Hardest Degree To Get A First In Uk

Last Updated on December 28, 2022

UK: Law is the hardest subject to get a first class degree in – study

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Law has the lowest number of first class degrees awarded in the UK, according to the latest data by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

Compared to other subjects, only 13.4 percent of students graduated with a first class degree, which is about 10 percent lower than the total average of 23.6 percent for all non-clinical subject areas (see table).

It is more difficult to get a first class degree in law than it is in any other subject, including medicine https://t.co/Vh4bOyPWah

— Legal Cheek (@legalcheek) February 20, 2017

Students taking combination courses and Mass Communications & Documentation also struggled to earn first-class degrees, with only 17.2 percent and 18.9 percent respectively earning a first class degree.

Whereas the top three subject areas with the highest number of first class degrees was Mathematical Sciences (37.4 percent), followed by Engineering & Technology (33.1 percent) and Computer Science (32.8 percent).

Here are the full results of the findings:

Subjects allied to Medicine27.6%43.6%71.2%
Biological Sciences21.9%52.0%73.9%
Agriculture & related subjects21.6%48.1%69.7%
Physical Sciences28.8%46.9%75.7%
Mathematical Sciences37.4%35.5%72.8%
Computer Science32.8%37.9%70.6%
Engineering & Technology33.1%41.0%74.2%
Architecture, Building & Planning23.5%47.6%71.0%
Total – Science Subject Areas27.8%45.1%72.9%
Social studies19.7%54.3%74.0%
Business & Administrative Studies21.4%46.2%67.7%
Mass Communications & Documentation18.9%54.8%73.7%
Historical & Philosophical Studies20.9%62.8%83.7%
Creative Arts & Design23.9%50.3%74.1%
Total – Non-Clinical Subject Areas23.6%49.6%73.1%

Despite awarding the least first class degrees, law was among the top three subjects that had the highest number of upper second class degrees awarded, at 57.9 percent. Legal Cheek noted that many U.K. law firms require training contract candidates to have a minimum of a 2:1 degree.

History & Philosophical Studies topped the table in terms of number of upper second class degrees awarded at 62.8 percent, followed by Languages at 60.8 percent. The average figure for upper second class degrees awarded was nearly 50 percent (49.6 percent) of the student cohort in 2015/2016.

The new data also found that there were more female law students (61.7 percent) than male students, reflecting the general higher proportion of female students (56.5 percent) than male students in the UK.

Law students are also among the most ethnically diverse in the country, with 34 percent of law students coming from black or minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds, surpassing the national average figure of 22 percent. In comparison, for Historical & Philosophical Studies, only 11 percent of its students are from BME backgrounds.

The results table above excludes the clinical subject areas of Medicine & Dentistry and Veterinary Science, in which the majority of degrees awarded are not subject to classification.

The data by the UK official agency analysed the 2,280,830 students studying at 163 higher education providers in the UK in 2015/16.

Hardest University Degrees

The 10 Hardest University Degrees in the UK – Ranked for 2021

So, you’re at the exciting stage of applying to University! You may be struggling with your decision about which subject to take, and if this is the case – don’t worry!

You don’t need to have a set out career plan just yet, but choosing the right University course is very important for your future, so it is hugely beneficial to do some research into the types of degrees which you may be interested in.

You may want to know what the hardest degrees are because you like a challenge, or it may be that you want to avoid them. Either way, here is a list of the 10 Hardest University Degrees in the UK.

Disclaimer: The ranking of the degree subjects in this list is not definitive. Every student will have individual strengths and weaknesses, and so will find some subjects more challenging than others. Additionally, judgements about the hardest degrees depend on the criteria that it is based on. In this article we have tried to take into account many different factors that make certain degrees challenging, but still, keep in mind that the list here is formed of opinions which are based on polling. Although you may want to take them into account when choosing your degree subject, you should also think about what your specific skills are and what it is that interests you when choosing your degree. This is simply a list constructed from UK student polling.Which University Degree Do You Think is the Hardest?Please pick a university degree from the list below *EconomicsEconomicsIf the degree you wish to select is not in the above list, please select “other” and specify your entry below.Please tell us which degree if you selected “other” aboveSubmit Answer

10. Economics

Economics is a fairly complex subject, and so a degree in it would be demanding to say the least. Degree-level economics is a huge step-up from A-Level, although it is very useful to have the grounding in the subject that the A-Level provides. More information about how hard A-Level Economics is can be found in this useful article.

Economics is a challenging degree programme for a number of reasons.

Firstly, the mathematical elements of Economics can be tricky for some students, and so it is important that those who wish to study this at University are skilled at maths. Statistical analysis makes up a part of this course, and it can get confusing! This means that a particularly useful subject at Sixth Form for those who are interested in challenging themselves with Economics is an A-Level Mathematics. For more information regarding A-Level Maths, take a look here.

