Graduate Diploma Law (full-time)

Entry year
Course code
Bristol Law School
One year (September-June)
Full-time, starts September
Programme leader
Jenny Hallam

Please note we are no longer offering this course to new applicants.

Page last updated 24 June 2022


If you're a non-law graduate looking to enter the legal profession, the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) provides a starting point for graduate legal study. It takes you through the academic stages required to become a barrister and provides a grounding in law for those wishing to qualify as a solicitor through the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).

The GDL at UWE Bristol is highly regarded by both branches of the profession, and many solicitors and barristers choose this route into law. The qualification builds on the knowledge they've obtained in another academic field to establish a successful legal career.

The legal grounding you need

As the first stage of your legal learning, the GDL takes you through the basics of law in England and Wales and introduces you to legal reasoning, methods and research. You'll also learn how to apply your legal knowledge to the real world, giving you practical insights and skills to take into your vocational training.

Practical, practitioner-led training

The GDL is taught by a dedicated team of solicitors and barristers, many of whom have practised for many years. The team bring their experience to share on the course with plenty of examples, practical advice and face-to-face support.

Outstanding facilities and opportunities

Benefit from access to an impressive range of facilities in our Law School. You'll also have the chance to hear from expert legal speakers and take part in our Law Clinic and Mentoring scheme. Our aim is to provide as much realism as possible, equipping you with the skills and knowledge you need to move confidently towards becoming qualified.

Hear more about what it's like to study law at UWE Bristol and watch films about Sarah's and Sophie's experiences.

Watch: The learning and teaching experience



The course is structured into two teaching blocks and covers the seven foundations of legal knowledge, as identified by the professional legal bodies. An independent research project then enables you to cover another area of legal study in depth.

All modules studied during the GDL are compulsory and represent the most relevant aspects of law in legal practice. These modules are divided between the teaching blocks, as follows:

Pre-course preparation

  • English Legal System - provides you with a basic understanding of the legal system in England and Wales and covers the legal terminology, reasoning and methods you'll practise and develop throughout the course.

Teaching block one (September-January):

  • Public Law - introduces you to the constitution of England and Wales and its underlying theoretical principles, as well as the judicial review process and how we use the law to protect human rights.
  • Obligations I (Contract Law) - takes you through the area of contract law and what's involved in forming and enforcing contracts.
  • Obligations II (Law of Tort) - introduces you to tortious liability, in other words how we can enforce obligations to avoid harm being caused to our neighbours.
  • Criminal Law - provides an introduction to criminal law, particularly the underlying policy issues and the difference between theory and practice.

Teaching block two (January-June):

  • Equity and Trusts - introduces you to equity and trust law, including defining what a trust is and the relevance of trusts today.  
  • Property Law - explores land as an area of law, the rights and obligations associated with it, and how to transfer land from one party to another.
  • European Union Law - provides you with an understanding of what constitutes European Union law, how it works and how we take account of EU law within domestic law in England and Wales.
  • Independent Research Project  you'll also study a research topic of your choice in depth (out of a range of subjects of current topical interest) and write a 4,000-5,000 word mini dissertation.

The University continually enhances our offer by responding to feedback from our students and other stakeholders, ensuring the curriculum is kept up to date and our graduates are equipped with the knowledge and skills they need for the real world. This may result in changes to the course. If changes to your course are approved we'll inform you.

Learning and Teaching

Highly experienced and supportive tutors, drawn from legal practice and the academic side of law, will enable you to develop your knowledge quickly.

Each topic will be based on an introductory lecture, followed by a workshop in a large group and then a smaller-group seminar. Both the workshops and seminars are highly interactive, and are designed to give you a deeper understanding of the material covered, and how it can be applied to practical contexts.

You'll research and discuss real cases and legislation, based on current developments in law, giving you insight into situations you're likely to face in your legal career.

For more details see our full glossary of learning and teaching terms.

Study time

At the beginning of the year, you'll attend a one-week induction and receive your books and tutors' materials. You'll then have 12 hours a week of tuition, spread over three days.

Dedicated support

We aim to offer you the highest level of support, both during your studies and after you graduate. You'll be allocated a personal tutor, who you can meet with, or contact by phone or email, to discuss all aspects of the course and receive one-to-one career guidance. You'll also have access to our dedicated law careers team, 'ask the experts' careers events, CV writing clinics and the possibility of mock pupillage interviews.


The main form of assessment for the GDL is through examinations, which are held at the end of each teaching block. Some modules also include a coursework element of 25%.

The Independent Research Project will be assessed through your 4,000-5,000 word mini dissertation, which you'll  write in response to your allocated research task.

Mock assessments with feedback will be given to help you monitor and improve your performance, and help you deal effectively with all forms of assessment. Two past examination papers will also be available in order to prepare you for examinations.

For more detail see our full glossary of assessment terms.


Professional accreditation

The GDL satisfies the requirements of Bar Standards Board (BSB), showing that you have successfully completed the academic stage of your legal training.

Since the reforms in the qualification requirements for solicitors, neither the Solicitors Regulatory Authority nor the Bar Standards Board regulate the provision of courses designed to meet the academic requirement for enrolment onto the Bar Training Course, or the new Solicitors Training Course.


Legal Placement Scheme

We also run a legal placement scheme in conjunction with the Bristol Law Society. As a GDL student, this gives you the opportunity to undertake a short placement with a law firm or the legal department of a large business. All the major legal firms in Bristol take part, and it is an opportunity to enhance your CV and to try out different areas of law, perhaps opening your mind to areas you had not considered practising before.

Study facilities

You'll be based in the Bristol Law School, on our Frenchay Campus, with access to extensive facilities to support your learning, including:

  • Well-equipped classrooms, with IT equipment and whiteboards
  • Mock courtrooms, with equipment to record advocacy sessions for later analysis
  • Comprehensive resources online through our Blackboard system, including exam-style multiple choice tests, podcasts, pre-recorded lectures and demonstrations of oral skills by experienced practitioners.

The Law School sits within our £55m Bristol Business School building, which includes learning spaces for individual and group study plus conference rooms you can book.

You'll also have access to all the other facilities on our Frenchay Campus, including 24-hour access to our library, and a wide range of academic support, wellbeing and careers services.

Your tuition fee includes all the books and resources you need for the course (which will be provided to you).

Find out more about the facilities and resources UWE Bristol has to offer.

The UWE Bristol Business and Law Clinic provides opportunities for you to become involved in a variety of projects both at UWE Bristol, and across the city in all areas of law.


Careers / Further study

Studying for the GDL is a stepping stone in achieving a successful career as a legal professional. Many students who complete the GDL go on to study the LLM Bar Training Course, or may take the SQE to achieve qualified solicitor status. Others may use the qualification within their own profession or job.

Our award-winning careers service helps you develop your employment potential through career coaching, a vacancy service for internships, placements, jobs, global opportunities, volunteering and community activity plus support for entrepreneurial activity, and access to employer events.


Supplementary fee information

More information on fees can be found on our tuition fees pages.

For funding options, please see our funding and scholarships information.


Entry requirements

You will need:

  • A non-law bachelor's degree of 2:2 or above (from a UK university or recognised by the BSB if you wish to study the BTC), or
  • A 'stale' law degree of 2:2 or above, where five or more years have elapsed since graduation, or
  • An academic or professional qualification at degree equivalent level

If English is not your first language, you will also need to demonstrate your English Language proficiency. For example, you should have IELTS 7.5 overall with a minimum of 6.5 in all components.

For further information