Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL)
1 year (full-time) / 2 years (part-time) / n/a (distance / e-Learning)
The GDL offers intensive, graduate-level legal studies to students who already possess a degree in a non-law subject and wish to qualify as solicitors or barristers. As the course is recognised by the Joint Academic Stage Board (representing the Bar Standards Board and Solicitors’ Regulation Authority) as satisfying the academic stage of legal training, the GDL allows a full time student to complete this stage in one year (or two years part-time) instead of the two or three years normally required for a qualifying law degree.
After successful completion of the GDL, students may progress to the professional stage of legal training, either the Bar Professional Training Course or the Legal Practice Course, either of which may be studied at Cardiff Law School. To become fully qualified, completion of the BPTC or LPC then needs to be followed by a period of work-based learning, either pupillage in a barristers’ chambers or a training contract with a solicitors’ firm. Alternatively, the GDL or one of the professional courses may be directly followed by legal work in some other capacity, with the option of seeking full qualification at a later date.
The GDL is a very intensive course, but our model lets you combine your studies with other commitments. Apart from the first two weeks, you only need to attend the Law School on Thursdays and Fridays (full time) or on Fridays only (part time course). The remainder of your time will be used for independent study, including listening to lectures, reading and preparing for tutorials. All our tutorials are in the Law School and you will have lots of learning and pastoral support from your tutors. Most lectures are delivered electronically, so you can listen when most convenient for you but you will also have ample opportunities to see and speak to your tutors – this is not a distance learning course.
- Pro bono opportunities
- (See 'Skills Acquired' below)
- Excellent career opportunities
- A full programme of talks and other sessions to help you plan the next stage of your legal career, plus two Law careers fairs.
- The possibility of staying at Cardiff for the LPC or BPTC course.
The GDL is a one year course when studied full time or a two year course when studied part time. In either case, it begins with a short introduction to the institutions and procedures of the legal system in England and Wales, followed by in-depth study of the seven “foundation subjects” of Land Law, Contract, Tort, Equity and Trusts, Public Law, Criminal Law and European Union Law.
In addition, students write an extended essay on a topic taken from a different area of law. As well as developing legal skills within the curriculum, students also have opportunities to acquire hands-on experience by taking part in one of several pro-bono schemes run by the Law School; also by taking part in other activities such as mooting, negotiating, client interviewing competitions and legal discussion groups, all of which are designed to increase the confidence, skills and employability of students.
Typical graduates from this programme will be able to:
- Demonstrate awareness and understanding of the main institutions, procedures and doctrines of the legal system of England and Wales
- Identify and describe the main principles and doctrines of Land Law, Contract, Tort, Equity and Trusts, Public Law, Criminal Law and European Union Law, and the inter-relationship between different areas of law in their national and European contexts
- Support propositions of law or doctrine with reference to primary sources
- When presented with a problem question involving a complex set of facts raising issues of law and which permits of alternative interpretations, identify and apply the relevant principles to the facts to reach legally justifiable conclusions and present arguments in support
- When presented with a proposition to discuss or a question on issues of law, identify relevant principles and discuss and evaluate these as appropriate, justifying the conclusions or advice, identifying any important areas of academic debate and referring to academic writing where appropriate
- Critically evaluate aspects of the law in their wider social and economic contexts
- Conduct effective legal research to identify and use information from a range of sources including legislation, case law and scholarly articles
(Please note that all modules are compulsory.)
English and Welsh Legal System – An introductory module dealing with the main legal institutions and procedures and approaches to judicial reasoning and statutory interpretation.
Contract – The elements of an enforceable agreement and the remedies available where a contract is broken.
Crime – The basic principles of criminal liability, possible defences and the essential elements of particular offences.
EU – The treaties and institutions of the EU, the relationship between EU law and national law and the impact of EU law on legal practice in the UK.
Equity and Trusts – The requirements for a valid trust, types of trust, duties of trustees and remedies for breach of trust.
Tort– The principles upon which liability may be established and damages assessed in law in the absence of any contract or other source of civil obligation. The subject is dominated by the tort of negligence, the main basis for compensation for injuries resulting from road and work accidents.
Land Law – The fundamental concepts of land law, comprising the estates, interests and rights that may be held in or over land and the registered and unregistered land systems.
Public Law – The UK constitution and the main institutions of the UK political system, devolved government, the civil liberties of the citizen, the European Convention on Human Rights and the Human Rights Act 1998, how administrative actions may be challenged by judicial review and other procedures for holding government and public bodies to account.
