Studying a Joint Degree at Aberdeen

Andreas Lainer

Some of you might be in exactly the same position as I and will be well aware of the advantages and disadvantages one faces when deciding to study a joint honours degree. After studying at our university for almost three years I think it is fair to say that I have sufficient experience to share my thoughts on this topic with you. 

First of all, I would like to say that I generally like the university’s concept of getting to choose four different courses in the first year of study. For many students from continental Europe this is quite a new und unfamiliar system. Typically, this kind of freedom would not be allowed at most EU universities and one would only be taking courses which are part of one’s main degree. And while some may prefer the European approach, the system at our university gives its students the chance of exploring other of their interests or hobbies in greater depth. I think it should therefore not come as a surprise that plenty of students either change their whole degree or switch to a joint honours program after first year. I am among those students as I had initially enrolled as a Politics and International Relations student and later changed to Economics and IR. My reasons for this were that I enjoyed my first-year Economics courses, but more importantly that I realised that I would rather pursue a career in the political economy than in party politics and I believe that this joint degree is a better way of preparing me for this path.

I did notice that this decision did not hugely impact my second year at university, as I could have technically taken the exact same courses while continuing to study a single honours degree. One thing that I did notice is that switching to Economics and IR had made my quest for finding a payed internship (in continental Europe) over the summer break significantly easier. On the one hand, some employers certainly value a joint degree more and on the other hand I believe it is easier to find internships as an Economics student than as a Politics student as there are simply more of them available. I have previous heard that employers prefer students with a single honours degree, but cannot confirm that from my own experience.

I certainly did notice the difference between single and joint honours last semester, during my first term of third year. I would have been quite keen on taking either the course ‘IR3018: International Security’ or ‘PI3073: The EU: Contemporary Challenges’ but I was unable to do as I could only take one IR course for this semester and this was the compulsory course ‘PI3069: Researching in the 21st Century’.  While there are no other mandatory Politics and International Relations courses in third and forth year one is naturally still fairly limited in the number of courses that one can pick (one each semester) and one might miss out on other very interesting courses as a consequence. I would also like to add that I am, however, very contempt with studying only one course in Economics per term as this allows me to take those courses with more of a focus on the political economy instead to studying economic concepts and graphs which I will most likely never need for the career that I strive to achieve.

In conclusion, I would say that the decision to switch to a joint degree ultimately comes down to the decision if you are willing to trade off a course from your current degree for the opportunity to pick a course from a different subject and the positive as well as negative consequences this brings with it. I believe this decision highly depends on your own interests and career goals.