Political Science, Philosophy, Economics (PPE)

Stream Overview

Delve into government policy and economic organization, nationalism and internationalism, cultural relativism and universal values, and transnationalism and social justice. This stream is loosely modelled on a successful undergraduate program at the University of Oxford.






PPE is organized around ideas that are fundamental to understanding the social world. Critical thinking and a multi-disciplinary approach are emphasized when considering issues like government policy, economic organization, social ills, relativism and universal values, and transnational and social justice. Students will develop theoretical and practical skills associated with scholarly research and discussion in the Humanities and Social Sciences.

Loosely modeled on a successful undergraduate program at the University of Oxford, this stream engages students via four disciplinary perspectives: Philosophy, Political Science, Economics, and English. Though the focus is aimed primarily at the Canadian context, courses in this stream will also consider global scenarios, and students are encouraged to apply broadly the knowledge they gain in PPE.

This stream may be of particular interest to students who plan on majoring in Philosophy, Political Science, Economics, Commerce, and International Relations.

“The CAP program provided an excellent transition from high school to university and provided me with a “skills toolkit” to succeed at UBC. In particular, my ASTU class with Dr. McNeill prepared me to tackle academic writing and research. I learned how to ask effective questions and the critical thinking skills I gained I was able to apply in all my research papers.”

Camille de Gracia, Political Science major

Click here for more student testimonials.


All course descriptions and information are subject to change.

In your first term, you will enroll in Arts Studies, Economics, and Political Science. In your Arts Studies class, you will study how politics, economics, and philosophy intersect, as well as learn about the features of academic writing in a scholarly setting. Your introduction to politics class will set the foundation for your understanding of politics in future political science and other related courses. The study of microeconomics will also introduce you to the economic theories behind the fundamental relationship of demand and supply in our economy.

Arts Studies (ASTU) 101 Seminar

(3 credits/1 term) – First Year CAP Seminar: Focuses on academic reading, writing, and research. This course provides an interdisciplinary foundation for academic writing and related research communicative practices within an interactive learning environment.

Students will choose one out of five different sections (P01/P02/P03/P04/P05), based on their scheduling needs and academic interests.

P01: Mon, Wed, Fri 10:00-11:00
P02: Mon, Wed, Fri 11:00-12:00
P03: Tues & Thurs 11:00-12:30
P04: Tues & Thurs 14:00-15:30
P05: Tues & Thurs 15:30-17:00

  • ASTU 101 Section P01 -  Politics and Philosophy on City Streets
    Dr. Anne Stewart

This course is an introduction to academic writing through the debates, arguments, and rhetorical contests that unfold on and around our city streets. The street is simultaneously a site of public discourse and a space that writers use to interpret and discuss the struggles of city life and civic participation. This course will focus on the city street as both a site of rhetorical action (a place where people go to speak and be heard) and a rhetorical tool (a space that is employed as a trope, a symbol, and a strategic perspective for a variety of arguments). We will discuss, research, and attempt to define the variety of political and philosophical positions surrounding debates that take place in and around the city street. Once we have developed a vocabulary and a background for understanding how the street functions as a site of public debate, we will consider the different multimodal mediums (street art, music, film, architecture, etc.) in which the city street is taken up as a rhetorical device. Drawing on academic writing from the humanities and the social sciences, we will develop research projects that respond to the city streets of our present and imagine how the streets of the future might operate. Course goals emphasize the development of research skills, the ability to fairly and clearly summarize an argument, and the cultivation of persuasive scholarly writing and project planning.

  • ASTU 101 Section P02 -  Crisis and the Everyday in Academic Research and Writing
    Dr. Evan Mauro

This course introduces students to the conventions and uses academic writing. We will seek to understand how academic writing is practiced in several disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. We will learn how to locate, evaluate, and critique academic arguments, and how to respond to them in our own scholarly writing.

In this CAP stream, we investigate how our ways of thinking about politics, economics, and philosophy overlap, and how they differ. Our section of ASTU 101 will focus on the concept of crisis, a term that is increasingly used in each of these disciplines to describe our contemporary condition. We will investigate what happens when an event or situation is termed a crisis today. How are crises defined, and what cultural and political work do these definitions do? If “crisis” once meant an extraordinary situation, it has more recently become part of the fabric of everyday life:  subprime crisis, Eurozone crisis, environmental crisis, jobs crisis, and so on. We will investigate who defines these different crises, who benefits from those definitions, and what it might mean that our sense of crisis has been normalized to the point that we now understand our everyday state of affairs as a prolonged crisis, unfolding slowly.

By examining how different disciplines frame and research narratives of crisis, this course offers students insight into how to design their own research projects and carry them through.

  • ASTU 101 Section P03, P04, P05 - It’s No Game: The Idea of Competition
    Dr. Michael Schandorf

The idea of competition is so fundamental to Western culture that we often take it for granted as a natural good. Nearly every aspect of our lives involves competition: we compete in school and for jobs, we compete both socially and at work, we compete in games for fun, and when we’re not competing ourselves we spend much of our time enjoying watching others compete. But our obsession with competition has complications. For example, a world divided into winners and losers is an inherently inequitable world: there will always be more “losers” than “winners”. Competition also has interesting relationships with our need for social cohesion. Attempting to disentangle cooperation from competition, in fact, can undermine both: a lack of either can lead to unproductive stasis, and worse, but a complete integration of cooperation and competition can lead to us-versus-them thinking and even war (which American rhetorical scholar Kenneth Burke called “the ultimate disease of cooperation”). This seminar will explore some of the ways that competition has been investigated in recent scholarship, and students will design and produce a research project of their own contributing to that scholarly conversation.

