My Experience Studying a Joint Honours Degree

by | Sep 8, 2022 | Sociology, Social Anthropology and Social Statistics, Undergraduate | 0 comments

Considering doing a joint honours degree? Here‘s some insight into what it’s really like, including all the best bits and all the challenges. I’m Katie and I’m in my second year studying social anthropology and sociology with BASS! 

Advantage #1 – Cross Discipline Application of knowledge 

One of the best things about studying more than one subject is the opportunity to apply what you’ve learnt in one module to another! For example, in my first year I took a sociology module which covered the social impact of the Industrial Revolution in a fair amount of depth, this later came in handy for my anthropology module on Globalisation, where we discussed the possible start date of the Anthropocene. My knowledge of how the Industrial Revolution impacted society from previous modules was useful for me to argue my stance. 

It’s even better when this knowledge is from a different perspective, the various departments each have their own unique approach, something I’ve come to appreciate from my time at Manchester. Sociologists and anthropologists are more concerned with different aspects of the same issues, so I loved being able to engage in both disciplines. 

Advantage #2 – Choices! 

Something that drew me to Manchester for this course was the variety of modules to choose from. I had the chance to learn about politics, criminology and more on top of my regular disciplines. That’s the main appeal for a lot of people about BASS degrees, in my opinion, is the options you have. 

Personally, I wasn’t ready to narrow down my interests, I couldn’t decide, too many things are so cool and I want to know more about all of them before I make a final decision. The great thing about this programme is that you have loads of time, you don’t have to specialise in just one area right away, it’s a nice gentle progression so that you aren’t backed into a corner.

Being able to choose from such a wide range of specialities means you end up accumulating such a breadth of knowledge, alongside so many transferable skills. 

Last But Not Least, Advantage #3 – The Future is Full of Opportunities

Having finished your joint honours degree, you have not only the degree like everyone else but also a unique set of skills and qualities that will set you apart from other people, whether you’re applying for jobs, further education or you’re not sure at all what’s coming next, a joint honours degree will help. 

I’ve found that the multi-tasking required of me to keep track of my modules has helped me to manage my time better, now I am used to having lots of different things going on. I am able to work a job that I love alongside my uni work without having them affect each other. If you’re doing a joint honours degree, it’s likely you’re starting a subject you’ve never taken before, personally, I hadn’t done either of my subjects before. Ultimately, this ended up being a valuable opportunity for me, I threw myself into the unfamiliar and I took a risk and now I feel so much more confident and equipped for the next step of life. 

Additionally, you really keep your career options open, at now point are you backing yourself into a corner, which is great to know, because at the end of the day who knows what they want to do in the future when we’re young? 

The Flipside 

However, I will be honest and realistic. There are additional challenges that come alongside doing a joint honours – whilst I have found that each of these challenges has given me something, it might not be for you. It’s important to read up on the pros and cons of your degree so you have a realistic idea of what it’ll be like. That’s what this next section will be all about. 

Conflicting Timetables – Especially During Exam Season

Now, I personally think that Manchester’s BASS department has handled this pretty well, but if you’re reading this and considering another university then it is definitely worth thinking about. Taking subjects from two different departments means your timetable won’t always be as smooth as others, and you might find you have a super packed exam timetable! I did expect this because I had been warned of it, and it wasn’t that bad because the BASS departments are all in conversation with one another. My deadlines were quite spread out – which helps big time!

Overall, this can be a big issue at some universities but I haven’t had much trouble at Manchester, and I wouldn’t let it put you off, but you should be aware of the possibility.

Expectations Differ From Departments 

Originally, I had planned to put this in the advantages section, as whilst it was hard, ultimately this broadened my horizons more than I thought possible. Since sociology and anthropology do things differently, mark in their own ways and have their own methods I have had to learn twice as much. When you take a module, especially in first year, you are not just learning the content or doing the reading, you have to start to understand how the discipline works, what they value in their students. 

Being a joint honours student means you have to do this twice over – and it is obviously more work. But it also means you learn two styles of referencing instead of one (hello transferable skills!), learn to look at an issue from different approaches (very useful in all sorts of situations). So yes, it is a challenge doing a joint honours degree but is so rewarding and if you’re up for it – don’t let the challenge stop you from achieving your full potential. 

You owe it to yourself to prove that you can do this.

You Are More Responsible For Your Own Education 

This is a big reason that I think you should do a joint honours if you’re ready to take this step, to move on from being told what to do and when, to managing your own time and investing in yourself. 

Sometimes you miss out on core information because the way our curriculums and mandatory modules work is slightly different to students just doing a pure degree – this can be a big problem. I did feel slightly out of my comfort zone at first, there were things I didn’t understand because I was caught between two subjects. 

But I dealt with it, I used office hours (major piece of advice for anyone starting uni – please go to office hours, it helps so much), I emailed for help, I did more reading and it paid off. 

The Long and Short of it All

If you want to have more choices in the present, give yourself more chances in the future and find fascinating, unexpected ways that your various interests overlap, then I urge you to consider Manchester’s BA in Social Sciences joint honours programme. If I could go back and do things differently, I’d still be right here. 

Whilst there are some ways in which doing a joint honours degree make life just a little more challenging – so if you’re one to shy away from a challenge then perhaps this isn’t for you. But if you’re up for it, and you want to do this, you can! 

You will have heard it before, but I’ll say it again, you can achieve anything you set your mind to – do what you’re passionate about even if people tell you it’ll be tricky. Doing two of my favourite subjects at university is a blessing, I love it and I recognise how privileged I am to be able to study under some incredible people. Don’t pass up your opportunity to feel the same way!