With a bewildering array of legal courses on offer at universities throughout the UK, it can be difficult for an interested student to sort through the competing claims. Luckily, a number of ranking schemes exist to make it easier to apply to the right institutions for you. The majority of law students in the UK begin their studies at undergraduate level, and here the pecking order of providers has been stable for some time. As is to be expected, the ‘Russell Group’ of top universities dominates the ranking tables, with Oxford fairly consistent at the top, just ahead of Cambridge. This is at least partly due to an extremely low ratio of staff to students at Oxbridge, which allows a higher quality of contact time.
Other Russell Group universities make up most of the top ten institutions, although it may be viewed by some as surprising that Queen Mary (University of London) routinely breaks into this group. Not only does this institution boast a good academic reputation, but it is also well known as a leader in preparing its students for the vocational side of law. For example, undergraduates from Queen Mary have won the prestigious English Speaking Union national mooting competition no less than four times over the past three decades.
Not all London based universities rank quite so highly, however, with both London Metropolitan and London South Bank near the bottom in terms of overall ratings. The provider which seems to feature most often at the bottom of rankings tables, however, is the University of the West of Scotland. In the 2012 edition of the Times Good University Guide, its legal department was ranked 95th of 95 universities surveyed.
Of course, not all legal courses are full LLB (undergraduate) degrees. The market for Masters degrees is again dominated by Oxford, with the renowned Bachelor’s Degree in Civil Law (a postgraduate course, despite its name) ranking as perhaps the most well respected legal qualification in the world. Many students also choose to undertake a conversion course from their original degree, with a wide variety of providers offering what is now known as the GDL (Graduate Diploma in Law). While the course content is almost identical wherever it is undertaken, different providers offer varying teaching methods, ranging from the small intake and academic focus of Oxford Brookes to the large scale e-learning of the College of Law.