Shamime Ibrahim is studying History and Politics (HisPol) at University College, Oxford. She attended school at St Charles Catholic Sixth Form College and studied History, Government and Politics, Economics, and Music Technology.
So, what’s it like studying HisPol at Oxford? If I had to give you a concise answer it would be “it is enjoyably challenging”. Studying History and Politics gives you the opportunity to share papers with PPE-ists and also straight History students, it’s the perfect balance between contextual depth and scientific analysis of world events. Depending on your college you might have to do some compulsory papers for your first year, but you’ll definitely have the option of picking papers that you would like to do in that year too. Throughout your three years doing this degree you will have to hit a compulsory extra-European paper which makes sure that you are a well-versed student in international history and politics too. You’ll also hit a pre-1800 criteria which gives you historical breadth. For politics you have papers that deal with everything between the practice of politics to the politics of the Middle East. For example, in my first year I studied Medieval history (1000-1300) coupled with a foreign texts paper (Alexis De Tocqueville in French), plus practice of politics (democratic systems, that sort of stuff) and Theories of The State papers (your Hobbes and Marx and so on). Whilst some of my friends did papers on the politics of sub-Saharan Africa and the enlightenment period. This is to say that you have a plethora of papers to choose from and the freedom to tailor your studies to the areas of history and politics that you are interested in.
So… The whole point of this blog is to hone in on two points:
- Oxford is a place for you if you want it to be (please apply!)
- To quote Hannah Montana, if you study Hispol at Oxford “you get the best of both worlds”
My first interaction with Oxford university was through the UNIQ summer school. I found out about the summer school through google. My sixth form college – as great as they are – actually didn’t know that there was a summer school at Oxford targeted at bright students from deprived backgrounds and it was through the summer school that I got the confidence to apply to Oxford later on. Like UNIQ, there are other access schemes that are targeted at students who have a similar background to me. Lady Margaret Hall’s foundation year and Pembroke College’s humanities summer school for Year 12s are prime examples of Oxford colleges doing their part to try and increase access, so change is slow, but it’s coming! Just to give you some background, I quite literally tick all the ‘outreach’ boxes. Ethic minority? Check, religious minority? Check, state school kid? Check, low-socioeconomic background? Check… Do you see where I am going with this? Plus, I’m from inner city London. I’m from ends.
Trust me when I say I went through the imposter syndrome phase and I didn’t believe that I could get accepted into Oxford throughout my whole application process. “Me? Oxford? Please…” That’s what I told myself when I put ‘Oxford university’ on my UCAS application. Did I think I was going to get in? not at all, but little by little I completed my full application to University College. When I told some people that I had applied to Oxford, some just replied with “you know you won’t get in because of your GCSEs right? They’re not all A/A*s you know”. I also got the “if they accept you, you know that it’s because you make up a diversity quota”. Despite all of this, there was a little voice in my head telling me that I could do it.
If you want to talk about diversity, here it is: Yes, Oxford has a long way to go. BUT, and this is a big but, Oxford is trying to change these statistics and is well aware of the ethnic disproportionality. Also, the most important thing to remember is that through applying and holding a place at this university you become the driving force for change in the institution. If you don’t apply, you lose the chance to get accepted and allow the demographics to stay the same! Don’t get put off by the statistics and the headlines, see it as an opportunity to challenge the status quo. Oxford only makes up one out of the five choices you put on your UCAS application so if you are thinking about it just put it down! Plus, it’s not like you won’t find people of colour or diversity of sexuality, gender, opinion and class. You will, and you’ll definitely find people with the same interests as you. So why not apply? If you love history and politics and want to be intellectually stretched to your academic limits, this is the place for you. And just like the L’Oréal adverts, “you’re worth it”.