Oxbridge vs Non-Oxbridge Law Schools

When applying to study Law at university a key consideration is choosing between Oxbridge and non-Oxbridge Law Schools. But what is the difference between them?

Author: Rob Needleman

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When applying for Law at a top university, there are several factors to consider. 

One of those being the route of Oxbridge or Non-Oxbridge.

But what is the difference between the Law degrees at Oxbridge and non-Oxbridge universities?

Oxbridge Specific Information

The crucial difference between Oxbridge and non-Oxbridge Law Schools is the UCAS deadline. 

For Oxbridge, the deadline to get your application submitted is 6 PM on the 15th October. If you are only applying to non-Oxbridge Law Schools you have until 26th January

However, if you are applying to both Oxbridge and non-Oxbridge Law Schools, you will have to meet the October deadline. 

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The LNAT

Ten of the Law Schools in the UK require applicants to sit the LNAT as part of their application process. 

Cambridge has recently reverted to using the LNAT after having their own Admissions Test, the CLT, the past few years. Anyone applying for Cambridge and LNAT universities will only have one Admissions Test to prepare for. 

How each university uses the LNAT differs, so it is helpful to be aware of what they expect to ensure that you meet the criteria they set. 

If you are applying to Oxbridge, you will have to have sat the LNAT before or on the 15th October application deadline. For the non-Oxbridge Law Schools, you will have to sit the LNAT before or on the 26th January – though some institutions have different deadlines, so make sure to check them when booking. 

Oxford and Cambridge Offer a BA not an LLB

Contrary to other universities in the UK, you’ll get a Bachelor of Arts with a Law focus when you graduate from Oxbridge.

The BA Law for both Oxford and Cambridge is considered a qualifying degree, so you’ll be able to proceed to the vocational stage of your training in Law without delays. This is the second stage to becoming a solicitor or barrister in the UK, so doing a BA at Oxbridge will be the same (timewise) as an LLB at any other UK university.

Oxbridge have shorter terms

Unlike other UK universities with terms lasting from 10 to 14 weeks, terms at Oxbridge are significantly shorter. You’ll attend classes eight weeks at a time, and even though you’ll be very busy during this time, you can use your breaks to catch up on reading.

This can be ideal for a demanding course like Law if you’re looking for intensive studying for shorter periods. If you’re the type of student who works better under pressure and is well organised, this might be the type of timetable you’ll enjoy.

You can check some of our ‘Day in the Life’ articles below to get insight into how the shorter terms work. 

Law firms have a preference for oxbridge graduates

As unfair as this might seem, Law firms do have a preference for specific universities. Usually, when you’re applying for a job, you might find that in addition to wanting a particular grade – a first-class or 2:1 most of the time. Companies such as Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, and Slaugter & May might require a degree from a specific university. 

If your ambition is to work for one of the companies within the ‘Magic and Silver Circle’, attending Oxbridge or a Russell Group university is a must.

Research into law firms preferences
Types of Law firms and their preferred universities to hire from

Research by Chambers Student found that law firms prefer Oxbridge graduates, and this has been the case for years. So, a good piece of advice would be for you to investigate graduate prospects for your university choices. 

Graduate Prospects

Law graduates tend to go into the legal industry, and they usually take similar routes. Jobs are highly competitive, but starting salaries are good and high fliers can earn serious money – starting on over £24,000 in London on average. 

Some careers, especially as barristers, can take a while to get into, and the industry is constantly evolving. 

If you want to go into work, then many Law graduates take trainee or paralegal roles, and some do leave Law although, often for jobs in management, finance and the police force. 

A small proportion of Law graduates also move into another field of study. Management, accountancy, and teaching are all popular for these career changers. 

University of Oxford

Looking at Oxford graduates six months after graduating gives us a clear understanding of what they go on to do. 

The average annual salary of the graduates is £22,915, with 97% of graduates employed or in further education. Of those in employment, 63% were in a role where a degree was essential or beneficial. 

The top job areas of the graduates tend to be legal professionals (19%), legal associate professionals (17%), and teaching and educational professionals (15%). 

Oxford-Law-Graduate-Prospects
Median annual earnings of Oxford Law graduates one, three and five years after graduating.

From the chart above, we can see the median annual earnings of those who have graduated from Oxford. After their first year of employment, the median earnings tend to be around £26,000. In their third year of employment, this has gone up to £48,000, before reaching £65,000 in their fifth year of work.

University of Cambridge

If we move on to look at Cambridge, we can start seeing this preference towards Oxbridge graduates demonstrated by Law firms.

The average annual salary for graduates is £24,000, with 98% of graduates employed or further education. Of those in employment, 70% were in a role where a degree was essential or beneficial. 

The top areas where graduates found jobs was legal associate professionals (14%), teaching and educational professionals (12%), and legal professionals (8%).

Cambridge-Law-Graduate-Prospects
Median annual earnings of Cambridge Law graduates one, three and five years after graduating.

From the chart above, we can see the median annual earnings of those who have graduated from Cambridge. After their first year of employment, the median earnings tend to be around £27,000. In their third year, this has gone up to £49,000, before reaching £69,000 in their fifth year of work. 

University College London

Comparing these with UCL, which has been ranked third in the UK for Law by The Complete University Guide and The Guardian – and second by Times Higher Education, we can see the difference between Oxbridge and non-Oxbridge graduates. 

The average annual salary for graduates six months after leaving UCL is similar to Oxford’s, sitting at around £22,000. Of the graduates, 94% find themselves in employment or further education. Of those in work, 69% are employed in a role where a degree was essential or beneficial. 

The areas that graduates find themselves working in include legal associate professionals (38%), legal professionals (7%), and protective service occupations (7%). 

UCL-Law-Graduate-Prospects
Median annual earnings of UCL Law graduates one, three and five years after graduating.

From the chart above, we can see the median annual earnings of those who have graduated from UCL. After their first year of employment, the median earnings tend to be around £26,000. In their third year, this has gone up to £41,000, before reaching £65,000 in their fifth year of work. 

choosing between Oxbridge and Non-Oxbridge law

The points made above should help you form an opinion on whether Oxbridge or non-Oxbridge is suited for you. 

If you are considering applying for Law at Oxbridge, your main takeaway should be that you need to start your preparations as early as possible. 

Make sure to keep in mind graduate prospects. If you are indecisive about which university to attend, remember that for very competitive industries such as Law, having a degree from a specific university might help you in the long run.

If you are still undecided as to which university you wish to apply for, do not rush into a decision and carefully consider your options and what has drawn you to them in the first place. 

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