Economics (ECON) 101 - Principles of Microeconomics

(3 credits/1 term)
Dr. Chowdhury Shameen Mahmoud

Principles of Microeconomics: Elements of theory and of Canadian policy and institutions concerning the economics of markets and market behaviour, prices and costs, exchange and trade, competition and monopoly, distribution of income.

Individuals, firms, and societies have only limited resources. For example, individuals have only so much time, firms have only so many workers, and societies have only so much land. Microeconomics is the study of how decision makers---individuals, firms, and societies---do use and should use their limited resources.

More specifically, this course examines how market prices help allocate society’s scarce resources and what determines those prices; how consumers and firms make decisions and interact in markets; how firms decide what types and quantities of goods services to produce; how various government policies affect market outcomes and social welfare; and how economists view some of the problems caused by pollution, public goods, and common property resources. This course also tries to answer many important questions like: Is a market system a good way of organizing economic activity and allocating society’s scarce resources? What is the best way for the government to raise the tax revenue? Does increasing the minimum wage make sense? Should municipal governments use rent controls to keep housing affordable? How does international trade affect the well-being of Canadians and their trading partners?

This introductory course will also introduce you to “the economic way of thinking”, a general framework that will not only help you better understand the world around you but will also help you make better decisions in both your personal life and your professional career.

Political Science (POLI) 100 - Introduction to Politics

(3 credits/ 1 term)
Dr. Christopher Erickson

Political issues and case studies, drawn from Canadian and international contexts, will be used to introduce students to central debates and concepts of politics and political analysis.

In your second term, you will enroll in Philosophy, Economics, and Political Science. An introduction to philosophy will develop your critical thinking and logical reasoning, as well as establish the most well-known philosophies behind issues such as morality, ethics, and justice. Moving from microeconomics to macroeconomics, you will study economic frameworks that we use to make sense of economics at a larger societal or national level. You will also learn to apply the concepts learnt in the first term to the context of Canadian politics.

Philosophy (PHIL) 102 - Introduction to Philosophy

(3 credits/1 term)
Dr. Brooks Sommerville

…the really important thing is not to live, but to live well. – Socrates
What does it mean to live well? And what are the necessary ingredients of a good life? Is there a
relationship between being a good person and leading a good, or meaningful, life? Can one live well
in a bad world? In a meaningless world? In this course, we will take up these questions and reflect
on the underlying values and principles that inform our responses to them. Reflecting on these
questions will lead us to consider other fundamental concerns of moral philosophy, such as what (if
any) responsibilities we may
have to others, to animals, and to future generations.

Economics (ECON) 102 - Principles of Macroeconomics

(3 credits/1 term)
Cheryl Fu

Principles of Macroeconomics: Elements of theory and of Canadian policy and institutions concerning the economics of growth and business cycles, national income accounting, interest and exchange rates, money and banking, the balance of trade.

Macroeconomics deals with important questions like: Why are some countries rich while others are poor? What is economic growth and why do different countries grow at different rates? Why is the government so concerned about controlling inflation? What determines the unemployment rate and how is it measured? Why do economies experience cycles of booms and busts rather than a steady increase in the level of economic activity? What are monetary and fiscal policies and how does the government use these policies to influence economic activity?

This course will give you some basic frameworks for thinking about questions like these and many more. It will also help develop your skills of economic analysis and critical thinking. By the end of the course, you’ll have gained some insight into how an economy functions and into some of the policy issues that are the subject of serious debate.

Political Science (POLI) 101 The Government of Canada

(3 credits/1 term)
Kenny Ie

How do Canadians govern themselves? In this course, we will travel from coast to coast to coast to gather a landscape picture of Canada’s complex democratic system. We will examine the fundamental institutions of Canada’s political regime,  and learn about the social and political processes of democratic decision-making. We will approach these topics by surveying classical contributions to scholarship in Canadian politics, as well as the perspectives of minority thinkers (i.e. women, immigrant minorities, and Indigenous scholars). Class instruction will combine standard lectures with an experiential civic leadership component, in which students will be encouraged to identify an organization, event, or initiative in their local community, and reflect on how they can contribute their newly acquired knowledge of how Canadian government works.

In the first half of the course, we will look at the institutions through which executive, legislative, and judicial power is exerted. We will examine the evolving landscape of Canadian federalism, and consider the new, proactive roles that provinces and municipalities are playing in different policy areas. We will also investigate the trajectory of Canada’s constitutional history.

In the second part of the course, we will look more in depth at Canadian society, and the role that different groups play in government. We will address questions such as, how interest groups influence government; how Canada’s bi-national society shapes our federal structures; to what extent immigrant minorities influence democratic decision-making processes; and what the institutional roots are for Indigenous People’s marginalization.

Textbooks currently under consideration:

Mintz, Tossutti and Dunn 2016. Canada’s Politics: Democracy, Diversity and Good Government Third Edition

Guy 2009. People, Politics and Government: A Canadian Perspective.


Please note that you will only register in one ASTU 101 seminar, and one POLI 100 and ECON 101 discussion section. This timetable is subject to change.

Please note that you will only register in one POLI 101 and ECON 102 discussion section. This timetable is subject to change.

Sample Projects

POLI 101

Article Review: Students are given a choice of topics on which to write a short paper. They are asked to choose one article that they will use for the short paper and write a separate article review on it. This assignment is designed to aid the student in choosing appropriate materials for research papers, understand the key arguments from the material, and succinctly communicating that argument.

ASTU 101

Literature Review: Students choose a research topic (based on the focus of their section of ASTU 101), and then write a scholarly literature review. Students learn to identify major abstractions (or concepts), find appropriate secondary sources using the library databases, place academics in discussion with one another, and take a position within this conversation.