Student Blog: The Brasenose Philosophy

IhsaanFI'm in the unusual and privileged position of having graduated from Oxford last month and being an Oxford student next month. My last degree was in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) and my next one will be the BPhil in Philosophy. Brasenose College was the perfect place to study the former and I liked it so much here that I was willing to spend two more years of my life at the college.

Academically, studying PPE was the best choice I could possibly have made. In my first year I had to study a wide range of topics - from logic to microeconomics to US politics - and it was hard not to get excited by how quickly you could learn so much about something you knew nothing about only days beforehand. The PPE degree really comes into its own once you have completed your first year however, as it is at this stage that you have remarkable scope to choose your options. Most people choose to drop one of the three subjects (I opted to keep Philosophy and Economics) in order to focus in more depth on the other areas. The range of papers available means you can study exactly what interests you. When having dinner with two of the other PPEists in my year, we realised that we didn't overlap on a single paper, which shows the extent to which you can customise your own degree.

The tutorial system - where you discuss your work on a weekly basis with an expert tutor and, usually, another student - meant that even topics I had struggled with could be brought to life. I was discussing them with somebody who was passionate and knowledgeable about the subject and in an environment where I could ask any questions and focus on any details I found interesting. I can honestly say I enjoyed every tutorial I had. Some, where I had my own ideas, were genuinely exciting, while others, where I thought I'd completely missed the point of the topic, gave me great confidence when I had somebody so clever to explain things to me.

Alongside the academics, this has probably been the most important three years of my life so far, and Brasenose has been the most pleasant, supportive environment it could possibly have been. The most important part of my non-academic life at Brasenose was the year I spent as a Welfare Rep for the Junior Common Room (JCR), which encompasses all the undergraduates in college. Although it was very difficult in parts - the issues we dealt with covered a large range of problems young people can face - it was also extremely rewarding and allowed me to directly help people around college. Moreover, it gave me the opportunity to serve on the JCR committee, working with other students to represent the JCR's views in communication with the senior staff around college. As well as being a genuinely meaningful - and hopefully helpful - part of my life, then, this year helped develop a set of skills that will hopefully serve me well.

Next year is a new adventure at the same college. I decided it would be foolish to leave a place where I felt totally comfortable and knew I could trust the staff and students. Brasenose is the sort of college where you feel at home as soon as you bump into the porters when walking into college. The relaxed nature of Brasenose socialising means it is totally natural to make friends across year groups and so I know that even though I am starting life as a graduate student I still have good friends amongst the undergraduate body to help me along. It's also telling that three other students in my year have chosen to stay at Brasenose to undertake graduate work.

Academically, the BPhil is an extension of the philosophy I did at undergraduate level. Where I was tested during my Finals through exams, over my two years taking the BPhil I will write a series of 5000 word essays before a thesis. This will allow me to slowly develop my thoughts until they're coherent and maybe even useful to other people. The range of topics I can cover is huge, and the BPhil is structured so that I will have to experience different types of philosophy. As I could with PPE, I will be able to discuss philosophy with the experts of today and tomorrow, an opportunity I can scarcely believe I've been lucky enough to receive.

By Ihsaan Faisal

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