Extended Essay - An independently researched essay (4,000 words) the topic to be chosen from a list of possible topics.
Full Time Programme
In Term 1 you will study modules in Contract, Crime and EU Law and also Equity and Trusts Law. In Term 2 you will be studying Land Law, Public Law and Tort. You will also be working independently on an Extended Essay set in a legal area outside these modules.
Most teaching takes place on two days per week. However, all GDL students are also required to study and pass a short test on the basics of the English and Welsh legal System (EWLS) within a few weeks of starting any GDL course. To help you prepare for this, you will be asked to do some preparatory reading and study before you enrol. Then, for the first two weeks of the course only, you will need to attend the Law School on more than two days per week to get the benefit of intensive support and practice sessions on EWLS.
After this initial period you will usually, as mentioned, only need to attend the Law School on Thursdays and Fridays each week. During these two contact days you will be attending tutorials. During the remainder of the week you will be reading, listening to lectures (these are recorded electronically so that you can listen to them when most convenient) and preparing for tutorials.
Part time programme
Study on the part time programme will broadly follow the above structure but takes place over two years. Apart from the introductory weeks, you will usually only need to attend the Law School on Fridays each week.
Within the curriculum, you will be developing your ability to undertake independent learning and your team-working skills. Communication skills are developed in tutorials, where pre-allocated tasks can include individual contributions to group study, for example by summarising a particular judgment or article for the group. Legal studies in general develop the ability to organise facts and ideas in a systematic way, identifying relevant principles and evaluating these in order to formulate advice for a client or a legal argument as appropriate. Writing legal essays not only develops communication skills but also the ability to argue in an objective, reasoned, professional manner, with due regard to authority and acceptable citation methods.
Outside the curriculum you are able to develop wider “employability” skills through participation in pro-bono schemes run by the Law School with partner organisations, in which student volunteers assist real clients in their dealings with the law. These schemes currently include
- the Innocence Project, (alleged miscarriages of justice)
- the NHS Continuing Healthcare Scheme, (challenges to NHS healthcare funding assessments)
- the Personal Support Unit – (supporting people involved in the court system)
- the Appropriate Adult Scheme – (supporting vulnerable adults in police stations); and
- the Rugby Union Project – (providing legal advice and legal newsletters to rugby clubs).
Other activities in the Law School include mooting, negotiating and client interviewing competitions and legal discussion groups.
Completion of the GDL allows you to progress to the professional stage of legal training, either the Bar Professional Training Course or the Legal Practice Course, either of which may be studied at Cardiff Law School.
The GDL route to legal qualification is very well established, with many lawyers qualifying by this route. The qualification is also valued by potential employers, who appreciate the wide range of expertise, confidence and maturity often associated with such candidates. For example, a significant proportion of solicitors in large commercial law firms may have qualified via the GDL route.
To become fully qualified, completion of the BPTC or LPC then needs to be followed by a period of work-based learning, either pupillage in a barristers’ chambers or a training contract with a solicitors’ firm. Alternatively, the GDL or one of the professional courses may be directly followed by legal work in some other capacity, with the option of seeking full qualification at a later.
The usual academic requirement is an Honours Degree from a UK University in a non-law subject, Class 2.2 or above. Applicants from overseas or with non-standard qualifications must apply for a Certificate of Academic Standing from the Bar Standards Board (if you are planning on qualifying as a barrister) or Solicitors Regulation Authority (if you are planning on qualifying as a solicitor) (links above).
Applicants must meet the Academic Requirements set out above and Cardiff University’s general entrance requirements. Subject to those, the following criteria will be taken into account:
- academic record;
- the applicant’s personal statement ;
- reference from the applicant’s referee;
- degree of commitment to the legal profession (shown for example by placements with solicitors’ firms or mini pupillages or equivalent experience);
- reasons for wanting to study the GDL at Cardiff; and
- any special personal reasons affecting freedom to study elsewhere.
Non-native speakers of the English language must satisfy the minimum University requirements (eg 6.5 IELTS) regarding language proficiency.
Application Deadline: 31 July 2015
For the full time course, please apply online via the Central Applications Board website.
For the part-time course, applications can be made online using Cardiff's online application service.
Next intake: September each year
Name: GDL Administrator
Telephone: +44 (0)29 2087 6106