Social Sciences

Year 12 Politics and International Relations Essay Competition

Polling Station sign

Credit: secretlondon123

Here is some food for thought from an essay competition set by Corpus Christi College:

  • Is economic globalisation helping or hurting democracy in the world?
  • Are most citizens knowledgeable enough to vote in their own interest at the ballot box?
  • Should democracies try to promote regional stability in their foreign policies even if that means supporting authorotarian regimes?
  • Is it desirable to limit the effects of money on politics even if doing so inhibits freedom of political expression?
  • Would eliminating all nuclear weapons make the world a safer or more dangerous place?

Which question do you find most interesting? What approach would you take? Can you think of /research some examples to draw on?

If you are in Year 12 (the penultimate year of school in the UK) and would like to enter the competition itself, please see the details (the deadline is 15 February 2015). Further essay competitions are available in Law, English, Theology and Computer Science.

Date posted: 

Wednesday 12 November 2014

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Preparing for interviews

How Stuff Works magazine

We recommend that you explore topics that interest you further (there are a lot of ways to do this).

We interview most (but not all) students who apply for a place at Cambridge. The interviews are with subject specialists who ask you academic questions to explore your potential for the course you have applied for.

How do you prepare for a Cambridge interview? Here are some tips:

Long-term preparation (before you apply)

  • If you enjoy learning, the good news is that you shouldn't need to change anything significant to prepare for interviews at Cambridge. The most important thing you can do is to develop your academic interests (which you're likely to find that you've already been doing!)
  • Find a Cambridge course that genuinely interests you so that you have natural curiosity and enjoy developing your skills and finding out more.
  • Look at the resources section on the relevant subject page for specific suggestions (e.g. Engineering), but also feel free to follow your own interests or use other resources and books that you find helpful. 
  • Understand that Cambridge interviewers will be interested in your academic interests and how you think and work, not only what you know. The interviews are academic interviews, designed to test this.  This film shows what Cambridge interviews are about.

Short-term preparation (after you have applied)

  • See this advice and our interview guidelines.
  • Watch Film 1 and Film 2 to get a sense of what will happen if you are invited for interview.
  • Carry on developing your academic interests.  Use the resources section on the relevant subject page if you are looking for suggestions.
  • Don't neglect your normal school work - if you are currently at school, we know how busy you are, and you can develop your interests within your school curriculum by putting your best into your homework assignments. Remember that most of your interview preparation has already been done at this stage.
  • Don't worry excessively about the interview itself. Know that the interviews are not a test of how good you are at being interviewed (we're not looking for polish or perfection). They are about your subject(s),  so the only way you can improve your chances is to carry on focusing on your academic work and interests.
  • Try to trust your interviewers if you can! They are all teachers and they want you to achieve. They will know how to ask further questions to tease what they need out of you, and they know that interviewees are nervous so they are looking for raw ability and academic commitment, not perfection.

Date posted: 

Tuesday 4 November 2014

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Cambridge Subject Films

Marking on a map

Geography fieldwork. Credit: Richard Allaway

Are you exploring the courses available at Cambridge? One way to get a quick overview is to look at some of the subject films.

The films are only short, but they explain the structure and opportunities in each course, show you some of the faculty facilities, and have  current students giving their views and reasons for choosing each subject, tips for applying from the lecturers, and information about what students go on to do when they graduate.

You may also find the advice about choosing a subject useful, and there are lists of transferable skills for most courses (or options within courses). These lists set out the advantages that each subject gives you for your future career.

The most important question to ask yourself, is what would you enjoy studying in depth?

Date posted: 

Thursday 30 October 2014

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Cambridge Year 12 Law Conference

Law Faculty

Lectures take place in the Faculty of Law.
Credit: Chris Huang

The annual Year 12 Cambridge Law Conference will take place from 16-19 March 2015.

Students on the conference have accommodation  in one of the Cambridge Colleges. The mornings will be lectures with Cambridge University lecturers and speakers from the legal profession, then in the afternoons there are workshops run by City Law Firms and Barristers Chambers, helping you to develop relevant skills such as debating, advocay and negotiation. You will also be taken on a tour of Cambridge, attend a session on applying for Law at Cambridge,  and have chance to visit some of the Colleges. The first evening is a social event, and later during the week there is a debate in the Cambridge Union between high-profile barristers and a mock trial.

There is a charge for this conference: it costs £150, which includes all meals, accommodation, lectures , workshops and tours. If you need advice on funding for this, there is an email address to write to so do look into it on the applications page.

Interested? Please read the full details and fill in the application form on the Cambridge Law Conference website (do read the Student Reviews in particular!).

Date posted: 

Thursday 23 October 2014

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Beverley Literature Festival 2014

Beverley Minster: one of Britain's largest and most imposing parish churches. Image credit: Mill View

East Riding Libraries' Wordquake organises the Beverley Literature Festival in October and the Bridlington Poetry Festival in June each year.

  • On the closing weekend of this year's Beverley Literature Festival, there is still time to hear Shirley Williams talking about the life and work of her mother, pacificst and novelist Vera Brittain (1893-1970)Beverley Minster, 7.30pm to 8.30pm, Saturday 11 October
  • The Festival on the Run continues: John Godber's specially commissioned play Who Cares about the NHS is being performed by the University of Hull's Drama Department. Catch it at Goole Library and Holme Village Hall on Saturday 11 October, Withernsea Centre on Saturday 18 October, and Hedon Library on Saturday 25 October

 

Date posted: 

Friday 10 October 2014

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Film competition

King's Chapel

Our own Chapel at King's is a fascinating mix of religion, politics, history, art and architecture.

Have you ever thought about the relationship between religion and other subjects that you might study?

