Studying law as an international student in the UK is a very popular choice amongst students who opt to study internationally. The experience can be both rewarding and exhilarating for many. However, the question of ‘How to get into a law school in the UK’ or ‘How to study law in the UK as a foreign student’ are questions that countless numbers of students ask each year. In this article, we’ll break down the top 10 things to know about studying law in the UK as a foreign student moving from Canada in 2023.
Learn more about the 2-Year Graduate Entry LLB in the UK.
Why Study Law in the United Kingdom?
There are three main reasons why students choose to immigrate to the UK from Canada to study law. These three reasons are very easy-pull factors for students to start their journey and to take the step to study aboard.
- The first and most attractive advantage is avoiding having to take a prerequisite test like the Law School Entrance Test (LSAT). This has the most impact on students since it relieves them from having to do extensive studying, preparation, and having to pay LSAT exam and study fees. In addition to shielding the students from such concerns, it also frees them from any mental and emotional stress.
- The second factor is of saving both time and money. While studying to become a lawyer in Canada can take anywhere close to 5-7 years, studying to become a lawyer in the UK can take roughly 2-3 years. In reference to saving money, even with the conversion of currency & length of studies in the UK vs. Canada, the cost is cut partially by 35-45%.
- The third and last most attractive advantage which pulls international/foreign students is that UK law degrees are recognized for accreditation to practice in Canada. In essence, this means that the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) accepts all UK law degrees, including LLBs (Bachelor of Law) and LLMs (Master of Law).
Upon returning to Canada, students who hold these degrees must complete a few additional stages before they practice law in Canada.
Top 10 Things To Know As A Foreign Student Studying Law In The UK
You absolutely must know these 10 things if you are planning on studying law in the UK:
- 1 – Requirements for International Students
- 2 – Application Process, Requirements & Deadlines
- 3 – English Language Proficiency Requirements
- 4 – Cost of Studying and Living in the UK
- 5 – Grades Required by UK Law Schools
- 6 – Accommodation Options for International Students
- 7 – How Canada’s Legal System Compares to the UK
- 8 – Part-Time Work Opportunities in the UK
- 9 – Career Opportunities After Graduation
- 10 – Practicing Law in Canada & the NCA Exams
1 – Requirements for International Students
There are 3 different types of law degrees available to Canadian students who are thinking of studying law in the UK, and they all have a special set of requirements catered to each one.
- 3-Year (Full-time) LLB Honours degree. This undergraduate ‘Bachelor of legal laws’ degree is available to all students right out of high school or at any level of post-secondary education. It is an undergraduate professional law degree that qualifies you to study and practice law.
- 2-Year LLB Senior Status LLB or an Accelerated LLB (Hons) Law. It is only available to all undergraduate students who have completed their post-secondary education prior. Meaning that they already hold a university degree.
- 1-Year LLM degree. This is a postgraduate ‘Master of Legal Laws’ degree that is available to all graduate students. In order to gain entry into a UK LLM program, you are usually required to have an LLB degree.
All UK LLB degrees are equivalent to the Juris Doctor degree in Canada. The sole distinction is that the JD requires an LSAT prerequisite and lasts for 3 years, whereas the UK LLB requires no LSAT prerequisite and can last for 2 to 3 years, depending on your prior education.
2 – Application Process, Requirements & Deadlines
First, we must start by looking at all law schools in the UK and researching a few to reach our best options.
The best way to conduct research is by looking at the following:
- 1 – Ranking levels of each law school/university,
- 2 – The fee structures (if it meets your needs),
- 3 – Scholarship program,
- 4 – Intake seasons,
- 5 – Additional Admission tests, if applicable (ex. LNAT),
- 6 – All other need-to-know information such as location, accessibility etc.
Once we have conducted our research and shortlisted our options, we must then look at the requirements for each one.
Now, if you are looking at applying to one of the three degrees mentioned in the above section, then you have 25% of your work cut out for you in order to determine your eligibility.
The requirements do depend from school to school, but highlighted below are some standard requirements that most universities follow:
- Need to be 17 years of age and above.
- Need to meet the English Proficiency requirements.
- Must have a high school diploma.
- Grades received from prior diplomas/degrees must be consistent with program requirements. (Usually, in international cases is a minimum level of C or B or 60%).
Now let’s touch on deadlines. As an international student, one benefit that you have is that you can apply for programs in the UK up to 1 year in advance. However, if you do find yourself in a situation where you are running short on time and miss the 1-year mark which would usually be the same month but the prior year- don’t worry you still have time.
The deadline for a program that is set to start in September of the following year is usually January of that same year. For example, the 2024 deadline for intake in September 2024 is January 25th, 2024. However, Universities do tend to keep their application portal open via direct communication until after the January deadline up until the month of the start date of the program. The major dilemma is securing a spot, as programs tend to fill up quickly.
