Joint Honours: Not just for when you can’t make your mind up!

A current student explains why, in her experience, studying a joint degree at Oxford is 'the best of both worlds'

"Torn between the two departments at my Sixth Form trying to pick between my two favourite subjects was proving impossible. History or English? How would I pick one? That was until by chance I was given an Oxford prospectus and came across the chance to do both - it was perfect! Research showed that it was not a rare course, and across Oxford and lots of other universities joint honours offered the chance to study more than one subject I loved. But questions rushed through my mind- would it be double the work? What if it turned out I couldn’t handle doing both? What if my tutors didn’t understand that I had two different departments to report to? This blog post aims to put these worries to bed for any potential applicants so you don’t have to suffer the same endless worries that I did!


Firstly, I want to address the age old ‘double the workload’ myth. Simply put it is false.  The degree works out at Oxford to be the same amount of work one would expect studying History or English individually. The structure of terms and years may differ to the solo subjects but the overall workload remains even. Additionally, in my experience tutors will understand if on the rare occasion subjects for the two clash.  This means just because you do joint honours you don’t have to miss out on anything else! You can still take part in extracurricular activities and socials, I manage to see friends a few times a week, go to our college Friday socials and write for the university’s music and style magazine. This means joint honours is truly the best of both worlds (the name of the History and English group chat!) - two subjects and time for both work and play.


History and English, affectionately referred to as HENG, combines two subjects which go extremely well together and so different modules may complement each other meaning you won’t just handle doing both but will benefit from doing both subjects. For example, in first year I studied the History paper British History 6 (a 20th century paper) and I also studied 20th century literature meaning I knew the historical context for my texts well and understood how the history of the period was portrayed in literature. Of course, you do not have to pick modules that complement each other like this; the departments offer such a range of courses that in one year it is not hard to cover multiple different centuries of literature and history. Moreover, if you do happen to find it is becoming a struggle to balance two subjects, tutors and pastoral staff at colleges are really helpful in outlining your options and most directors of studies structure your terms to ensure the workload is manageable as well as ensuring you are enjoying your modules.


Finally, the flexibility of the modules and degree structure of joint honours is perfect for somebody like myself who really enjoys specific areas of both History and English. I have been extremely lucky to enjoy all of my modules even ones I didn’t think I would. The degree allows me to balance my two favourite subjects and the range of modules within both means no two terms are ever the same, making it perfect for people like me who get bored far too easily!


Overall, History and English allows the study of two subjects which complement each other perfectly. There is lots of support available for joint honours students and the myths which surround this degree and other joint honours degrees should definitely not put people off applying if they genuinely enjoy both subjects- good luck to any prospective applicants!"


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