Pursue Multiple Interests in the UK with a Joint Degree

Jay was always interested in politics, particularly in the intersection between politics and other subjects. When thinking about what to study at university, he considered Politics with International Relations but felt that PPE was a broader degree. He was curious about philosophy and knew that economics could provide a strong quantitative backing to widen his employment prospects.

“I have varied interests and struggled to commit to a specialised degree at university. Studying PPE opened my eyes to how interrelated my fields of interest are. It made me realise that ideas and concepts are linked in more ways than we appreciate. My course allowed me to explore political philosophy (for example, the ethics of climate change policy) and understand political behaviour in economic terms (such as the rent-seeking behaviour of politicians or citizen voting behaviour).

From my experience recruiting for Bain & Company, I believe that employers in this [consulting] sector appreciate graduates who demonstrate an openness to learn and who are able to think critically. Therefore, the more topics you have an awareness of and the broader you can think about them, the better you will be at forming connections, developing a holistic view of the issue and succeeding in a job interview.

When thinking about a joint degree, consider why you want to pursue this path and what you might do when you graduate. If you are not sure where you want to end up, a joint degree may serve you well. However, if you are certain you want to become an economic analyst or an academic in chemistry, then a single honours degree would be better.

When considering a joint degree, it is very important to research your course, particularly the amount of flexibility you will have as you progress through the degree to focus on the subjects which interest you more. In my course at Warwick, apart from Year 1 where all three subjects were studied in equal measure, I was able to spend more time in my second year on economics and philosophy and subsequently focused on economics and politics in my third year.”
Here are a few additional points you should consider if thinking about a joint degree:
 1. The subject combinations offered tend to be in complementary/related fields, for example, mathematics and economics or mathematics and physics. However, depending on the university, it may be possible to create your own subject combination from a curated list. The University of Exeter has a flexible Combined Honours degree, where you can choose to combine subjects as diverse as biological sciences and economics. Similarly, King’s College London allows you to combine modules across the arts, humanities and social sciences through their Liberal Arts bachelor’s degree.

2. Studying more than one subject means that you won’t go into the same depth as a single honours degree. You might not even study each subject equally. For example, a BSc. Economics with Management could be 75% of economics and 25% of management. Some universities allow students to choose their own split of subjects for certain joint-degree courses.

3. Joint degrees can also vary a lot between institutions for the same degree titles. For instance, a BSc. in Mathematics and Physics might follow 50% of each subject for all three years in one institution whereas, in a different institution, it may be mathematics for 100% of the time in Year 1 before transferring over to physics. Your course may also have fewer optional modules as you may have compulsory modules from two/three different departments. The bottom line is that you should be clear about the structure and module choices of the course before you apply. Scrutinise prospectuses, speak to current students and if possible, attend open days.

4. The teaching of joint degree courses is normally split between two or more academic departments. You may be working between different departments (possibly with assessment deadline clashes) and you may be in lectures alongside single honours students (or other joint honours students). This may lead to a feeling of not belonging. Universities usually have course co-ordinators to assist with these issues so, as long as you are prepared and organised, studying a joint degree isn’t likely to present an added burden. 
If you want more advice on joint degrees or the UK application process, get in touch with us.

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