Graduate Diploma Graduate Diploma in Law (Distance Learning)

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

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

Page last updated 13 March 2023


Our Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) is a distance learning qualification designed for non-law graduates to enter the legal profession. Gain essential grounding in the foundations of law subjects you will need to train as a barrister or solicitor.

If you are a non-law graduate looking to enter the legal profession, the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) provides your starting point for graduate legal study. Whether you are looking to become a barrister or solicitor, you will gain an essential grounding in the foundations of law subjects.

For those wishing to qualify as a barrister, the course will take you through the academic stages required to go on to study the Bar Training Course (BTC). The course will also provide an excellent introduction for those considering the Solicitors Qualifying Examinations (SQE) and possibly studying the Solicitors Training Course.

The GDL at UWE Bristol is highly regarded by both branches of the profession. Some solicitors and barristers choose this route into law, building on the knowledge they have 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. The course begins with an introduction to the English Legal System. You will then go on to study law with a focus on legal reasoning, methods and research in addition to developing problem solving and critical analysis skills.

The course is designed and delivered to develop your legal research skills and their application in the context of legal practice. You will have many opportunities to practice your skills, providing an excellent foundation in legal knowledge and understanding, while you develop the skills needed for 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 and incorporate their experience into their teaching. You will learn from professionals in an engaging and interesting environment in which to develop your knowledge and skills. You will also benefit from continuous personal, practical, and academic support.

Outstanding facilities and opportunities

You will have access to an impressive range of facilities in our Law School, including mock law courts. You will 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 real-world experience as possible, equipping you with the skills and knowledge you need to move confidently along the path towards becoming a qualified lawyer.

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



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 research an area of legal study of interest in depth.

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

Pre-course preparation

  • English Legal System - provides you with an understanding of the legal system in England and Wales, including an introduction to the legal terminology, reasoning, and methods that you will practise and develop throughout the course.

Teaching block one (September to January):

  • Public Law - introduces you to the constitution of England and Wales and the theoretical principles that underlie it, as well as the judicial review process and how we use the law to protect human rights.
  • Obligations I (Contract Law) - introduces you to contract law, examining the legal requirements for a legally enforceable contract, relevant legislation, and case law, breach and remedies.
  • 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 - introduces criminal law, including the underlying policy issues and the difference between theory and practice.

Teaching block two (January to June):

  • Equity and Trusts - introduces you to equity and trust law, including defining what a trust is and looking at the application of equitable principles and the relevance of trust law 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 will 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 will inform you.

Learning and Teaching

Experienced and supportive tutors, drawn from legal practice and the academic side of law, will enable you to develop a secure understanding of the law. This includes your critical analysis skills and application in the context of modern legal practice.

Each topic will be based on an introductory lecture, followed by small group sessions. These interactive sessions are designed to give you with a deeper understanding of the subject areas covered and provide opportunities to apply that knowledge in a practical context.

You will research and discuss real cases and legislation, based on current developments in law, giving you a valuable insight into situations you are likely to face in your legal career.

The course is delivered online through recorded lectures and collaborative small group sessions, providing you with detailed knowledge. You will develop the ability to analyse, apply and examine the inter-relationship of the areas of law in the context of the English Civil and Criminal Justice System.

You will have extensive opportunities to develop written and oral skills in the context of legal practice.

The course will provide opportunities for you to actively engage online with your learning by collaborating with your peers and tutors. You will exchange, discuss and debate ideas, embedding your knowledge in an engaging and interesting learning environment.

The course involves experiential learning, embedding the University's values of being ambitious, collaborative, and inclusive, providing you with an exceptional understanding which you will take forward to your vocational training.

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

Business and Law Clinic

Our Business and Law Clinic offers opportunities for students from across our law courses to volunteer for a range of pro bono projects, developing valuable legal skills, whilst providing support for individuals, start-up businesses and community groups in and beyond Bristol.

Find out more about our Business and Law Clinic.

Study time

At the beginning of the year, you will complete two weeks of induction activities in which you will be given access to all the materials, reading lists and 24-hour access to the library. You will then receive 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 will be allocated a personal tutor, who you can meet with virtually, or contact them by phone or email, to discuss all aspects of the course and receive one-to-one career guidance.

In addition, you will have regular one-to-one tutorial sessions to support you throughout the course. You will 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. Modules may also include a form of oral assessment. You will complete one assessment for each module.

The Independent Research Project will be assessed through your 4,000-5,000 word mini dissertation, which you will 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. Past examination papers will also be available to support revision and prepare you for the assessment.

For more detail see our full glossary of assessment terms.


Study facilities

  • Extensive face-to-face online tuition and support.
  • 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.
  • Interactive online classrooms to undertake debates discussions and participating in mock court scenarios.
  • 24-hour online library together with access to specialist law librarians.
  • Comprehensive subject materials and access to extensive range of textbooks and legal data bases together with guided essential and extended reading for each module.
  • Mock courtrooms, with equipment to record advocacy sessions for later analysis.
  • Access to academic support, wellbeing and pastoral support services, including dedicated counselling, wellbeing advice and support and careers services.
  • Extensive tutor generated text/material introducing and explaining relevant legal topics.
  • Dedicated specific online resources for each module.
  • Access to synchronous and asynchronous study skills support via the Learning Hub, including Peer Assisted Learning.
  • Access to English language support via online workshops.

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

Get a feel for the Law facilities we have on offer here from wherever you are.


Postgraduate support

Our support includes access to fantastic facilities, study tools and career consultants, plus practical help to access everything from funding to childcare.


A stunning city for student living with all the qualities to make you want to stay.

Sports, societies and activities

There is more to your experience here than study. Choose to make the most of it and try new things.

Health and Wellbeing

We provide support in the way you need it.

Campus and facilities

Discover our campuses and the wealth of facilities provided for our students.


Careers / Further study

Studying for the GDL is a steppingstone 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 go on to take the SQE to achieve qualified solicitor status. Some 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

Applicants should normally have one of the following:

  • A non-law bachelor's degree of 2:2 or above (from a UK university or recognised by the Bar Standards Board 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 you intend to become a Solicitor

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) introduced the Solicitor's Qualifying Exams (SQE) last year, and entrants to the profession no longer have to have a legal qualification. You may wish to clarify with the SRA before proceeding with the GDL.

English Language Requirement

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.

See further details of our English Language requirement.

How to apply

Applications for the full-time course must be made online via the UWE Bristol website.

The application deadline for September 2023 entry will be confirmed by the end of September 2022. Please check back for updated information.

Read more about postgraduate applications.

For further information