Secondly, you will have to understand models and principles and be able to apply them to the world. These can be complicated, and again linked to Maths, so it is important that you have strong mathematical abilities. This is one of the interesting things about Economics though, it is linked to real word, and the application of a subject to real-life scenarios is something which can really bring it to life!

Finally, economics can be a hard subject to easily engage in. Because it is challenging and based on mathematical skills as well as models and theories, it may be difficult to keep yourself motivated if this isn’t a subject which really sparks your interest. That being said, if it is something you think you would enjoy, then this is a great degree subject to challenge yourself with! It can lead to some brilliant careers, more information of which can be found here.

9. Computer Science

Computer Science is the next degree on this list. The subject of Computer Science is growing in importance, as technological advances are made, and if it is a subject which you are interested in and would be comfortable with studying, it is a very broad, interesting, quickly developing subject.

Despite the benefits of a degree (and career) in Computer Science, it can be incredibly challenging to understand and does require you to be scientifically and mathematically inclined. However, a Computer Science degree requires more than just maths and science skills.

A university student studying Computer Science needs to be interested in, and capable of, problem solving. This is something which will be vital for someone who wants to take Computer Science and is an incredibly useful skill to develop while completing your degree. Problem-solving is a skill which is hugely valuable to employers, whether you continue in the Computer Science field or not.

One of the main challenges with taking a Computer Science degree is getting on to the course. Computer Science is becoming an increasingly popular subject, and so to get a place at a good University, your application needs to be strong. However, remember that once you have been accepted on to the course, you will be completing a degree that, although challenging, will be rewarding and lead to great career prospects.

8. Fine Arts

Fine arts is a challenging subject in a different way to the rest of the subjects listed in this article. When we think of the hardest degrees, we tend to immediately imagine that the more academic the subject, the more difficult it is. However, this is not necessarily the case.

In terms of the amount of time devoted to a Fine Arts degree, it is a very demanding subject to choose. Generally, degrees which require a lot of practical work make them very time consuming, and this is certainly true for Fine Arts. Balancing a large workload while also maintaining a social life is something that is challenging for any University student, however, as a Fine Arts student, it would be essential for you to be able to create that balance, as your work will take up a large portion of your time.

You may also have some misconceptions about how easy it is to get on to a Fine Arts degree. In fact, the acceptance rate for Fine Arts students at top Universities are just as tough as other academic subjects. At Oxford University, a mere 14% of applicants are accepted on to the course.

However, once you have got on to your course studying Fine Arts, you are likely to find the challenge to be enjoyable. As a creative person, you will get the opportunity to experiment with different medias, as well as to try new techniques. You may be faced with challenges, but if creating art is something you enjoy, this can be an incredibly rewarding degree. If you are wondering where a Fine Arts degree may take you in terms of a career, you may want to take a look at this useful website.

7. Medicine / Dentistry

Medicine and Dentistry are both popular subjects and are perceived as some of the most difficult University courses out there! It is certainly true that you will have to work hard to do a Medical or Dentistry degree, and the entry requirements for these courses are often very high and can be quite specific about the subjects that you should have taken at Sixth Form. But what is it that makes Medicine and Dentistry so hard?

Well, firstly as I said, entry requirements can be very tough to get past, and so it is vital that if you want to study Medicine or Dentistry at University, you have a very strong application. You usually have to follow an earlier deadline for applications to Medicine and Dentistry courses, and this is because you may be required to pass an admissions test to be considered for a place at the Universities which you have applied to.

Additionally, you will have to have a strong work ethic throughout the course. Both degrees for Medicine and Dentistry last 5 years, and so it is important that you are committed to your subject to be able to keep up your motivation in this period. If you would like to become a Doctor, further training is required after you have done your degree, so this is also something to consider. If you would like to find out more about becoming a Doctor, take a look at this useful article.

As a Medical or Dental student, you will need to have excellent time-management skills, be able to understand and remember vast quantities of information and be confident working with patients throughout your degree.

6. Biochemistry

To study Biochemistry, you will need a wide range of skills. You need a strong understanding of all Scientific subjects, including Biology, Chemistry, and Physics. Although a Biochemistry degree will be challenging, it will lead you to a number of interesting areas of study, such as treatment for diseases and understanding principles of biological processes.

Biochemistry is largely essay based, and so it is important that you not only have good scientific abilities, but also you need to be good at (or willing to develop) written communication. It is not only the nature of assessment which can be challenging for some students, but also the amount of content that you will have to be aware of in order to complete this degree successfully.

New information is being uncovered all of the time, and as a student these changes are something that you will have to keep up with. This can be overwhelming for many students, especially as you need to have a broad range of knowledge on several different areas.

You will also be required to complete laboratory-based work all the way through your degree, and this is something that would very easily lead you to a career in research. However, this wouldn’t be the only option that you had if you wanted to study Biochemistry at University. Some other examples of careers which this degree could lead you to are listed on this helpful website.

