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Being a joint honours student: The best of both worlds?

Being a joint honours student: The best of both worlds?

Neide Lemos


When I couldn’t decide which subject to study, I applied for my joint-honours degree in psychology with law. What I learnt along the way is that I didn’t fully know what I was letting myself in for.

As you well know, there are three different ways you can study for a law degree – opting for either single honours law, a joint honours programme, or a non-qualifying law degree. 

The difference between the three are as follows:

  • Single Honours (more commonly known as ‘straight law’) – you study the seven core subject areas of law to attain a Bachelor of Laws (LLB).
  • Joint Honours allows you to study more than one subject into a single qualification. You may opt to study law as your major, or your minor subject, or you can study law equally alongside another subject.
  • Non-qualifying law degrees – allow you to study law, without undertaking all the core areas of law, alongside subjects outside of the law. This leads to a Bachelor of Arts degree, as opposed to the LLB.

Why should you join a joint-honours programme?

If you’re unsure of a career in law or apprehensive about studying a law degree (perhaps because you didn’t study law during your A levels), then it’s never too late to apply to study a joint-honours programme. You’ll be able to find out if the course is for you without fully committing to one subject area. Given that joint honours programmes can usually be combined with areas that are different to law, the first few months can be a struggle. As a joint honours student, you have to make sure you adapt to each subject, which involves doing more preparation work.

More variation

Nowadays, employers look for candidates that are flexible and adaptable. Being a joint honours student is exactly that. In psychology with law, you’ll find yourself studying criminal law one minute and statistics, the next. Such variety will enrich your university experience. On some courses, you can even avoid modules you don’t like – but bear in mind if you’re looking for a qualifying law degree, modules like land law are compulsory.

Ability to undertake wide research

A joint honours programme can expose you to different referencing styles, whereas in psychology we use Harvard reference, the all-time favourite for the law is OSCOLA. While it takes some getting used to, and at first you may mix both, it's extremely useful for socio-legal studies and joint honours programmes where the reference style you use depends on the module. Although I didn’t study psychology beyond my second year, it has given me an interest and good grounding for interdisciplinary research. Examples of this include the Open University's research into the implications of neuroscience in law and Coventry University's dance centre for research, which looks at an interdisciplinary approach to intellectual property in dance choreography. This shows that law can be applied to a wide range of areas. 

More choice, more freedom

If you’re doing two subjects at university, even if you’re no longer studying the non-law subject, you can still use the knowledge gained to combine your interests. For my second year, I made the move to straight law, leaving behind psychology. For most courses, you get to pick optional modules. To catch up on the legal content that made up the elements of a qualifying law degree, I studied one option module plus contract and public law during years two and three of my law degree. 

Is it worth it?

Choosing a subject at 18 to study for three or four years can be daunting. By studying a joint-honours programme, I had the freedom and time to decide what subject was most suited to me. Joint honours are also a great opportunity to meet new people, and the more people you meet the more you're likely to get involved in different hobbies, which can enhance your university experience. 

Keep in mind that if you’re looking to qualify as a solicitor through the SQE route, you can always opt for any undergraduate degree.