teachings of religious texts like the Bible, it has been argued that this relationship is only functional when it promotes human rights, protects personal freedoms and leaves ultimate authority in the rule of law, rather than religious zealots. There are several hotspots in the world currently where religion and law are engaged in a deadly power struggle. Nigeria, Syria and Iraq are all notable examples. How far should the rule of law respect religious doctrine, particularly when this doctrine impacts upon personal freedom? Do the international community have a legal obligation, under international law, to intervene to stop cultural practices such as female genital mutilation? Is there no place for religion in law? https://www.opendemocracy.net/openglobalrights/geraldyn-ezeakile/whose-faith-wins-keeping-religion-out-of-law

Below are some other useful websites and resources for those considering applying to study Law or any related subjects.

http://lawcommission.justice.gov.uk/ – a useful site for the latest developments in legal reform. The Law Commission is government run, an off-shoot of the Ministry of Justice, so this is particularly useful if you want to really get the news from the horse’s mouth.

http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/ – another useful website for current legal happenings, with news and features on all aspects of law, from medical ethics to corporate law.

http://learnmore.lawbore.net/ – a nice little interactive site, which will be particularly useful for anyone who did not study law at A-level. The site is focussed more on the process of law, honing skills such as mooting and helping you get to grips with the wide array of legal careers out there.

http://www.theguardian.com/law – the Guardian’s Law section is by far the best of any national newspaper. Filled with loads of features and comment pieces, this is really useful for supplementary reading, and for keeping up to date with the hot topics in the field.

Keeping it Current: Economics

by Laura on

economics

In the wake of the financial crash in 2008, it seems as though every other news item has been a story of economic doom and gloom. The state of the global financial system has been an inescapable spectre, and government, banks, and several prominent businesses have struggled to emerge from the mist. However, every cloud has a silver, gold or bronze lining, and for us it is that there has seldom been a more interesting time to study Economics.

eurozone

Recent estimates have indicated that the momentum of economic growth in Europe is beginning to falter. Official statistics from Eurostat saw the Eurozone experience 0.0% growth in the second financial quarter, with France and Germany, the two largest economies in the economic bloc, particularly struggling, and Italy, the third largest, falling back into recession. Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank, has in recent weeks described Europe’s stagnating recovery as “weak, fragile and uneven”, amid fears the Eurozone is in danger of going into reverse. The risk of deflation continues to grow, with French consumer prices falling by 0.4% each month, whilst the Greek economy remains in crisis. What impact do you think the faltering recovery in the Eurozone will have on the UK? Do you think the political situation in Ukraine is linked to Europe’s economic woes, and if so, how? Analysts in Germany have attributed the stagnation to their sizeable construction industry – how might this have effected the recovery? http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-27427398

sterling

With the referendum on Scottish independence rapidly approaching, one of the major issues for debate has been over currency. Alex Salmond has claimed that an independent Scotland would keep the Pound, whilst remaining economically independent from the UK, as part of a formal currency union. Alistair Darling and the No campaign, however, have argued that it would be impossible for Scotland to keep the pound, and Ed Miliband has even pledged not to allow Scotland to keep the currency in Labour’s 2015 election manifesto. Economists have also clashed on the issue, with Sir Donald MacKay arguing that it would be in the interest of the UK, as well as Scotland, to have a currency union, whilst Ewen Stewart has responded by arguing that Scotland cannot “keep the best bits” of the UK. What do you think would be the ultimate economic outcome of a currency union? Why do you think the main political parties in Westminster are opposed to it? Are their reasons purely economic, or are they political? Might it be possible for Scotland to shadow the Pound, as Ireland currently do, and if so why? http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/scottish-independence-scots-reject-euro-currency-back-alex-salmonds-demand-pound-1460812

putin

Following the deepening unrest in Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea, and the shooting down of flight MH17, killing 298 passengers and crew, Western Europe and the United States have responded by placing economic sanctions on Russia, and particularly Russian president Vladimir Putin and his inner circle of Oligarchs. The hope, certainly among some Western leaders, is that the sanctions will further damage Russia’s already fragile economy, leading to a drop in living standards that, if not a significant deterrent to Putin’s imperialist ambitions, then the catalyst for civil discontent and a change of leadership. Europe’s sanctions have been far reaching, and have targeted in particular Russian banks, energy and arms. Embargos have been placed on the export of arms, sensitive technology and equipment for use in Russia’s oil industry. Russia have responded with their own tit-for-tat sanctions, which appear to have had a negative impact on the economies of Germany and France. In Western Europe, is the threat of economic sanctions now a more powerful and useful deterrent than the threat of military force? In what way could Europe be said to have ‘shot itself in the foot?’ Is the economy of Russia really as weak as it is presented to be? What implications might this have for the UK, and particularly London, home to hundreds of Russian businessmen. http://www.forbes.com/sites/markadomanis/2014/08/12/despite-us-and-eu-sanctions-russias-economy-is-still-growing/

Below are some other useful websites and resources for those considering applying to study Economics or other related subjects.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00msxfl – More or Less is a wonderful introduction to the use of figures and statistics. Each week examining prominent numbers used in the week’s news events, Tim Harford and guests pick apart the way they are presented, what they really tell us, and whether or not they are misleading.

