Case study: what do research-intensive universities think of Law A-level?
Law A-level is a striking example of a potentially ‘soft’ subject that might fox parents and students as it sounds
impressive and ‘professional’. LSE highlights Law as a non-preferred subject but most others fail to comment upon it
in their admissions guidance. However, our data shows that many research-intensive universities admit relatively low
numbers of students with Law A-level, suggesting that they do in fact regard it as a non-preferred subject. Of all Alevels
accepted, Law comprised very few entries at Imperial (3), Queen’s University Belfast (6), St Andrews (12),
UCL (23), Oxford (47) and Bristol (62).
When it comes to reading Law at university, Law A-level often seems to be regarded with something less than
enthusiasm. One admissions head explained this, saying: “They want a blank canvas. A little knowledge can be a
dangerous thing.” Another said that objections to the A-level were generally not based upon its content, but on “a
general scepticism for non-traditional subjects”.
- The Law department website at Queen’s University does not mention the suitability of Law A-level. However, for
undergraduate Law admissions at Queen’s University, 2 out of a total of 738 A-level entries were taken in Law Alevel.
- The admissions page of the Faculty of Laws at UCL states “there is no necessity” for taking Law A-level but does
not rule it out as non-preferred subject. However, for undergraduate Law admissions at UCL, 6 out of a total of
242 A-level entries were taken in Law A-level.
- Durham Law School states on its FAQ page “we welcome applications from students studying A-level Law.”
However, for undergraduate Law admissions at Durham, 18 out of a total of 527 A-level entries were taken in Law
Yet, highlighting what a difficult job teachers, pupils and parents will inevitably have understanding what universities
want, there is some disparity across the sector about Law. We have already noted that Cambridge does not include
the subject on its non-preferred list. Other Law departments are admitting much higher numbers of students with
Law A-level than those listed above. For example, at Surrey University 74 applicants with Law A-level were admitted
to study Law out of a total of 474 A-levels accepted (if we assume each student took an average of four A-levels, this
equates to about 60% of the total students admitted).
Other Law departments have moved to accept Law A-level over time. One head of admissions explained that while his
university now accepted Law A-level, “this hasn’t always been the case…there was a time where we didn’t, probably
more than six years ago now”. And another noted: “[We are now] using what we know about how successful
students with non-traditional subjects are in the programme.”
Finally, there is also a suggestion that game-playing is taking place within some universities. A head of admissions
admitted: “It’s very important to all Law Schools what ranking they have on the league tables. League tables take
into account average A-level grades of accepted students, so with the ranking of Law Schools there is now a big
incentive to admit the best A-level grades, and not necessarily the best combination of A-levels.”