5. Astrophysics

If planets, black holes and stars are something that you find exciting and interesting, an astrophysics degree might be something that you should consider. This subject requires an incredibly strong foundation in Physics and Maths, and so it is important that you have taken these 2 subjects as A-Levels at Sixth Form.

Like most of these subjects, Astrophysics is an incredibly challenging subject because of its need for knowledge of constantly developing information. However, again, the challenges come alongside many benefits. Astrophysics graduates are able to take their degrees into a variety of different fields, including research, teaching, business, industry and finance.

To be successful in this degree subject, you must be determined to work hard continuously, as you will have to learn new mathematical processes and ideas, as well as developing your knowledge of  scientific processes and how to conduct your own research.

As you can see, this degree will teach you the basic disciplines which can be applied to loads of different scientific areas, and this is one of the reasons why it is such an interesting degree to study. You can learn scientific skills which can be applied to almost anything, all in the context of Astrophysics, which is a really unusual and interesting subject overall.

4. Law

The subject of the difficulty of Law as a degree is a debate among many. However, overall, it seems to be a degree which requires a lot of hard work, right from the beginning of the course. The jump from A-Level to any degree is challenging, but this is perhaps especially true for a Law degree. This can be argued because A-Level Law is so vastly different from degree level, so much so that Universities generally don’t require you to have taken it for you to do a Law degree. The A-Levels which may useful to develop the skills which a Law degree will require you to have can be found in this helpful article.

One of the challenges of a Law degree is the fact that it is so English based. You will be required to do a lot of reading, and some people can find this extremely challenging, even if they have been very successful at school. Because most of the study is independent, it is essential that you are very organised and have ways to keep up your motivation.

Once you have completed your degree, you will have to work extremely hard to get into a good career in Law, though this does not mean that it is impossible, and once you begin work at a Law firm, you will have a good career in front of you. If you would like to find out more about the jobs which you could do with a Law degree, have a look at this useful website which lists jobs and allows you to explore your prospects after you have your degree.

3. Chemical Engineering

Chemical Engineering is a highly rewarding, highly demanding subject. Chemical Engineers use their detailed scientific knowledge to make positive changes to the real world, wither in the creation or development of processes. The range of skills which the degree allows students to develop mean that they can work in a wide range of fields, including Engineering, Physics, Maths and Chemistry. Some of the jobs which you may be able to do are listed on this helpful website.

If you want to study Biochemistry, you will need a strong scientific foundation, and probably all science and maths subjects at A-Level. These will all need to be at quite a high standard, as due to the challenging nature of this degree programme, the entry requirements for Universities are generally quite high.

Although this subject is very scientifically demanding, if you are comfortable with your current scientific skills, and feel as though you would be interested in developing them, this is a really interesting area to go in to, and as I said before, the career prospects are very varied, and employers value the complexity of the degree, as well as the skills which it allows you to develop.

2. Aerospace Engineering

Aerospace is another really interesting, but very difficult subject to study. This does not mean that it is not worth the effort though! Although any student considering taking Aerospace Engineering at university will need to have a strong scientific skillset, as well as a lot of determination, this can be an incredibly interesting subject, which can also lead to some great career prospects. More information about what you could do with your Aerospace Engineering degree can be found on this useful website.

Aerospace engineering will help you develop the skills which enable you to work effectively in teams, solve problems under pressure, and to work accurately. These are widely applicable skills, and therefore this degree is one that will aid you greatly in any career path.

A degree in Aerospace Engineering will also involve practical elements, which are perhaps more common in this degree than in others, as it is important that you are given the opportunity to apply your recently-learned knowledge to real life situations. You may also have the chance to complete internships with big companies, and this is something that, although hard work, would set you up in a very strong position when it comes to finding a job at the end of your degree.

1. Architecture

We have ranked architecture as the most challenging degree subject because of the enormous workload that it demands, as well as the need for attention to tiny details. Architects are involved in a number of different aspects of building design – not just drawing the design.

You will need developed mathematical skills, to use in several different aspects of Architecture. It is also more theory-based than you may imagine, as you have to have knowledge of the theory of building structures, the history of architecture, as well as the ability to use software to bring your designs to images.

Clearly, architecture is not limited to one specific skillset. You need to be able to manage building construction, use maths and science skills, apply theories, as well as be creative enough to create interesting, innovative building plans.

This is one of the most difficult subjects to study because of the volume of work, and the individual nature of a lot of it. Architecture is difficult to succeed in because of the subjective nature of building design – what looks good can vary massively between people, so you will have to deal with the criticisms of people who think your work can be improved.

You may also find that once you have your degree, it is not quite possible to jump straight into your career. In a similar way to becoming a Doctor, becoming an Architect takes time. Further training and work experience will be required. If you want to find out which other career paths you could follow, take a look at this useful website.

Remember, just because here Architecture is ranked as the ‘Hardest University Degree in the UK’, this does not mean that if you are confident in your abilities and you have (or can develop) the necessary skills to become an architect, it is a great career which will provide you with a very varied work life, and so you should not be put off by its challenges!

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