http://online.wsj.com/uk – along with the Financial Times, the Wall Street Journal is simply a must-read for any young economist looking to keep it current.

http://fivethirtyeight.com/economics/ – founded by prominent political and economic forecaster Nate Silver, Fivethirtyeight is a website that is all about prediction. Having correctly predicted the outcome of 49 out of 50 states in the U.S. presidential campaign, and all 35 senatorial seats, Silver has rapidly risen to become one of America’s foremost political and economic analysts. If you get a chance it is also worth reading his book The Signal and the Noise: The Art and Science of Prediction. There is a great section on subprime mortgages and the collapse of Lehmann Brothers.

http://www.neweconomics.org/ – the NEF is focussed primarily on a more progressive economics, one that takes account not only of money and financial systems, but of the economy of wellbeing, and what can be done to promote human happiness. With many governments taking note of the global happiness index, this is well worth looking into if you want to stand out at interview.

Keeping it Current: Psychology

by Laura on

psychology

Look almost anywhere in the news and there will be an example of Psychology in action. The field is currently in rude health, with more students studying Psychology at university than any other subject. Still, if you want to study it at Oxford or Cambridge, you’ll need to show you are up-to-date with the cutting edge.

baby

Researchers at the University of California have found that babies’ brains grow the most rapidly in the period immediately after birth, reaching half their adult size within just three months. The cerebellum, an area involved in motor skills and movement, was the fastest area to develop, whilst the Hippocampus, which plays a role in the creation of memories, was the slowest. The brains of male infants were found to develop faster than that of females. The researchers involved in the project hope collating this data will help them to be better placed to identify the early markers of developmental disorders such as Autism. What does this research tell us about human development? Is there a critical period, or is there a case that all periods are critical? What environmental factors could have an impact on the early development of the infant brain? http://www.livescience.com/47298-babies-amazing-brain-growth.html

mental health

Of more immediate concern, crisis of mental health continues in the UK and elsewhere. Despite accounting for 23% of the UK’s total burden of ill-health, the provision of funding for mental health treatment is only 6% of total medical research funding. The publication of the DSM-V last year, featuring several diagnostic categories that were heavily criticised by clinical psychologists, has further driven a wedge between psychiatrists and psychologists. The debate has been raging for several decades now, but there is still no clear consensus on what mental health actually is, or indeed how we define it. However, with depression one of the most prevalent conditions in the world, suicide rates increasing among young men, and provision of support being hit by spending cuts, it is clear that this issue is as important now as it has ever been. How would you define mental health? What basis, if any, is there for the argument that mental illnesses are diseases? Which therapeutic approaches most interest you? Is there any merit to the the idea that mental illnesses are cultural creations? http://www.theguardian.com/books/2014/aug/09/mental-health-work-is-just-firefighting-now

penaltyshootout

In the world of sport, a joint record of 4 matches in the 2014 Football World Cup were decided on a penalty shootout. Most notably, in the quarter final between Costa Rica and the Netherlands, Dutch manager Louis Van Gaal made the unorthodox decision to substitute his goalkeeper seconds before the shootout. Substitute keeper Tim Krul appeared to approach each Costa Rican penalty taker and tell them he knew which way they would shoot. Krul saved 2 penalties and dived the right way every time, winning the shootout for Holland, and sparing the blushes for Van Gaal. Researchers have suggested that penalty shootouts are ultimately psychological mind games. Whilst they found no pattern in the behaviour of penalty takers, it was found that, if penalty takers from one team shot in the same direction three times in a row, goalkeepers were significantly more likely to dive in the opposite direction when facing the fourth penalty taker. What inferences can be drawn from research into the psychology of sport and athletes? What other psychological factors are involved in penalty shootouts and other sudden death tie-breakers in sport? What kinds of techniques do you think are employed by elite sports psychologists? http://www.bps.org.uk/news/psychology-penalty-shootout

Below are some other useful websites and resources for those considering applying to study Psychology or any related subjects.

http://psychology.tools/ – for those with a particular interest in therapy and mental health, this is a useful site. Lots of information on causes, documents outlining models of understanding and therapeutic approaches, including person-centred, CBT and holistic.

http://www.g2conline.org/ – if you find interactive learning more accessible, then this is the site for you. This initially confusing mind-map guides you through the basics of neuroscience and psychological understandings of the brain, complete with videos, animations and games.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b041dlkx – broadcast earlier this year but unfortunately no longer available on iplayer, a brilliant series presented by Martin Sixsmith on the History of Psychology. With the help of guest speakers, Martin traces the development of Psychology as a discipline, its many sub-divisions, and the key issues it has sought to address, including the problem of consciousness, the psychology of evil, and the question of insanity. He also assesses the legacies of some of the most influential psychologists of all time, including Pavlov, Piaget, Freud and James. If you can find a podcast or recording of this, I thoroughly recommend it!

http://www.ted.com/ – TED talks are useful for more or less any subject, but it is in Psychology where they are most dynamic and fascinating. Delivered by a range of speakers, from a variety of fields, including Neuroscience, Business, Therapy and of course Psychology itself, TED talks are not only a great resource to keep you current, they are also thoroughly enjoyable to watch in your free time too.

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