Studying a Combined Degree (Politics, International Relations, Sociology, and Criminology edition)

Sharon Berhane

Deciding on a degree is a difficult task. I would know – I was in your position last year trying to figure out which A Level I loved the most to continue studying after sixth form was over. I wasn’t sure which one had better graduate prospects or would align more with my future career, which subjects employers preferred, and more importantly – which one I preferred.

When you pick a degree, you are picking the subject you study for the next three/four years and that can be hard when you’re not sure which subject is the best fit for you. That is why I decided to study Combined Honours in Social Sciences (CHSS). It allowed me to continue studying all the same topics I learnt at A Level but in more depth, elevating my grasp on these topics.

The course structure

The way the CHSS course is structured allows you to decide on your modules with increased flexibility, meaning you get to tailor your degree to your personal interests. You can have a Classics and Ancient History lecture at 3 pm, then an Economics seminar at 4 pm – this just highlights the variety of options available to you in this course.

Picking a subject that’s totally new to you

For my degree, I decided to be a little adventurous and pick a module in International Relations and Criminology which are both subjects I have never studied before. I chose these modules alongside the bulk of my degree modules which are in sociology and politics – subjects I am more passionate about and am more knowledgeable in since I studied these at A Level.

I decided on those two because they are still similar and are in the same department as Politics and Sociology while still remaining unique. This means that I’ll be able to build upon my existing knowledge and provide a different lens to see political and sociological issues by having an understanding of the criminogenic nature of politics, or how international affairs affect our sociological understanding. This also highlights how pre-existing knowledge or a previous qualification in a subject is not necessary for studying it at university level with CHSS. I would have only been granted such flexibility and understanding by studying CHSS at Durham.

So much support in the CHSS department

The department of CHSS also offers multiple drop-in sessions throughout the week with incredibly friendly staff, happy to provide any help they can, and a whole community of students studying some of the same modules as you.

From societies to socials

Aside from academics, there are different societies you can join that are similar or helpful to your subject choice. For example, I am in many debating societies which help me build up my critical evaluative skills and ability to construct arguments which helps me in my degree.

Not only this but the CHSS department has organised social events for the students such as visiting bars which allow you to familiarise yourself with your peers; these events are a great way to make some friends.

Overall, I am so far enjoying my degree choice and subjects, and am happy I decided to study CHSS. I hope my blog post has given you some more information about what it’s like to study CHSS and all the benefits this course provides, and has maybe eased some worries you may have about deciding on a degree.

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Our Department of Sociology is ranked 1st in the UK for Criminology and in the top 10 for Sociology in The Guardian University Guide 2022. 

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Sharon Berhane

Hello, I’m Sharon, a first-year student at Trevelyan college studying Politics, International Relations, Sociology and Criminology as part of the CHSS course. While being at Durham, I have enjoyed college and social events including the Winter Ball, formal dinners and performances from the #1 Taylor Swift tribute act in the UK!

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