Flexible degrees

Flexible degrees

Degrees in Arts, Science and Social Sciences

Honours degrees in arts, social sciences and science offer you the flexibility to study several subjects before choosing a specialism of one or two. They usually take four years to complete. Degrees that involve a language usually require an additional year studying abroad.

During an Honours degree programme you’ll usually study

  • three subjects in first year
  • two or three subjects in second year (two are usually continued from first year)
  • up to two subjects at Honours level (third and fourth years). Specialism in one subject results in a Single Honours qualification and in two subjects a Joint Honours qualification.

You should show in your UCAS choices the subject(s) that interest you the most, but you’ll be able to try at least three subjects during the first two years, before you pick your Honours options.

Being admitted on a particular UCAS code does not mean that you will automatically progress to Honours level in that subject. In most cases, a decision will be made at the end of the second (or sometimes third) year about whether you will progress to Honours level. Decisions re progression will be based on your academic performance during your first two years at the University. The entry threshold to honours varies by School/College and may change on a year to year basis.

For more information about how our Honours degree programmes work, see:

Advanced entry

If you have exceptional A-level or Advanced Higher grades it’s possible to enter directly into Year 2 or follow a faster route advanced entry programme. This does not apply to all degree programmes or subjects. See Advanced entry / faster route for more information.

Transfer between degree programmes

Applicants to these degree programmes are offered a flexible degree structure which means that they are not committed to a completely prescribed selection of subjects from the outset of their degree.

Year 1

All students are normally required to study 3 subjects in Year 1.

Students who applied for a Single Honours degree will be guaranteed enrolment on the ONE subject they entered on their UCAS form.

Students who applied for a Joint Honours degree will be guaranteed enrolment on the TWO subjects they entered on their UCAS form.

At the point of enrolment at the University (September)  Single Honours students will select two additional subjects and Joint Honours students will select one additional subject from a wide range of options. It is important for applicants and students to note:

  • Availability on some additional subjects may be restricted as priority will be given to those students who have specifically chosen these courses through UCAS.
  • Some subjects require students to have specific entrance requirements before they can enrol (these are detailed in table 3 below)
  • Some degree programmes mandate subjects that are compulsory in Year 1 (these are detailed below).

Year 2

Single Honours students in Science will continue to study TWO of the subjects they studied in Year 1, one of which will be the subject they originally applied for through UCAS.

Single Honours students in Life Sciences may continue to study TWO of the subjects they studied in Year 1, one of which will be the subject they originally applied for through UCAS, or they may choose to study only Life Sciences.

Single Honours students in Arts and Social Sciences will continue to study TWO subjects from Year 1 and must choose a third subject.  

Joint Honours students will continue to study TWO subjects (usually those originally applied for through UCAS) and, in most cases, must choose a third subject.  

Years 3 and 4 (Honours)

Single Honours students will study ONE subject only at honours level.

Joint Honours students will study TWO subjects at honours level.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I request a change of degree programme (or subject areas) after I have submitted my UCAS application?

January 15th is the UCAS deadline for submitting all applications to the University. It is the applicant’s responsibility to ensure that their application is complete and accurate prior to submission. The University is under no obligation to honour changes to applications after they have been submitted to the University – this includes requests to change degree programmes or subject areas.

It is highly unlikely that Admissions will allow a student to make a significant change in their application: ie from Arts to Science, Science to Arts, Arts to Social Sciences etc. Changes to subjects within a similar area MAY be permitted in some cases but cannot be guaranteed.

Having applied for a specific degree programme or subject on my UCAS form, can I change to a different degree programme or subject when I arrive at the University or after I have started studies?

The intent behind the flexible degree structure is to give students a degree of choice in the additional subjects that they can study when they arrive at University without requiring them to make decisions in advance (at point of application). Through studying a variety of additional subjects this also gives the student greater flexibility in what they ultimately graduate in.

The intent is NOT to give the applicant or student ‘carte blanche’ ability to radically change from one subject area to another: for example from Physics to English Literature.

Students should not apply to the University with the expectation that they will be able to change. Applicants need to think seriously about the ‘prime’ subjects that they wish to study on the understanding that they may not be able to change these after they have confirmed their place.

In the event that a student is deeply unhappy with their prime subject choice, every attempt will be made to help them change but even this cannot be guaranteed. Requests to change will be restricted by the number of students who have been admitted to courses through ‘normal’ admissions processes (i.e. requested the subject on their UCAS form and selection of optional subjects at the start of term). It is more likely that requests to change will be satisfied where the change is to a similar subject: i.e. changes within Arts, Social Sciences or Science rather than changes between Arts and Social Sciences and Science. Under no circumstances will a change be sanctioned where the student did not meet the entry requirements for a degree programme at their point of admission to the University.

In the event that a change is sanctioned post admission to the University this will be managed by the Chief Adviser of Studies originally responsible for the student. This is regarded as an ‘internal change’ and the student does not need to submit any form of application.

In the event that an internal change is not possible the student will be left with no choice but to either continue with their original degree programme or to withdraw from the University and reapply through UCAS for admission the following year. In this scenario, SAAS funded students will be advised to withdraw PRIOR to 1 December in their year of registration as SAAS will regard this as a ‘false start’ and there will be no impact on the student’s funding when they reapply.  Students with other funding arrangements should check the financial implications with their funding body.

Can I study a different subject to Levels 3 and 4 (Honours Level) than the one I applied for on my UCAS form?

The flexible degree structure allows students who have completed a subject at Levels 1 and 2 to progress in this subject to Junior/Senior Honours even if this subject was not the subject of choice on their UCAS application. The student may have selected (for example) English Literature on their UCAS form and picked History as one of his/her additional subjects in Year 1. Having liked History, the student could then study this subject at Level 2. When entering his/her Honours years the student could then opt to study History instead of English Literature (or depending on his/her performance do joint Honours in History/English Literature). This illustrates the level of flexibility the student has without radically altering his/her degree programme.

Entry requirements for specific subject electives

  • French (non-beginners)
  • German (non-beginners)
  • Italian (non-beginners)
  • Spanish (non-beginners)

Specific entry requirements for selection

SQA Higher, Advanced Higher or A-level in the relevant language at Grade B or A, achieved within the previous 3 years.

Students without such a qualification in the language concerned and wishing to take the corresponding level 1 beginners course are normally required to demonstrate some previous successful experience of foreign language learning.

  • Computing Science
  • Software Engineering

Specific entry requirements for selection

Higher Mathematics at Grade B or A Level Mathematics at Grade C, or Higher Mathematics at Grade C together with Higher Computer Studies or Information Systems at Grade B.

  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Astronomy
  • Statistics

Specific entry requirements for selection

Higher or A Level Mathematics at B.

Admission to Astronomy requires Standard Grade Physics at 2 or GCSE Physics at B

Compulsory Year 1 subjects

Degree programme

Compulsory subject 1

Compulsory subject 2

Compulsory subject 3

Any Life Sciences programme


Chemistry OR

Science Fundamentals










Chemical Physics




Astronomy & Physics




Physics with Astrophysics