Churchill College has a distinguished history in economics, built up in large part by its founding Fellow, Frank Hahn, now retired. Just as Winston Churchill had a vision of the college as an MIT for Britain, so Frank thought that Economics could play a similar role in a science and engineering oriented college as it did in MIT. Bob Solow, Nobel Laureate, from MIT has been an Overseas Fellow (on several occasions) and continues to keep in touch. Other Nobel Laureates who have visited include Ken Arrow, Gerard Debreu, while a whole galaxy of other impressive visitors have enjoyed Overseas Fellowships. Tony Atkinson, former Warden of Nuffield and one of the most distinguished British economists, was one of the first undergraduates of the College, and (we think) the first to be made a professor (first at Essex, then London, then returning to Cambridge and a professorial Fellowship in the College before leaving for Oxford). Oliver Hart, now at Harvard, was an early teaching Fellow, and Douglas Gale, a former research Fellow and Chairman of the faculty at New York University, is now also a Fellow at the college. The College has hosted the Churchill Lectures in Economics, and has enjoyed lectures from Peter Diamond, Paul Milgrom (of spectrum auction fame), Douglas Gale and Ariel Rubinstein, all subsequently published by Cambridge University Press.
Economic Fellows in Churchill have traditionally been highly involved in the wider academic world, particularly the United States, Europe and more recently Japan. Many former students hold high office in universities, international organisations, government and industry, often exhibiting a commitment to public service at a national and international level. The undergraduate training at Cambridge is an excellent preparation for professional economics, which is itself a key to policy making, business strategy, and intellectual challenge.
Currently Churchill has five Fellows in Economics, Mr Nigel Knight (who joined Churchill in 2007 as a Teaching By-Fellow and Director of Studies), Professor David Newbery (formerly Director of the Department of Applied Economics, who joined Churchill in 1966), Professor Douglas Gale (also of New York University, who was a JRF at Churchill in the 1970s, and rejoined the Fellowship in 2003), Dr Tiago Cavalcanti (a new University Lecturer at Cambridge who joined Churchill in 2007), and Professor Frank Hahn (who has been a Fellow at Churchill since 1960, though he is now officially retired from the University.
Economics undergraduates at Cambridge cover microeconomics, macroeconomics, quantitative methods (maths and statistics), politics and economic history in the first year. The second year involves more microeconomics and macroeconomics, econometrics, and an optional subject (maths, sociology or economic development). The final year includes compulsory courses in microeconomics and macroeconomics, a dissertation and a large variety of options from which two further courses can be chosen (ranging from economic theory and various sub-fields of economics such as labour, industry and public economics, through economic history and economic development, to sociological and political courses). The courses are taught via a combination of lectures held in the faculty building, in the nearby Sidgwick Site, and small group supervisions (usually 2-4 students per group) held usually in Churchill. The supervisions mainly involve answering questions set by lecturers or from past exam papers.
When considering Economics as a possible course of study, you should consider the following three categories: your A-level choices, your other qualifications and interests, and the choices which economics makes available to you. We will go through each in turn.
A-levels or equivalent
A-level maths is a requirement at Churchill. This is because we firmly believe that for someone without Maths A-level (A2), achieving the minimum level of maths requirement would not leave enough time to do well enough in the remaining elements of the economics course. However, A-level Economics is not a requirement as the course assumes no prior economics knowledge. Science A-levels are useful both for the additional maths content and the analytical thinking that they encourage, and further maths is especially recommended. A-levels in the arts, humanities and social sciences such as languages, English, History, Politics, Geography, and many more are useful for both analytical and essay-writting skills. As a result typical applicants might have a range of A-levels from "Maths, Further Maths, Physics and Chemistry" through to combinations like "Maths, English, Economics, History" and the like. The standard entry requirements are available here.
Other skills and qualifications
A broad range of GCSEs or equivalent at grade A* or A are important. More generally a keen mind interested in solving analytical and logical problems, and interest in current affairs is vital. The ability to change and learn is also crucial: it may be that you come to Cambridge with particular opinions on government intervention, health, education, transport, trade and globalisation. Be prepared for your views to change as you learn more about the theory and application of the relevant areas of economics.
A broad church
Finally, we would like to stress that economics is one of the few subjects where those who enjoy maths, science, building rigorous arguments and testing existing theories can work happily in more analytical areas such as mathematical economics, game theory, statistics or econometrics, while those who enjoy writing essays, arguing their side of an argument and convincing others can specialise in more applied areas such as public economics, money and banking, industrial economics, etc. There is also the chance to leave the university with not just a good general degree suitable for virtually all graduate careers, but a degree tailored to a finance career in the City or management consulting, and even to professional economics, perhaps working as an economist in the City, Treasury or Bank of England. You may even find your thirst for economics drives you on to take a masters or doctorate and a career in academic economics or work in an international institution such as the World Bank or IMF awaits.
Applicants asked to interview will usually be interviewed by the Director of Studies and one or possibly two other economists. You will receive two questions in advance of the interview and will be allocated 30-60 minutes to prepare an answer to the question of your choice. During the 20-30 minute interview you will be asked to go through your answer, and time permitting we will also ask additional questions relating to economics and your other interests. The content of the question discussed in the interview varies year by year, but will typically be a simplified version of what you might expect to see in a first year undergraduate supervision at Cambridge in microeconomics or macroeconomics. However, we will try to ensure that knowledge of economics is not required (everything you need should be explained in the question), though we would expect those with no background in economics to have done some relevant reading and thinking. Typically this might be through reading relevant newspapers such as the Economist, Financial Times or any good broadsheet, or a general interest economics text such as Tom Schelling's Micromotives and Macrobehavior or Axinish Dixit's Thinking Strategically. Any book that focuses on the underlying principles of economics, and especially rigorous analytical or logical thinking would help.
The Admissions Tutor will not typically interview candidates, but will spend considerable time going through your application carefully.
The Royal Economic Society: http://www.res.org.uk
The American Economic Association resources for economists: http://www.aeaweb.org/RFE/