Law School Rankings in the UK; The Best Institutions

law rank

Picking one of the best universities for law is often critical if you want to get into a top law firm. This is especially true if you want to work for a magic circle firm in London.

So how do we know what the top universities for law are? Well we can consult The Times league tables which gives us a good picture. But they change every year (if you want to see it click here). From 2012 to 2013 for example a university could move several places.

At studyinglaw.co.uk we think the best way to value a law schools prestige is the group it’s in, since this doesn’t change every single year. Confused? Don’t worry; all will be explained. To add to the confusion there’s also the other colleges of law, like BPP and CoL. Where do they fit into the ranking? Can you even compare them?

Top universities for law

First we should get a general idea of which schools of law are going to be best. As you may know, some universities in the UK are split up into groups like:

  • The Russell Group – Made up of 20 universities who receive the majority of research grant funding. The Russell Group is know to contain the leading universities (and therefore some of the best law schools) in the UK.
  • 1994 Group – Another group of research led universities. The 1994 Group describes itself as “internationally recognised universities in Britain, who share common aims, standards and values”. Many of it’s members are recognised as being in the top 20.

This is a good starting point when looking at how good a university is for law. However not all universities belong to these groups, yet are still brilliant law schools. This is where resources such as the Times Good University Guide come in handy.

However we will take a different approach at interpreting the data. The “best” university for us, will be the one which gives us the best chance of getting a training contract. This could be through the reputation of the university, or through their careers support & contacts. Student satisfaction, while very important, won’t carry as much weight when it comes to getting a training contract. Entry requirements can be important, but just because a university has high entry standards doesn’t mean its teaching is going to be great too.

Yes; it’s very hard to get an accurate picture. But getting you a training contract (or other legal job) is a very important criteria. If you can get into legal employment after you graduate you’re going to be happy aren’t you? So here are the rankings by graduate prospects:

  1. University College London
  2. Strathclyde
  3. Cambridge
  4. Oxford
  5. Aberdeen
  6. London School of Economics
  7. Glasgow
  8. Edinburgh
  9. Reading
  10. Lancaster
  11. Robert Gordon
  12. Durham
  13. Exeter
  14. Buckingham
  15. King’s College London
  16. Bristol
  17. Manchester
  18. Edinburgh Napier
  19. Birmingham
  20. Southampton

As you can see there are some odd results in there. Universities we would consider prestigious next to universities we wouldn’t. “Graduate prospects” is based on who has graduate level employment a year after leaving university. So this list is good if you want a job at the end of your degree. This job may not necessarily be in law though. So don’t put too much faith in these score.

But if you want to answer the question “which university will give me the best chance of getting a training contract / pupillage?”, then it’s best to pick a Russell Group or 1994 Group university.

You should play around with grouping the universities different ways – try grouping by “Research Assessment” as this could be another strong indicator of an intrinsically strong law department. Here are the top 20 universities by “Research Assessment”:

  1. London School of Economics
  2. University College London
  3. Oxford
  4. Durham
  5. Nottingham
  6. Kent
  7. Cambridge
  8. Queen’s, Belfast
  9. Cardiff
  10. Edinburgh
  11. Reading
  12. Queen Mary
  13. Strathclyde
  14. Birmingham
  15. Ulster
  16. Glasgow
  17. Bristol
  18. Sussex
  19. King’s College London
  20. Dundee

Of course Oxford or Cambridge have consistently been the most prestigious institutions for law in the UK (and indeed the world). While taking your degree there won’t guarantee you a pupillage / training contract, it will certainly give you the best chance.

Where do the colleges come in the league table?

Can you compare getting a degree from one of the law school colleges to a university? And if you can, where do they come in the rankings? Unfortunately since they are not universities, they are not put in the good university guide. However we can look at other elements, such as entry requirements. BPP Law School and The College of Law have UCAS entry points requirements of between 300 and 320. This straight away ranks them in the same league (in terms of entry requirements at least) as the Russell Group universities.

If you know that you want to go into legal practice, one of the law schools could be a good choice. They will have a greater emphasis on law in practice so there will perhaps be a smoother cross over to the legal practice course. If you are interested in going into law academically however a university will probably be the better option. It’s hard to say. It almost certainly will be cheaper than a university though; you do the LLB in 2 years and not 3. That’s around a £9000 saving.

Most of the time “best” will be very subjective. The best could simply be the university you got the best impression from at the open day; the one who had the most enthusiastic lecturers or the most well connected careers department. The Times rankings (or any rankings) don’t tell the entire story. That’s why the questions posed in this article are very tricky to answer. This is even more confusing due to the fact that law entry requirements are usually very high in all law schools. It’s hard when picking a university to study law at – try to use a combination of all the criteria talked about; the “best” university is down to you.

Ready to make a decision? Read about law at university and becoming a solicitor. Or look at our infographic of the British legal system if you’re tired of reading lots of words! Also be sure to check out some of the best law textbooks.

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