Human, Social & Political Sciences

Why choose Girton?

If you wish to study Politics and International Relations, Social Anthropology, or Sociology at Cambridge, this course is for you. It offers several popular subject combinations, as well as specialist options, and allows you to take papers from a range of other subjects. The Human, Social, and Political Sciences (HSPS) Tripos (three-year course) is a new and exciting way to study a broad range of human experience, past and present, from different disciplinary perspectives.

The course allows you to explore a variety of subjects, some of which may be new to you (such as International Relations or Social Anthropology), and offers the opportunity to engage critically with new ideas, focusing on just one subject (single track) or two subjects (joint track) in your second and third years. In this way the course allows students to specialise in their area of interest after trying several in the first year. If you already know the subjects in which you wish to specialise, you can tailor the course to your interests from the start, while enjoying the option of exploring others.

The analytical and critical skills, intellectual versatility and multicultural sensitivity you develop through the course are widely sought after by employers. Our graduates have pursued careers in research (both academic and policy research) as well as work in NGOs and development agencies, journalism, the Civil Service (including the Foreign Office), commerce, the media, among other fields.

In the first year you will choose four papers. At least three must be from the core subject areas:

  • Social Anthropology
  • Internation Relations
  • Politics
  • Sociology

Your fourth paper can either be another from the core subjects, or chosen from the following additional subjects:

  • Archaeology
  • Biological Anthropology
  • Psychology

In the second and third years, you will choose either one of three single-subject tracks, each enabling you to take optional papers from other subjects; or one of three two-subject tracks.

Single-Subject TracksTwo-Subject Tracks
Politics and International RelationsPolitics and Sociology
Social AnthropologySocial Anthropology and Politics
SociologySociology and Social Anthropology

Much more information about the course’s various branches is available here.

The tracks offer exciting opportunities both for students who wish to specialise in a single discipline and those wishing to combine two. Some subjects in this new Tripos were previously included in other courses, which HSPS supersedes and collates.

Students’ studies are directed by Dr John Lawson (covering Politics, Sociology and International Relations) and Dr Linda Layne (covering Social Anthropology). They guide students through their studies and, whatever options students choose, ensure that they receive the best teaching from across the university.

Other Fellows of Girton with research and teaching interests within the purview of HSPS include Professor Dame Marilyn Strathern (Social Anthropology).

Girton has a long history of supporting the disciplines brought together by HSPS. For more information on each discipline at Girton, please see their individual subject pages: Social AnthropologyPolitics, International Relations and Sociology.

Undergraduate information

Every year Girton aims to admit around eight students to the Tripos, with no preference for the subjects they wish to study within the degree. We expect candidates to have a strong examination record at sixth-form. We do not expect candidates to have studied any particular combination of subjects at school, but it is important that they develop an understanding and knowledge appropriate to their academic ambitions. Wider reading and academic exploration beyond school curriculum are crucial to applying to university.

Candidates who are invited to interview have two interviews. Interviews focus on the candidates’ subjects of choice and test their capacity to think critically. Candidates may be asked to undertake a small amount of preparatory reading for discussion at interviews.

If you have any queries about admissions to HSPS, please contact the Admissions Office. We are always happy to hear from prospective applicants.

Undergraduate admissions at a glance

No. of students admitted per year


Entry requirements

All entry requirements are A-Level standard or equivalent, unless otherwise stated.

No specific subjects

Typical offer


Assessment arrangements

There is no written assessment for this subject at Girton College.

Interview arrangements

Two interviews.


Tutorial and Admissions Office
+44 (0)1223 338972
+44 (0)1223 766673

Fellows & Teaching Staff

John Lawson

Dr John Lawson

  • Director of Studies
  • Bye-Fellow
Linda Layne (2019)

Professor Linda L. Layne

  • Director of Studies
  • Bye-Fellow