Double the degree, double the identity? Identification and experiences of students studying two simultaneous degrees

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This study investigates the impact of studying two degree programs on students’ identity formation and experiences within the evolving landscape of higher education, characterized by massification and managerial trends in the context of a weak economy. I use a narrative analysis of interviews with 14 Colombian students enrolled in joint-degree programs at an elite private university. I found that students tend to focus their identity development within a single program of study, contrary to the promise of broader identity multiplicity envisioned by the university's joint degree policy: 8 students ended up building their professional identities primarily within one program of study, three students had not developed any, and only one student developed two professional identities. Second, the intensive demands of these programs appear to prioritize the identity of a joint degree student, relegating alternative social and ego identities due to limited socialization opportunities. Third, the conflicted process of identity formation is frequently laden with frustration from unmet expectations, feelings of overload or under-stimulation, and isolation from peers. In conclusion, universities’ promises to enhance career paths and professional identities through joint degree programs may be decoupled from students who do not double their professional identities and horizons. This finding has implications for the theorization of professional identification. As students mature, they often prioritize career opportunities within a program over dual or multiple professional identities. Building multiple professional identities at the university is often unrealistic, and when it does occur, it may be at the expense of subordinating other social and ego identities. Finally, universities offering joint degrees could use these theoretical reflections and empirical findings on identity formation and student experiences that are consistent with our knowledge of the complexity of professional identity formation and the plausibility that this complexity is amplified by the addition of another program of study.
Original languageEnglish
Article number102346
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal of Educational Research
Early online date27 Mar 2024
Publication statusPublished - 27 Mar 2024


  • Curricular reform
  • Curriculum
  • Double degree
  • Joint degree
  • Student experience
  • Student identities

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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