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GDL (Graduate Diploma in Law)

Course Overview

The programme is subject to compliance with the regulations of the professional bodies, the Solicitors Regulation Authority for intending solicitors and the Bar Standards Board for intending barristers.

Successful completion of the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) functions as completion of the Common Professional Examination (CPE). The programme is designed for non-law graduates or mature students who wish to enter the legal profession. It must therefore also satisfy the requirements of the Joint Academic Stage Board (JASB) which represents the interests of the professional bodies.

The GDL represents the academic stage of training; on completion of this academic stage, students who intend to become barristers will progress to a Bar Vocational Course (BPTC), whilst those wishing to qualify as solicitors will progress to a Legal Practice Course (LPC).

Key information

    Course name

    Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL)

    Total academic credits

    The course is exempted from the university’s credit structure.

    Qualification awarded

    Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL)

    Awarding body

    Birmingham City University

    Professional recognition

    The Bar Standard Board (BSB), Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA)

    Academic level

    Undergraduate (QCF_NQF Level 6)

    Study mode

    Full time


    12 months

    Tuition fees




    Work placement


    Course location


Academic entry requirements

The GDL/CPE is primarily aimed at non-law graduates, so a good bachelor's degree is usually a minimum requirement. The bachelor's degree must be conferred by a University in the UK or Ireland.

For those who are interested in a career at the bar, you will need a minimum of a lower second class honours degree. Please note that some BPTC providers require a minimum of an upper second class honours degree.

If you have an oversees degree or do not have an undergraduate degree you will need to contact the Bar Standards Board in the first instance for them to make a decision about whether you would be eligible. If you are eligible to join the GDL/CPE they will issue you with a letter to confirm your suitability to start the course (A certificate of Academic Standing).

If you have any queries about this, or have been unsuccessful with your application to the Bar Standards Board, but would still like to consider becoming a solicitor, then you can contact the GDL course Director to discuss your options. It may be possible to offer you a place.

English entry requirements

Students for whom English is not the first language must satisfy the University requirement for IELTS currently at 6.5 across all elements or equivalent.

Progression route

Further academic study of Legal Practice Course (LPC), Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) or professional career.

Career opportunities

A GDL/CPE not only prepares you for a career in law, but also equips you with a range of transferrable skills, enabling you to enter a number of professions. Graduates progress into roles as solicitors and barristers, while others pursue law-related careers in both the private and public sectors.


  • Legal Method
  • Law of Tort
  • Law of Contract
  • Criminal Law
  • Constitutional and Administrative Law
  • Law of the European Union
  • Land Law
  • Equity and Trusts
  • Independent project or American Legal Practice (ALP)

American Legal Practice (ALP)
This module gives you the chance to undertake a unique placement in the USA, gaining first-hand experience and enabling you to enhance your CV and gain new cultural insights. Previous students have worked on death row and various other innovating cases, and have worked in federal and public state defenders offices, private attorney offices and American university law schools.

Students who are considering the ALP module should be aware that:

  • Placements cannot be guaranteed and there is a selection process involved. An alternative assessment process for those students who are ultimately not able to go on placement
  • The placement is self-funded and the costs are not included in the course fees
  • The placements take place over the summer vacation and are for a minimum of six weeks. This means that if you undertake a placement you will not get your final results until early September once you return from placement


Assessment methods

Informal formative assessment continues throughout the year, including peer and tutor feedback through participation in seminars, submitting answers to problem and essay questions for tutor feedback, on-line quizzes, and an open door policy for students to seek additional feedback as and when they require it. Each of the foundation modules also provide students with 2 ‘formal’ opportunities to attempt previous summative assessment questions, for which individual feedback is provided. Summative assessments are through coursework, (e-portfolio) patchwork assessment, oral presentation and examinations.


Reasons for choosing this course

The overarching philosophy of the programme is to provide students with a sound foundation of legal knowledge in relation to fundamental areas of law, whilst developing skills necessary for the study of law and application of legal principles in practice, and by so doing, meet the requirements of JASB in terms of learning outcomes, skills development and regulations on admission and assessment. However, the programme also encourages and facilitates additional employability skills acquisition and independent learning which is of general benefit to students, whether or not they decide to enter the legal profession, and by so doing, meet the requirements for the award of graduate diploma.

To this end, the programme aims to provide students with:

  • A qualification accredited by the relevant professional bodies, which qualifies and prepares them for entry on to the next stage of legal vocational training
  • A rigorous and coherent education in law; a sound foundation on which students can develop legal knowledge and competencies necessary for a career in legal practice
  • A curriculum which integrates the study of legal theory and legal practice through application of law to fact and which places the law in the context of other disciplines in order to provide an integrated understanding of law and its functions in society
  • A knowledge and understanding of the areas of law which are generally considered to be fundamental to the study of law (i.e. the English Legal System and the seven ‘foundations of legal knowledge’ subjects) as well as an additional area of law
  • An appreciation of the relationship between English law and the Law of the EU
  • The skills to carry out effective legal research
  • The ability to effectively apply a range of skills (such as critical analysis, problem solving, planning and communication) in several different legal contexts, appreciating underlying principles, techniques of analysis & skills which are applicable across different legal contexts
  • Support the development of IT skills and knowledge, particularly with regard to skills useful in the context of the practice and study of law
  • The opportunity to enhance some of the skills required for independent lifelong learning
  • The opportunity to enhance employability skills that will be useful in all careers, but especially in legal practice
  • Opportunities to gain valuable experience through extracurricular activities, including the American Internship scheme and Mooting


Main learning outcomes

On successful completion of the programme students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the legal system in England & Wales, its relationship with the law of the EU and the substantive legal principles concerning the areas of law studied, including an appreciation of the philosophical, sociological, historical, political, economic and ethical contexts in which the legal system and the substantive legal principles operate and how those substantive areas of law relate to each other
  • Effectively and independently use a range of primary and secondary research resources to provide up to date information about subjects and topics studied and to interpret , analyse and evaluate the results of their research to produce a synthesis of well-established and innovative legal principles
  • Use acquired knowledge to analyse complex abstract situations and particular legal principles, framing appropriate questions , identifying relevant legal principles and applying them to reach solutions and, where there is ambiguity or uncertainty, recognising potential alternative solutions and providing supported and rational arguments to justify conclusions
  • Demonstrate the ability to learn independently, including devising their own research questions, assessing their own progress, skills and abilities and identifying issues on which assistance is needed and acting on feedback provided by peers and staff
  • Communicate information, ideas, principles, solutions and arguments involving complex problems clearly, logically and using English with great care and accuracy
  • Demonstrate transferable skills and abilities which are valuable to all career paths, but are particularly relevant to a career in legal practice, including: Problem solving in complex, uncertain and ambiguous contexts; Working co-operatively and constructively in teams as well as competitively; Working autonomously and accepting accountability; Effective use of IT; The exercise of initiative