Number of places: 240 FT, 48 PT
Fees (2014/15): See below for breakdown
Awards: £1,500 alumni discount; 10 awards of £5,000 each for students with a 2:1, subject to online skills assessment
The University of Law’s BPTC hasn’t got the starriest of reputations or alumni compared to longer established providers like City University. Still, the course has the might of a national legal education juggernaut behind it and looks set on upping its game. Following Kaplan's recent closure of its widely praised BPTC course – which at 55% boasted the highest pupillage rates of any provider – ULaw managed to land Kaplan’s former BPTC head Lynda Gibbs to redesign its own course, making for an exciting range of employability-boosting changes. The institution now offers enhanced learning materials, advocacy competitions sponsored by London chambers, a mentoring scheme in conjunction with the school’s alumni, and extracurricular advocacy and conference classes.
Still, it’s unlikely ULaw’s laser focus on the financial bottom line will see it emulate Kaplan’s rigorous admissions procedure, wherein only students with a 2:1 or above were admitted. Bar Standards Board reports show a high proportion of ULaw students don’t meet that threshold, particularly at the Birmingham branch.
Full-time BPTC students get up to 17.5 hours of training a week, including up to three and half hours of one-to-one sessions. Part-timers study 14 weekends a year over two years – each weekend involves up to 14 hours of contact time. Classes are generally delivered in small groups of no more than 12 and last for a marathon three and a half hours each. There are also advocacy sessions conducted in groups of between two and six. Electives range from criminal litigation and judicial review to family, personal injury, and immigration practice and asylum.
ULaw boasts that its BPTC offers three times as much advocacy training as the Bar Standards Board minimum requirement. Students can put these polished advocacy skills on trial at practitioner events, where they perform in front of real judges and barristers in real courtrooms. In 2013, 225 barristers attended such events, so they're a good place to see and be seen. Ulaw also runs regular mooting competitions and pro bono opportunities through organisations like Liberty Letters and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
The small Birmingham branch has “well-equipped” facilities in the heart of the city's Jewellery Quarter. The area houses hundreds of workshops that make and shops that sell British-worked gems, plus museums, bars and restaurants. Among the centre's features are course-specific workshop rooms – complete with courtroom furniture – plus a student common room and a handful of quiet study areas.
The most prestigious BPTC provider in London is City Law School. ULaw shares joint second place in reputation with BPP, though it's worth noting that both of these institutions charge several hundred pounds more in fees for their BPTC course. Grads of the Bloomsbury branch, the largest in the ULaw system, spoke of a “lively atmosphere” thanks to the institution's large size and wide mix of people. The centre has an on-site courtroom and a four-floor legal library, plus a hefty pro bono programme. ULaw recently updated its IT systems, though sources mentioned the facilities as a whole are slightly on the shabby side.
Ulaw's employability service is open to all students. It's notably comprehensive, with its own job database and online careers materials. Staff also provide students one-to-one advice. Take note: the broad range of students the service advises does mean those on the BPTC might not receive the same tailored service offered by smaller providers.
ULaw doesn't release statistics on how many of its graduates land pupillages.
A little help from the legal education whizzes at Kaplan could be just thing to help this provider’s employability rates justify its hefty fees.
University of Law