Please Note: Almost all universities do not have a January intake for any LLB degrees in the UK. Whereas only a few offer January intake for the LLM route.
Once you have sorted out all of the above, the actual application process comes next. You can choose to apply to all programs individually through the schools’ websites, or you can choose platforms such as UCAS to apply. UCAS is an all-in-one platform self-engaging platform in which you have the option to apply to 2 or more different universities and pay £27 GBP.
3 – English Language Proficiency Requirements
Every student from outside the UK and the EU must demonstrate proof of a minimum level of English language proficiency to be granted a UK visa (Tier 4 visa) to pursue undergraduate or postgraduate studies, according to the UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI).
You must meet the English proficiency requirements of a UK university in order to be admitted to any program offered at any UK University. If English is your first language or you come from a country where English is the official language, you will undoubtedly satisfy the requirements. But if it is your second language, you may be required to pass an English proficiency test like the IELTS (scoring over a 6.5) or another comparable certification.
4 – Cost of Studying and Living in the UK
Depending on the university you choose, and the kind of program you want to apply to, studying in the UK can be costly. The annual tuition rates typically range from £11,000 to £18,000 (about $17,000 to $29,000 CAD). Although the expenses appear to be very high when compared to Canadian universities, the shorter program lengths offered in UK law schools lower the average cost, making it more affordable to attend law school in the UK compared to Canada.
In reference, the cost of living in the UK as an international student ranges from £10,000- 14,000 (about $16,000-22,000 CAD) a year. This varies on the location, the type of accommodation, the benefits of the chosen accommodation, and so on. This price range includes your accommodation, plus more such as basic essentials like groceries, cell phone plan & travel costs such as public transit.
In 2023 your living expenses can be approximately as follows:
- £215 x weekly rent
- £5-10 x monthly phone bill
- £10 monthly student pass for bus travel
- £40 x monthly grocery
5 – Grades Required by UK Law Schools
The entry requirements in terms of grading depend on the program you wish to apply to and the Canadian province from which you hold your high school diploma or undergraduate degree.
Entry requirements for the LLB program:
Alberta, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland or Northwestern Territories, New Brunswick, British Columbia
General High School Diploma with a minimum of 90% in five acceptable grade 12 courses.
High School Graduation Diploma with at least four grade 12 Specialised subjects with a score of 90%.
A minimum of 90% in six grade 12 courses, at least five of which must be University Preparatory Courses.
Diplome D’Etudes Collegiales (DEC)/Diploma of Collegial Studies (DCS) with a minimum of 90%.
Senior Secondary Graduation Diploma with a minimum of 5As (AAAAA) in acceptable grade 12 courses.
Entry requirements for the LLB Senior Status Program & LLM Program: Qualification B+ average of the last 2-3 years.
6 – Accommodation Options for International Students
When selecting accommodation, there are plenty of ways to pick the right type of accommodation for you. First, begin by looking at the types of accommodation offered near or at your university.
Usually, universities in the UK and surrounding areas (county, town, city) offer the following: Halls of Residence, Private Halls of Residence & Private Renting. The most popular choice for international students is mainly to start off their first year at a university Hall of Residence and move their way out on a yearly basis. This gives them the opportunity to familiarize themselves with the university, the area, and gives them a chance to be more engaging.
7 – How Canada’s Legal System Compares to the UK
The United Kingdom is made up of three separate legal systems for its three separate countries: England & Wales, Scotland & Northern Ireland. Although they all have separate legal entities, they all collectively follow what is known as ‘The Common Law’.
The combined English and French legal systems serve as the foundation for Canada’s legal system. As a former colony of the British empire, Canada inherited the English Common Law system, which serves as the basis for its legal system today.
With the exception of Quebec and the Federal Territories, every province in Canada adheres to the Common Law system. In contrast to all other Canadian provinces, Quebec’s private law has its roots in French civil law and Napoleonic Code 1.
This is why the requirement differs for Quebec residents when they apply to study law internationally in the UK.
8 – Part-Time Work Opportunities in the UK
Canadian students who apply to study law in the UK are usually issued a Tier 4 Student Visa. This visa system openly allows Canadian students to easily obtain immigration status in the UK from a Student to a permanent resident very seamlessly.
The Tier-4 Visa allows students to work part-time in the UK following certain rules. A couple of the generic rules set out with a Tier-4 Visa issued with validity over 6 months are:
- Individuals can work during the academic year at a university, for up to 20 hours a week. (According to UKVI, a “week” is “a period of seven days).
- Individuals can work full-time in non-term time.
- Individuals can work full-time if on a work placement. The placement shall be assessed as part of the course & cannot be longer the 50% of the course length.
- Tier-4 Visa holders cannot be employed on a permanent or contract basis. The Home Office only allows holders of this visa to work temporarily full/part-time.
