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Where is the Best Law Education to be Had in the UK?

By Yann, published on 27/10/2018 We Love Prof > Professional Development > Law > Best Law Schools in the UK

Our country boasts two of the oldest, most venerable institutes of higher learning in the world: Oxford, founded in 1167, and Cambridge, in 1209.

During that era, schools meeting a certain global benchmark were known as stadia generale, the official name for university during medieval times.

Criteria to earn that designation included teaching the Arts and at least one of the higher faculties – Theology, Medicine or Law. One of the most important specifications to meet in order to be thus listed was that the courses must be taught by masters in their fields.

Back then as today, one couldn’t simply throw up a shingle and declare one’s house to be a formal institute, obviously!

To attract, retain and recognise these coveted experts, those schools had to have some sort of legitimacy: a royal charter or, because religion led society at that time, a decree from the Pope.

The first papal bull for legal education was issued in 1233, to a French university.

Older and more established universities, our Oxford included, disdained that recognition.

Oxford, as you most likely know, received its royal charter in 1248, even though it had been welcoming students from other parts of the world for nearly 200 years by that time.

Receiving and teaching foreign students was a cornerstone of the stadium generale principle; one that our two renown institutes practice still today.

However, those are not the only schools with a law curriculum in our country. Let’s now go in search of our country’s best law schools – besides the two with such a long tradition of teaching excellence.

Important note: while QS World University Rankings is generally the go-to report when analysing a school’s standing, for this article we draw on The Complete University Guide, a ranking site specific to the UK.

However, we will make a comparison of rankings from both reports at the end of this article.

The University of Glasgow

Glasgow University has long been considered among the best Glasgow University, circa 1650 – ranked second among the UK’s top universities Source: Wikipedia

This fine school comes in second on the list, after Oxford School of Law.

Herself an age-old institution – founded in 1451, at which time both canon and civil law were taught, this school and three others in Scotland is where Scottish law found its roots.

Today, the school’s original law faculty is memorialised in the very naming of the Stair building, after the scholar who published the first comprehensive exposé of Scots law.

Besides teaching undergraduates in subjects such as Intellectual Property Law, Corporate Law and Financial Regulation, the University of Glasgow sponsors many extracurricular programmes, such as law clinics, where students can get hands-on experience doing pro bono work.

Their Mooting Society deserves special mention.

It is strictly student-run and hosts an internal moot as well as a national one: the Alexander Stone National Legal Debate. Any school with an LLB programme may compete.

The University of Strathclyde currently holds the winner’s cup, in case you’re interested.

A Scottish student at the undergraduate level and students from European Union law faculties may expect to pay £1820 annually.

UK students would bear a higher premium, but it could be offset by financial aid.

The London School of Economics

If ever there were a school for the international student to dream of, The LSE would be it!

Located in the heart of London, the area historically known as Clare Market, that campus is home to 3,300 staff, about half of whom hail from elsewhere besides the UK.

Their large student body is just as diverse, with more than 150 countries represented!

Don’t let this facility’s name fool you; among the economics and other departments, you will indeed find their highly-esteemed Department of Law.

In fact, you may pursue a joint degree in Anthropology and Law; two fields of study that have more to do with each other than one might think!

The law component of this dual study course is fully qualifying; you may move on to your LPC course after graduation, as you would with any other law degree programme.

This programme’s tuition is currently set at £9,250 per year for UK and qualifying EU students; any prospective student from elsewhere in the world would pay substantially higher fees.

Scholarships are available both for home students and those from overseas.

That’s a good thing, seeing as it is not cheap, living in the heart of London!

You may take your classes in the New Academic building LSE, one of the country’s top universities for law studies holds Law courses in the New Academic Building Source: Wikipedia Credit: Mulloon

University of Aberdeen

Back to Scotland now, to review a university just a little younger than its sister-facility in Glasgow.

The University of Aberdeen was founded in 1495 – considered one of the four ancient universities in Scotland.

By no means does that imply their teachings and standards are archaic – but some of that campus’ architecture is stunning!

This school’s administration is constantly expanding the horizons of their students by offering new degree plans, promoting educational opportunities abroad and pouring tons of money into their research programmes.

What we love about their Law programmes is their 5-year degree options.

You may major in Law and minor in French law or, if your language skills are such that minoring in French is possible, there is a degree program for that, too.

Naturally, fundamental courses apply here: you will study Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, Contract Law… and you will have a host of electives to choose from!

All for a most reasonable £1,820 per year, with the possibility of financial aid as needed.

One last rave about this university: forget how it is ranked in QS; Aberdeen has been voted Scottish University of the Year, 2019!

What a prestigious accolade!

With so many great schools and law programmes in the UK, we feel hard-pressed to extol the virtues of them all within one article, so we list these next few with select, outstanding attributes for each.

  • University College London: diverse student body, high graduate employability, recipient of TEF Silver award

  • Durham University: a full week’s initiation for new students and extra support for international one; holder of the TEF Gold award.

  • University of Dundee: permits qualifications in all 3 of the UK’s legal jurisdictions

  • King’s College London: five campuses in the city; student-led think tank.

Those are schools 6 through 9 according to The Complete University Guide. Now we round out the top ten before comparing rankings in the table at the end of this article.

the Old College houses Edinburgh's law school Edinburgh’s School of Law is located in the historic Old College Source: Wikipedia Credit: Kim Traynor

University of Edinburgh

The Edinburgh Law School has a programme for everyone studying law, from undergraduate and postgraduate LLBs to those working on their LLM degree, and even research and funding for those striving to earn their PhD!

Admission to this law faculty is ultra flexible; you may have earned your undergraduate degree in law elsewhere and now wish to partake of their interdisciplinary degree programs: they’ll take you!

And what higher education programs they have!

Your postgraduate courses may cover Law and Humanities, Law and Social policy or Law and International relations.

To be sure, earning your Juris Doctor or Master of Laws at Edinburgh requires effort, but it is hardly all work and no play.

In addition to student support services, especially those for all incoming students, this school has numerous clubs and societies you may participate in. Of special note is their LawPals programme, a peer-assisted learning scheme.

Our favourite extracurricular programme is the Law School Music Society!

As all school fees in Scotland are set by the government, the tuition rates per year quoted earlier in this article also apply to these law courses.

Housing and living expenses are separate from tuition fees. You may check their students’ page for those cost estimates.

What about Wales?

To be sure, there are many fine universities in that country: Swansea, Cardiff University, The University of South Wales…

In fact, Cardiff School of Law and Politics is unique in that it offers complete law training in a series of bundled courses, so whether you are just starting you legal training or belong to the alumni group, you may return time and again for further education.

You may even call this school an international university, for the diversity of its student body: they welcome more than 7,000 international students each academic year and offer bursaries to ease financial burden.

They even have a needs-based scholarship programme!

The trouble is that, as fine and welcoming as Welsh schools may be for higher education, they do not yet come in very high in the university rankings.

Swansea was ranked #37 and Cardiff just behind it. South Wales ranked 89th.

That only means they are relatively young facilities; they don’t have centuries of tradition to boost their standings, as the older, more venerated schools do. However, they do have quality law programmes and a whole lot more on offer!

We are glad to present these fine schools of law; now see where they stand in world rankings.

NameUniversity Guide Ranking Up/down from last year's rankingQS Ranking
Cambridge1unchanged6
Glasgow2up 3 places69
Oxford3down 1 place5
London School of Economics4down 1 place38
Aberdeen5up 5 places172
University College London6down 2 places10
Durham University7down 1 place74
Dundee8up 8 placesnot ranked
King's College London9unchanged31
Edinburgh10down 3 places18
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