• Abbie Tibbott

Single or Joint-Honours Degree?

If you’re thinking about heading off to university in the near future, your biggest question is going to be what you actually want to study. The good news is that there are hundreds of courses to choose from, the bad news being that not all of them will offer the content that you want or need to study. In this post, I’ll be covering what both types of degree involve, as well as some practical elements to consider when researching what you want to study at university.



This is the traditional degree that you will have heard of. History, English, Maths etc. I studied for a single-honours, and it meant that I had access to the full range of compulsory and optional modules within my department. This was great, as I didn’t have to share my timetable with another course subject, as you have in joint-honours. Even though I was only studying one subject, I had the opportunity to select optional modules from different departments, or even study a language as part of my course. I still had access to study abroad and placement years, but they weren’t mandatory. If you have a solid love of one subject, a single-honours degree will allow you to get the most out of the department you have chosen.


This degree path will split your time between two departments, such as History and English, or Archaeology and Classics. If you find two subjects that you enjoy studying together, chances are that there is a joint-honours course out there to suit you. One thing to remember though is not everything will go together, and many science courses don’t offer anything apart from single honours. This is because so much of your time is spent on practical work, and it wouldn’t be feasible to get all this compulsory work done alongside another subject.

Things to consider

It’s worth investigating how a university’s degree programme works, especially if you’re considering a joint-honours. This is because in the first year, you will probably divide class time and assessments equally across the two subjects, meaning that you may not have the chance to take any optional modules like your peers that study single-honours. If you want more choice, it may be worth sticking to just one subject, although options will probably broaden out in subsequent years. Like I mentioned earlier, there may be the option to study a few modules outside of your department, so bear that in mind.

Assessments will also vary between subjects, and some departments use alternative referencing systems. This could leave you having to manage two different writing styles, and that’s often a reason why people drop back to a single-honours degree after their first year. It can be difficult to manage this, although your workload is the same as everyone else. If you’re someone who struggles to get settled, a joint-honours probably isn’t the degree for you.

A study abroad year will be mandatory on most joint-honours programmes that combine a language with another subject. This is fantastic opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture of the country where your chosen language is spoken, but if you’re not sure that you want to commit to this, you may not want to choose a language subject! Moving away from home can be daunting, especially with current issues surrounding Covid-19. Plans may change at short notice, and you won’t graduate with the friends you have made who aren’t doing a year abroad.

If it doesn’t work out…

Sometimes students will join a joint-honours course and decide that they hate it. This happens more than you think, and lots of students will convert to a single-honours degree by the end of their first year. This usually involves talking to someone in your department so the necessary admin can be done to change your course title. You’ll need to have passed your first year to continue, and your department might have special requirements that you need to fulfil.

There’s usually no need to drop out of university, and the changes can be very easily made! However, you won’t be able to convert a single-honours degree to a joint-honours. If you find out during the year that you hate studying two subjects, you’ll need to finish the year before you can drop the subject that you don’t like. It can be a slog but seeing as your first year doesn’t count towards your final degree, now is the time to take the plunge.


I hope that you’ve found this post useful, just make sure to do your research before settling on a course. If you make the wrong choice it can be difficult to swap, and I know that in some universities it's impossible to jump to another course due to how tight they are on numbers. I’ve linked some posts about applying to UCAS and researching universities, so be sure to check those out next!

Happy studying!