I finished my joint honours undergraduate degree, in English Literature and Philosophy, this summer. So thought I would give you a little insight into what to expect if you’re thinking about a combined honours degree! From the amount of work, to making friends on your courses, down to exactly how it works, I’m going to tell you it all!
What is a Joint Honours Degree
If you’re just starting to look into university and are not quite sure on the lingo, a joint honours degree is when you study more than one subject but receive a singular degree at the end of your course. Depending on your university, country, and subject this can look slightly different.
I went to Cardiff University in the UK. For me, my degree was a 50/50 split, so half of my modules and credits were English and half were Philosophy. This is how the majority of UK unis do their joint honours. However, some unis and American colleges tend to split things into majors and minors, so you could do an English degree with a minor in Philosophy. This would mean that the majority of your credits would come from English modules and a smaller amount would come from Philosophy.
How Much Work is a Joint Honours Degree
You may be worried that a joint honours course could land you with far more work than your single honours friends. But don’t worry, this isn’t the case! All degrees are made from the same number of credits and this basically dictates how much work you’ll have to do. So whether I took straight English, straight Philosophy, or the two together I’d always be doing the same amount of credits, and in my case modules too. So the simple answer is no, a joint honours degree is not more work than a single honours degree.
In fact, because I only had to do three modules from each subject each year I had a lot of flexibility in the modules I chose and so could pick ones that perhaps required less work. I talk about this in my how to get through your uni reading post, but English contains a lot of reading obviously, so having this flexibility of only needing a few modules means I could choose more poetry modules that require less reading!
How Do Joint Honours Degrees Work?
As I said depending on your university your joint degree may work differently. But the essential idea is that you get one degree but with multiple subjects. Most commonly this is two subjects, e.g French and German, Marketing and Business etc etc. But it can be more than this, one really popular degree in the UK is PPE which is Politics, Philosophy and Economics.
Often your subjects may be across different schools within your uni. However, mine was in the same school which made scheduling far easier as both subjects worked on the same timetable and in the same building. I know some people at Cardiff who were rushing back and forth across the city between different lectures because they were in different schools!
Is it More Difficult to Make Friends?
This is a really good question and actually one I hadn’t even thought about until I was already in uni and had established friend groups. On my specific course, there were about ten of us. But within English and Philosophy, there were hundreds of students. I couldn’t tell you all ten of the people who did an identical course to me now as the only time we were all placed in a room together was when we met our personal tutors in first year.
Unlike straight honours students you don’t spend all your time with the same people so it can be more difficult to build up comradery. Personally, I found that I made more friends in the English side of my course – this was primarily down to who was in my first year house and the fact there were more English students. This meant we’d all walk to lectures together, and I actually ended up living with a mixture of those girls the following two years.
At the end of first year, I applied to be the social media officer for the English Literature Society, and obviously, this meant that a lot of my time was spent organising events for those students. So I spent my social time outside of uni with those same people. Despite this I did make friends in Philosophy too, I just wasn’t as close to the majority of them as I was to my English group.
I think unless you’re a super outgoing person that it’s likely you’ll gravitate towards one side of your course more, for the most part I has more in common with other English students than I did with the Philosophy students. So my main friendship group worked around this. If you want to be close with people on both sides of your course I’d recommend getting involved with both subject societies.
Is a Combined Degree for Me?
My brain tends to be in five different thoughts at once, I’m someone who likes to be doing two things at once. Even when I’m reading I’ll probably be watching Netflix too. So for me a joint honours degree was perfect. It meant I could learn different things in different ways and not be experiencing the same thing over and over again.
The other aspect for me was the reading side of Literature. I have a whole post on how to get your university reading done, and one of my top tips is to choose subjects or modules that are less heavy on reading. If I did straight Literature I would not have got my reading done (that would equal about 30 books a semester – a lot of which would have been pretty heavy going). Having Philosophy, with it’s shorter readings, really balanced out this aspect of uni for me and helped me keep my work under control. I say this like Philosophy was my second choice of subject, which is far from the truth. If you’d asked me at the beginning of Year 9 what I wanted to do at uni, I would have told you straight Philosophy as I didn’t come to love English until that year.
So really it’s down to whether you’re someone who likes to be learning lots of things that aren’t on the surface related to each other. Or if you’re someone who likes a singular focus.
I hope this post was somewhat useful to you! Let me know if you are planning on taking a joint honours course at university as I’d love to hear!