9 – Career Opportunities After Graduation
Although lawyer salaries in Canada have never been higher, there are many other career options with a law degree. See below for various career opportunities with UK LLB/LLM degrees:
- Solicitor (in common-law countries with the exception of additional requirements)
- Barrister (in common-law countries with the exception of additional requirements)
- Law Clerk
- Immigration Consultant
- Legal Assistant
- Legal Researcher
- Legal Consultant
- Government & Politics
- Banking & Finance (depending on experience with securities, trust, property law, estates, & taxation).
10 – Practicing Law in Canada & the NCA Exams
Students who successfully complete their studies in the UK must submit an application for accreditation of their degree to the National Committee on Accreditation (NCA) of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada after returning to Canada.
The NCA is an organization established by all provincial and territorial law societies to evaluate and accredit foreign law degrees. Meaning that the NCA evaluates your degree to verify that it is credible and complies with the rules set forth by the Canadian legal system.
Once your degree gets accredited, and you satisfy the NCA requirements, you can follow one of the three ways to prove your competence & continue on the path of becoming a qualified practicing lawyer:
Option 1 – Passing the NCA accreditation exams, where you can be assigned anywhere up to 5-8 exams depending on your degree & grades:
- Canadian Administrative Law (Mandatory)
- Canadian Constitutional Law (Mandatory)
- Canadian Criminal Law (Mandatory)
- Foundations of Canadian Law (Mandatory)
- Canadian Professional Responsibility (Mandatory)
Option 2 – Choose a path to complete your accreditation by applying to a Canadian law school to obtain a 2-year LLM degree, which can satisfy the requirement of accreditation and allows you to skip the NCA accreditation exams.
Option 3 – Mix options 1 & 2 for more convenience.
BONUS: Commonwealth Scholarships
Offered by the Government of the United Kingdom to students who are from Commonwealth countries & are actively studying at colleges and universities within the UK. Almost 800 scholarships are awarded by the UK government each year with the aim of assisting students who would not otherwise be able to afford to study there.
Proof required to obtain scholarship: Cannot afford education in the UK otherwise.
Best Law Schools in the UK for Foreign Students in 2023
When looking to attend a law school, you should always look at the qualities which signify its superior characteristics, and why it seems like a good choice.
Look for these qualities when choosing a law school in the UK:
- Location – choosing the right location may affect access to opportunities like internships, networking events, and law firms that are nearby. Also, different cities might appeal more to you than others, do some research.
- Years of Existence – generally, older law schools will have established and tested teaching methods from which you will benefit. However, newer law schools might offer something new and innovative that you might like more!
- Professors – research law school’s faculty and check out their experience in areas of law that interest you. Having good professors to learn from is essential in law school.
- Public Ranking – this will not generally make or break a law school, but try to pick a law school that has consistently ranked high in areas you are most interested in.
Below is a list of law schools that generally do well in rankings:
- 1 – University of Cambridge
- 2 – University of Oxford
- 3 – King’s College London
- 4 – University of Birmingham
- 5 – Leicester University
- 6 – Nottingham Trent University
- 7 – University of Glasgow (Scotland)
- 8 – University of Edinburgh (Scotland)
- 9 – The University of York
- 10 – The University of Law
Frequently Asked Questions about Studying Law in the UK
Below you will find answers to the most commonly asked questions:
How many years does it take to study law in the UK?
It can take anywhere from 2-3 years to study law in the UK. The standard LLB is 3 years, and most UK high school students will take this course. However, international students that have already completed an undergraduate degree usually enroll in the 2-year LLB program (Senior Status). This allows them to finish law school faster. There are also 4 year LLB programs that involve a year abroad, which appeals to students who want to explore the world while studying.
What qualifications do I need to study law in the UK?
As a Canadian enrolling in the 2-year Senior Status LLB program, you will need at least an undergraduate degree with decent grades (above B+). On the other hand, if you just obtained your high school Diploma and have high grades you can apply for the 3-year LLB program. Lastly, if you choose the LLM degree, then you will most likely be required to have an LLB degree.
Can a foreigner study law in the UK?
Yes, foreign students can study law in the UK. All you have to do is meet the academic requirements of the UK law schools that you are applying to. Many international students choose to study law in the UK every year. However, as a foreigner, you must obtain a student visa.
How much does it cost to study law in the UK?
The annual tuition rates typically range from £11,000 to £18,000 (about $17,000 to $29,000 CAD). For Canadian, studying in the UK may actually be cheaper. While in Canada, you are required to pay for 3 years of law school, in the UK, you can complete law school in 2 years, which will obviously save you money for the 1-year tuition and living expenses.
Is it hard to study law in the UK?
The legal profession is a challenging one on its own. Compared to other countries, studying law in the UK is neither more difficult nor easier. Indeed, studying law in the UK has a pretty similar standard when it comes to the actual process of studying within the legal field, even though the admissions process is easier and the circular is a little less difficult and different from the one in Canada.