You will be at university for three years; a significant amount of time where you be immersed in the uni lifestyle. Maybe you plan to relocate for university and will be moving away from family and friends. Perhaps you are looking for a law degree that covers specific modules, which means your options are limited and competition for places is fierce.
These are just some of the considerations that make choosing the right law university for you very important. Below is a table comparing some of the best universities for law in the UK. This table has been compiled using university ranking websites as a guide – rankings and entry requirements are subject to change.
It’s important to note that annual rankings are highly subjective, as different people are always looking for different things. This table takes data from the Complete University Guide from 2023, ordering universities by their overall rankings. There are over 100 universities ranked for law degrees, so our table only focuses on the top 10.
|University||Typical Grade Requirements (some may have contextual offers)||Complete University Guide 2023 Ranking|
|University of Oxford||AAA (IB:38)||1|
|University of Cambridge||A*AA (IB:40-42)||2|
|UCL (University College London)||A*AA (IB: 39)||3|
|LSE (London School of Economics)||A*AA (IB: 38)||4|
|Durham University||A*AA (IB: 38)||5
|King's College London||A*AA (IB: 35)||6
|University of Leeds||A*AA||7|
|University of Bristol||A*AA||8|
|Queen's University Belfast||AAA (IB: 36)||9|
|University of Warwick||AAA (IB: 36)||10|
Based on rankings alone, these are some strong options. It’s also worth noting that all of the top 10 universities here are members of the Russell Group. However, these rankings vary between different places – for example, Times Higher Education’s 2023 list puts Cambridge above Oxford for Law, and the University of Essex (non-Russell Group) makes the top 10. While rankings are a useful starting point, it’s far more useful to consider your own needs and weigh up a variety of factors when applying to study law at university – factors which this article will now consider.
A major factor for differentiating between different universities is likely to be the entry requirements. Whether you’re studying A-Levels, IB, or another international accreditation, universities will want to see that you’ve reached a minimum level of academic achievement as part of your application.
While law is an academically demanding subject across the board, there are universities available to suit a range of grades. While top Russell Group universities might be looking for A*AA, there are equally a great deal of well-respected universities making more accessible offers of BBB or BBC, including Oxford Brookes, Surrey, Liverpool John Moores or Aberdeen. Higher grade requirements are often tied to a sense of reputation – but don’t assume those with lower entry tariffs are any less worth your time.
Also remember the value of going into Clearing with UCAS on results day if needed, and the great discounted entry requirements available for some top courses!
Another factor worth considering is the geographical location of the university. First of all, how far do you want to be from home? Close enough that you could live at home, or commute back every other weekend? Or, on the other hand, far enough away to feel a sense of independence? These are personal choices that you’ll need to weigh up yourself.
The universities you will come across could be found in a large city (likely more expensive, as will be discussed shortly, but with a lot more activities and things to do), or in a more rural setting (St Andrews is an elite university often praised for its surroundings). Some students will specifically feel drawn to the hustle and bustle of London (with a huge number of universities to be found there), but there are pros and cons either way.
Another point of consideration in regard to location is whether the university is situated on its own campus or not. Many of the central London universities (UCL, for example) are not located on a single campus, but rather in buildings dotted around the city. These universities tend to score slightly lower each year on student satisfaction, as the sense of community a campus can bring is often in demand. Universities like UEA (University of East Anglia) are renowned for these kinds of benefits, while somewhere in the middle sits Oxford and Cambridge, who are spread out across the city whilst still maintaining ‘mini-campuses’ via their constituent colleges.
While most universities you’re looking at are likely to all be charging the same tuition fees (£9,250/year for home status students, or more if you’re an international student), the cost of living for each university (and therefore each town/city – see the point above) varies massively, and it is important to put a budget together. The cost of living in London is notoriously high, for example, while universities like Lincoln boast very affordable average living costs. You should be factoring in the cost of rent, food shops and travel as priorities.
Universities also vary widely in the amount of financial support they are able to offer students to combat these costs (attending for law specifically, you are likely to have some rather expensive textbooks to purchase). Wealthier universities tend to have more financial grants, bursaries and loans available. Oxford, for example, offers the Crankstart Scholarship – any undergraduate student (law included) with a household income of less than £27,500 is automatically considered for the scholarship, which provides a non-repayable (totally free) bursary of up to £5,500 per year. These schemes can make a huge difference to your quality of life at university – make sure you check what you could be eligible for on the website of any university that you are considering.
The quality and availability of the accommodation is another aspect of a university to consider. Are students allowed to stay in university-owned halls for each year of their course (and if so, where are those halls located)? Some may prefer to move out into a house with friends in their later years, although there are a few more things to consider if making that move (possibly more expensive, less central, need to arrange your own bills, etc.).
Different universities will have vastly different facilities. Law certainly demands less funding on the whole for specialised facilities (in comparison to, say, engineering), but this is still a point to consider. What are the lecture rooms like? And the seminar spaces? Small details like this are actually quite important for some people.
With the rigorous demands of a law degree, you will need to find time away from the books too. For this factor, consider the range of societies and extra-curricular activities on offer at each university, as well as the kind of social events you would look to get involved in. Bigger cities will tend to have more active clubbing scenes, for example. Whatever your style, it is important to make sure you can picture yourself fitting in at any university you are considering in more ways than just academically. Open Days are a great way to gauge this for yourself.
A major consideration is naturally the course itself. While you may be set on law, the process doesn’t quite end there. The difference between an LLB course and a BA course is one thing to start by investigating, for example. Another is the number of contact hours on a course – independent learners may want less, where other people may desire a greater deal of guidance throughout their degree. There may also be opportunities to do joint honours in some places – for example Law and Politics. Some universities even offer specific degrees like Law with German or Law with French, which often involves a year abroad – an excellent opportunity as a potential future lawyer to develop your multilingual skills. The specific modules/course content is also worth considering – while qualifying law degrees/LLBs (unlike many other subjects) will always include the same seven compulsory modules across the board, different universities will have different amounts of flexibility in regard to optional extra modules which may be more niche (but equally of particular interest to you). The format of examination is another point to consider – coursework versus exams, for example.
Selecting courses with modules that cover specific areas of law in relation to becoming a solicitor or barrister will be beneficial when you come to apply for training contracts and pupillages.
You will also need to consider the type of law degree that you want to apply for whether it’s a:
Having the best staff to suit your needs as a student is essential. Research members of the faculty of law at each university before you apply, and consider their strengths of reputation (do they have well-known scholars you would like to learn with?), links to industry (are some of their professors practicing legal professionals you could network with?), and number of staff available (the student to staff ratio is usually best at Oxbridge, which benefits from the close contact tutorial system).
If you are someone looking at a legal education, there is also a decent chance you might consider a career in law further down the line. The graduate prospects at each university are certainly worth considering. Average salaries upon graduating are a useful starting point, but also feel free to ask questions around the range of fields alumni have gone into, or what kind of support the careers office at that university offers during or after your degree.
In short, picking the best law university for you is a process which may at first appear daunting, but taking into consideration the range of factors presented here should put you well on your way to getting a shortlist together. Remember that the choice is ultimately a personal one, and that you should weigh up your priorities when balancing each decision.
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