  • History: Consider the impact of religious change on a society prior to 1900;
  • Literature: Reflect on whether literary criticism requires a knowledge of sacred texts;
  • Philosophy: Comment on the relationship between mortality and religion;
  • Politics: Explore the idea of secularism and national politics;
  • Science: Address the relationship between religion and a topic from the natural sciences;
  • Sociology: Consider how an awareness of religion helps understandings of multiculturalism.

Cambridge Divinity Faculty encourages sixth formers to research and think about one of the topics above in a team of up to four 16-19 year olds. The challenge is to produce a film lasting no more than five minutes in response to your chosen topic. This should be academic in content, but the film could take any form: debates, documentaries or responses with artistic elements are all welcome.

If you are interested, do read the further details on the Divinity Faculty website. The deadline is Friday 14 November 2014.

Date posted: 

Friday 10 October 2014

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The X Factor: Multidisciplinary (and Interdisciplinary) Approaches to Classics

Image credit: Ingo Gildenhard

At the recent Classics Faculty Sixth Form Study Days, King's Classicist Ingo Gildenhard explained how multidisciplinary approaches to Classics underpins teaching and learning at Cambridge.

The Classics Faculty is divided into caucuses, each of which brings a different approach to the study of Classics: Caucus A (Literature); Caucus B (Philosophy); Caucus C (History); Caucus D (Art and Archaeology) and Caucus E (Linguistics).

Dr. Gildenhard gave an example of how his colleagues in different caucuses each brought a different approach to the study of Ovid's Ars Amatoria [The Art of Love] in a recent lecture series:

  • A: Poetics, or: The (S)expert at Work
  • B: Sexual Ethics [gender relations, feminist readings]
  • C: The Empire Strikes Back [Ovid and Augustus, the politics of the Ars, Ovid’s banishment to the Black Sea]
  • D: Sex and the City [Ovid and the monuments, his rewriting of Rome’s urban topography]
  • E: The Language of Love (and Sex) [how can we understand the different range of meanings of Latin words to English dictionary equivalents - does raptor mean ‘rapist’ or ‘seducer’? and how does it relate to rapina and rapio?]

The students and academics gain enormously from exploring these multidisciplinary perspectives.  If and when they combine two or more approaches to address a particular topic, thereby transcending any one discipline, their work becomes interdisciplinary.

For this reason, King's Classicist John Henderson and his colleague Geoffrey Lloyd pioneered an X Caucus (Interdisciplinary) in the 1980s, to allow and encourage Cambridge students and academics to cross disciplines in their study of the Classics.

Multidisciplinarity is not restricted to Classics! You will be able to find multidisciplinary (and interdisciplinary) approaches to almost any topic. Have you got the X Factor? Think of a topic that has caught your attention in one of your A Level subjects and ask yourself what your knowledge and skills in your other A Level subjects can bring to it.

 

Date posted: 

Thursday 9 October 2014

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Mythologies (Roland Barthes)

Apple logo

Apple icon - a 21st century myth? Credit: Szilveszter Farkas (cropped)

In 1957, Roland Barthes published Mythologies, in which he discussed the workings of 'myths' in the society of his time. Drawing on ideas from semiotics (the theory of how signs and symbols work), and in particular the work of Swiss linguist Ferdinand de Saussure, Barthes was able to use language-like structures to study the social culture around him.

If you would like to read Mythologies, the most useful part for understanding what Barthes is doing is the second part (The Myth Today), in which he explains how myths form a communication system and what the value is of thinking about them in this way (how does it help us to understand the myths?). It gets a bit technical in places, so if there is more detail than you want, just take from it what you find useful. You might then like to look at some of the examples that Barthes gives in the first part of his book. NB. You will notice that Barthes's analyses are often political - they focus especially on the ways that bourgeois society uses myth to impose values on others.

One difficulty for modern readers of Barthes's work is that his examples are drawn from the fifties - they can be difficult for us to relate to. Radio 4 is currently running a series called 21st Century Modern Mythologies, in which Barthes's techniques are used to dissect contemporary myths. Do listen to some of the programmes and see what you think:

Suggestion for further reading:

Date posted: 

Wednesday 8 October 2014

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Freshers' reading groups

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There's a great atmosphere in College as we help the new students to settle in.

Amongst the many activities that take place in Freshers' Week to settle new students into the College community, there are discussion groups in which tutors and students across all subjects meet to discuss a book that everybody has read in advance. This year's book is:

Monbiot is a journalist and activist who read Zoology at University. He presents his book as a polemic for "positive environmentalism". The book consists of a series of essays designed to promote the cultural and economic change that will be necessary to precede any ecological shift. On some level Feral is a radical book with a radical argument, however the question for the King's freshers is how substantial, how convincing is Monbiot's argument and his evidence, and how much of it is the ideological enchantment of a liberal public intellectual?

Book cover

If you fancy reading this book for yourself, you may be interested to think about how Monbiot establishes the veracity of his claims. How scientific is his thesis of "rewilding"? Does the book survive the lengthy anecdotal descriptions of his natural encounters, enchanting though they are? And is it telling that Monbiot is male, enjoys risky outdoor activity and has his moment of epiphany when he slings a dead deer over his shoulders and carries it home? Do you think that he would have a different environmentalism if he weren't so enamored by the wild in him? Or should we be cautious about any dismissal of his honesty? He discusses the effects of logging and mining on Yanomami lands at some length (and spent a fair amount of his own time experiencing it) - it is fair to say that his "rewilding" is borne of some knowledge of different cultural ecologies? Finally, do you think that we should be encouraged by this book, or discouraged?

Date posted: 

Friday 3 October 2014

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