Advice: ‘I met my conditions for Durham, but my grades are good enough for me to re-apply to Oxbridge’

Avatar photo

By Alex Aldridge on

Last week I received this email from an A-level student who is considering taking a year out to re-apply to Oxbridge after getting better-than-expected grades.


My advice is below…

Hello Anonymous School-Leaver,

In answer to your questions:

Re Durham preventing you getting a pupillage at a top chambers: no, it wouldn’t, because if you’re brilliant enough for the likes of Fountain Court you’ll shine anywhere, whatever uni you go to.

Re 2:1 from Oxbridge v a first from Durham: the latter is better.

Having said all that, I wouldn’t go to Durham to do an English degree.

If I was in your position, this is what I’d do:

1. Take a gap year.

2. Re-apply to Oxford/Cambridge, LSE and UCL. These four universities are considered to be in a different league to any other UK universities by many international law firms and companies. In the case of Oxbridge, this view is fair; in the case of LSE and UCL, rather less so — but perceptions count.

3. Study law not English. I did an English degree, which, looking back, was a waste of time. Then I did a law conversion course, which was interesting but hurried. In hindsight, even though I haven’t become a lawyer, I wish I’d done an undergraduate law degree. It’s the most thorough grounding available for a training contract or pupillage, plus, as our podcast last week with Cambridge law graduate Sebastian Salek and UCL law graduate Tom Webb illustrates, it’s a great jumping off point for other careers if you decide not to join the legal profession.

Oh, and don’t be put off by the 11% jump in undergraduate law course numbers and related chatter about lack of graduate law jobs. If you go to a good university, get decent grades and are on-the-ball about applying for jobs, you’ll be fine.

Good luck making your choices.