Posts tagged Singapore
Funding for non-EU undergraduate students at Cambridge

As a non-EU student, finding funding for undergraduate study at Cambridge can be a challenge. Cambridge has a number of nationality specific scholarships, therefore, the first place to look for scholarships that you are eligible for is on Cambridge Trust. Key in the course, the college you apply to, and your nationality to shortlist the eligible scholarships.

There is 1 scholarship scheme, Cambridge Trust Undergraduate Scholarship, that is university-wide, for any subject, and any nationality. This article provides some information about the scholarship.

Amount awarded
While you cannot find the amount of funding specified on the website, the common amount awarded is £8000 per annum for the entire duration of your degree.

You can only apply for this scholarship after getting an offer, and can only do so upon reference from the college that offers you a place. My understanding, however, is that every non-EU undergraduate offer holder will be invited to apply for the scholarship.

Application Process and Selection Criteria
You have to write a short personal statement on why the funding will help with your study and provide proof of financial need (usually bank statements)
Awards are given on the basis of merit and financial needs. It is unclear how merit is assessed (whether it is by the college based on your admission materials, exam scores, interview performances, or something else). However, if you are pooled, do not feel that that might affect your chance of getting the scholarship. If you are in need of funding, it is definitely worth applying because the application process is really easy.

My experience
I am from Vietnam. I earned my A level in Singapore and applied to do HSPS.
About 2 weeks after receiving my offer, my college emailed me an invitation to apply for the Cambridge Trust Scholarship (end of January). You are reminded to only apply in the case of financial shortfall. The form is relatively straightforward and asks for the above-mentioned criteria.
The Trust informed me that my application was successful at the end of April.
To get a sense of the number of Trust Scholarship awarded to undergraduates, you can visit the list of scholars here.

In addition to Cambridge Trust Scholarship, there is also the Amy Li Cambridge Scholarship that is available to applicants for undergraduate studies (BA) in Mathematics, Physics, Engineering or Chemical Engineering. The amount awarded is £16,000 per annum for the entire duration of the degree. Application process and selection criteria are similar to Cambridge Trust Scholarship.

Duy Le, 11 Mar 2017

HSPS at Cambridge

Tell us about yourself

I’m Duy, 2nd year HSPS student at Cambridge. I did my A-levels in Singapore.

What is HSPS – Human, Social and Political Sciences?

The course is designed to be broad in your first year so that you can try out subjects you might not have taken before and becomes more focused in your second and third year.

In your first year, you take 4 papers, choosing from: Politics, International Relations, Social Anthropology, Biological Anthropology and Sociology. You can replace 1 paper with an archeology or psychological and behavioural sciences paper.

In your second year, you choose to specialise in 1 of the 3 tracks: Politics and International Relations, Social Anthropology, or Sociology. You also have the option of doing a joint track Politics and Sociology; Politics and Social Anthropology, or Social Anthropology and Sociology. There is an optional statistics paper you can take in your 2nd or 3rd year if you want to develop some quantitative skills.

I applied to HSPS, not having done any of the subjects before (I did Maths, Chemistry, Biology, and History for my A-level). I intended to specialise in politics, but now I am doing social anthropology. One of the strengths of HSPS is that it allows you to try different disciplines at university level before deciding to commit to any one of them.

What is the content of your course?

In my first year, I took politics, international relations, sociology and social anthropology. You don’t need any prerequisite knowledge. In fact, I did not take any of these subjects before. All of the papers are designed with the assumption that you have no prior knowledge. All 1st year papers, thus, contain an eclectic mix of many subfields within them. Social Anthropology, for instance, has anthropological theory, anthropology of kinship, of religion, of economics, and of politics. The purpose is not for you to go in depth, although you have considerable room to choose to do so if one particular area interests you, but to sample the breadth of the discipline. Below I give a bit more details of each paper, but please go to the hsps website for a more detailed paper guide.


Political philosophy (Hobbes, Weber, Marx, Hayek, etc) – you will find little discussion of contemporary political issues, and a lot of the things discussed do not seem relevant today immediately. But don’t let that put you off. It is a critical foundation that more contemporary theorists keep coming back to. I found this part of the paper quite challenging, but also gratifying when you manage to understand the philosopher in his own term (yes, his. Most people covered are dead, white men)

Democracy: a combination of classic work (Tocqueville) and more contemporary stuff. Does democracy work? Does democracy bring about better material wealth? Does democracy bring about more equality/inequality? and more questions like these. If you abhor the philosophical, you will find this interesting for its immediate relevance.

International Relations

Theories of international relations, causes of war, the workings of international institutions, international economy, etc. For international relations, it is a mixture of both theories (most of which were formulated not long ago – 1940s onwards, unlike politics), and contemporary issues (environment, nuclear proliferation, war, etc).


Classical theorists: Marx (capitalism, industrialisation, class struggle, communism),  Weber (rationality, bureaucracy, religion and modernity), Durkheim (positivist methodology of social sciences, using statistics in sociology, division of labour in society, social solidarity).

Contemporary sociological topics: class, gender, ethnicity, race, nationalism, welfare states

Social Anthropology

The subject matter overlaps quite significantly with sociology, split broadly into identity and differences (kinship, ethnicity, nationality, gender, class, race), economic anthropology (gift exchange,  how money works,  capitalist economy and pre-capitalist economy), political anthropology (nationalism, state, conflicts) and symbolic anthropology.

Anthropological theories (structural-functionalism, structuralism, interpretivism, practice theories)

Here’s a whole other article about Social Anthropology.

How are you taught and what is the workload like?

Most papers are taught through lectures and supervisions. Usually you have about 2 hours of lecture every week for each paper, so about 8 hours a week in your first year.

You will also have about 2 supervisions a week (so 2 2000-word essays a week) on average, although this varies week to week. There are weeks with no supervision, and there are weeks with three. There are usually 2-4 students in a supervision in your 1st year; and 2 from your 2nd year onwards.

The majority of your time will be self-study. There are a lot of readings to cover. I spent on average 6 hours a day in the library in my 1st year.

How did you prepare for your application?

You do not need to have any prior knowledge of any of the subjects. I did not know the difference between social anthropology and sociology at the time I applied.

I was really interested in politics and contemporary issues, and read a lot of Economists. I also found my A-level History knowledge particularly helpful. My interview and essay thus focused on contemporary issues and not the philosophical or theoretical aspects of social sciences. Focus your preparation on what interests you by reading and thinking a lot about it.

You certainly don’t have to prepare for all the subjects HSPS covers. Read whatever interests you really. You can take a look at the paper guides to see what the suggested readings for first year students are, but don’t feel restricted to this list.

The assessment is not a test of your knowledge, but your ability to think, and construct an argument (even from a point of ignorance). It is to see how you respond to cue, help, challenge, probe from the interviewers so that they know whether the supervision system is suitable for you. You can’t possibly predict the topics you will be asked, and you can’t cover all of them, so focus on a few that interests you and try to apply them flexibly to answer different questions.

Mock interview helps. Ask your mentor to give you one.


Links for further references

Politics and International Relations


Social Anthropology

Alternative Prospectus on HSPS

Duy Le, 26 Feb 2017