Cambridge retains crown as students rank top law faculties

Oxbridge wins two of top three spots as 3,300 students vote 

The University of Cambridge has retained its spot as the top-ranked university law faculty, according to a major study carried out by Legal Week’s research arm into the perceptions of more than 3,000 law students at some of the UK’s leading institutions.

Legal Week Intelligence’s 2013 Law Student Report found more students at Cambridge (pictured) graded their university as ‘excellent’ than at any other institution, with the faculty coming top for the quality of its teaching, value for money and teaching facilities – three of the four categories students were asked to rate.

Cambridge, with an average score of 4.68 out of 5, beat rival Oxford, which came third with an overall average score of 4.43.

The pair join eight other universities – including Aberdeen; Queen Mary University of London; Edinburgh; Exeter; London School of Economics; Hull and Warwick – achieving an average score equating to a rating of ‘good’ or ‘excellent’.

Aston University, which took on some 50 undergraduates last year, scored particularly well, coming second in the overall rankings. Its position was boosted by students’ assessment of their employability prospects post-graduation, where Aston topped the table.

“We receive excellent feedback from law firms, chambers and other graduate employers about each of our students, their professional skills and ability to understand and interpret both the legal and commercial landscapes,” said Aston law school head Jill Poole.

Overall, students were happier with their universities than last year, with the number of institutions ranked as good or excellent up on 2012. 

This year, 17 of the 28 ranked universities scored above average, including BPP, which teaches more undergraduate law students than any other higher education institution, with some 700 students. 

It ranked above average on all categories apart from employability, where it achieved a mark of 3.5 – six percentage points below average. However, BPP did score joint highest with Cambridge on the quality of its teaching facilities.

BPP Law School dean Peter Crisp said: “We offer City centre locations rather than a residential campus experience, which enables students to live at home and support themselves while studying. BPP’s LLB is this country’s first practice-facing law degree, taught by practitioners and aimed at those with a clear ambition to work in the legal profession.”

Given the challenges that the ongoing problems in the wider economy are placing upon graduate job seekers, some institutions are shifting the focus of their teaching. 

Commenting on the value for money an undergraduate degree in law offers, dean of Oxford University’s law faculty Timothy Endicott said beyond the “core skills of reading, writing and defending a controversial point of view on a legal problem… today’s students need to add a better understanding of the profession they are entering”.

The survey also found that the introduction of annual tuition fees of up to £9,000 had resulted in several institutions rethinking their funding and bursary strategies. 

Meanwhile, as law firms and universities alike focus on improving ethnic and socio-economic diversity in their ranks, around 63% of all those surveyed were female, while the majority of respondents (69%) were white, suggesting only a marginal increase in ethnic diversity since 2012.