This page refers to 'joint honours' courses, or those involving the study of more than one subject. It was compiled by students of joint honours courses so contains so invaluable advice!
Joint honours means any degree that incorporates multiple subjects within one degree. For example, a student studying French and Spanish would receive one ‘Spanish and French’ degree after graduating, rather than two separate degrees. At Oxford and Cambridge a variety of joint honours degrees are offered, as well as some degrees that are technically single honours but incorporate multiple subjects in similar areas, such as Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford 🔗.
The key difference between Oxford and Cambridge for joint honours is that Oxford offers more combinations of subjects as joint honours degrees. Cambridge meanwhile has a couple of true joint honours degrees (History and Politics 🔗, History and Modern Languages 🔗) and instead has many single honours that cover a really wide variety of topics, such as Human, Social and Political Sciences 🔗 which can be tailored from the start to individual interests.
We’ve compiled a list of pros and cons of taking a joint honours degree from current students across both Oxford and Cambridge. Their honest opinions might help you see whether joint honours is for you, or what to expect from a joint honours course at university.
- Variety! Most students agreed that the variety and breadth of joint honours degrees were a big pro for them. Joint honours students can study a far broader array of subjects than single honours provide.
- Helps your focus! Switching between multiple subjects prevents burnout by keeping your work fresh and giving your brain a break.
- Develop more skills! Multiple subjects mean multiple skill sets to develop, which makes you uniquely flexible and even increases your transferable skills for life after uni.
- Unique perspective! Academically, joint honours students learn different approaches and perspectives across disciplines and can bring these across into each of their subjects.
- More support! Joint honours students can access more academic support and helpful staff across each of their departments. Personally, I’ve really benefitted from having two Directors of Studies (who look after your academics) instead of one.
- Small cohorts of students. Some students might be the only person they know doing their degree and find this isolating. This can be a plus for some people though as sometimes the smaller cohort means being closer with everyone on the course.
- Increased workload. This depends on the specific courses, but sometimes students find they have more work across all their subjects, or they have less time to complete a workload similar to single honours.
- Organisation. Working across multiple departments means the admin and scheduling might not be consistent, but with good personal organisation this usually doesn’t become a huge problem.
- Preferences. Students may end up preferring one subject over another, in this case it may be possible to switch back to a single honours course.
‘I liked the idea of a balanced workload between problems and essays and because I was interested in how both subjects interact’- History and Economics at Oxford
‘I didn’t want to narrow my studies...I thought they complemented each other well.’- Politics, Philosophy and Economics at Oxford
‘I really wanted to maximise my options and have the widest variety of topics possible to study. I didn’t like the idea of having to specialise early or narrow my study too much so joint honours was perfect.’- History and Politics at Cambridge.
‘I remember thinking doing one straight degree would be quite intense.’- Philosophy, Psychology and Linguistics at Oxford
Applying for joint honours is fairly similar to the standard application process for Oxbridge. However, your personal statement will be expected to address all the subjects within the joint honours, so make sure your personal statement integrates all the subjects and gives each one fair weighting.
Make sure you double-check which admissions assessments are required for your application. You may be required to take additional assessments such as the TSA (Thinking Skills Assessment) 🔗.
At the interview stage, you will likely have one interview for each subject of the joint honours. This means making sure you’re prepared for both; Inside Uni’s extensive interview guides and testimonies are a good starting point for interview preparation.
Note: if the interviewers and admissions tutors feel you are significantly stronger or more suited to one subject over another, you may receive an offer for a single honours course, but the choice is then yours whether to accept or not.
For more information, check out the Inside Uni Course and Subject Guides 🔗 🌟.
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