Can’t Choose Between Two Courses? Think About A Joint Honours

If selecting three A-level choices proved to be a challenge, then deciding on a single subject to pursue at university can be quite daunting, especially if you feel uncertain about your plans after graduation. However, don’t let this deter you. If you’re a generalist who excels in many areas or need more time to decide, a joint honours degree may be the ideal solution.

A joint honours degree, alternatively referred to as a combined degree, enables students to learn two or more subjects simultaneously within the same timeframe as a regular honours degree. Statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that approximately 18% of undergraduates opted for this program last year, which has remained relatively consistent over the past five years.

According to Dave Baldwin, the admissions manager at Leeds University, this type of course is trendy because students can reap the benefits of studying two fields. He emphasises that the primary advantage is that learners can study the core topics of two or more disciplines and earn their degree with two subjects specified in the title. This means they don’t have to abandon their passion for any subject, making their degree more engaging and increasing the likelihood of achieving success. Employers value having more knowledge, skills and expertise too.

Vince Peart, an adviser at the National Careers Service agrees, citing that studying for a combined degree is a wise choice, particularly if the courses mesh well and the student wants to keep their options open. Joining the workforce requires dealing with various topics and styles of duties, so undertaking a joint honours course could prepare you better for the rigours of work.

However, the only downside is that students won’t have the same amount of time to study each of their subjects as those doing single honour courses. In general, the amount of time spent on each topic depends on the curriculum of their joint honours program. Some institutions offer fixed numbers of the degree plans students can enrol in, which have their UCAS code. The courses usually comprise a 50:50 combination.

In contrast, others adopt a pick-and-mix approach to joint honours, says Mike Dobson, the director of the University of Exeter’s flexible combined honours degree programs. In these cases, you can create your degree programme by selecting two topics you are interested in, and name it accordingly. For instance, you might study military history and ancient ethics, which can’t be found on the UCAS website. You can also adjust the amount of time to devote to each subject to your needs.

Bearing in mind that pursuing a joint honours degree course will require excellent organisation skills. Sophia McCrea, who studied French and Philosophy at the University of Bristol, reiterates the point, indicating that studying two subjects is hard. She notes that the two departments didn’t coordinate deadlines; hence, she would have many tasks in a short duration followed by weeks with few or no tasks at all.

Besides, the essays required in both departments are different in content and style. In case you prefer an integrated course that fuses your interests, George Jones, the head of international business and modern language courses at Aston University, recommends moving away from the regular joint honours courses. He advises opting for courses that contemporise international business and the preferred language of study.

If a joint honours program doesn’t resonate with your interests, enquire if your university permits you to take an elective course outside of your department.

Earning a degree with double subject majors may not result in graduation, yet it grants you the advantage of having increased flexibility.


  • oscarcunningham

    Oscar Cunningham is a 41-year-old educational blogger and professor. He has been writing about education for over 10 years, and is known for his expertise on online learning and digital media. Cunningham is also a frequent speaker on these topics, and has given talks at a range of universities around the world. In his spare time, he also enjoys playing the violin and running.

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