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Law degree student numbers rocket by nearly 20% despite still hard job market

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Latest figures show no loss of appetite for law as undergraduate subject — and women far outnumbering men on degree courses

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The number of students on law degree courses rocketed by 18% in just two years, figures from the clearing house for UK university applications have revealed.

Admission data also highlights the rapid feminisation of the law student body, which has begun to filter into the profession itself.

Some 23,695 students were doing university law degrees last year compared with 20,070 in 2012, according to statistics from the University and Colleges Admissions Service.

The steep rise over such a short time will add to concerns that university law faculties are exploiting students in an era of high tuition fees and lowering legal profession job prospects.

Said one senior legal profession commentator:

“These figures yet again highlight the lazy habit of university vice-chancellors to take money off students for what are really cheap and cheerful courses to run.”

Many of the law graduates either never intended to pursue careers as practising lawyers, or were dissuaded during their degree courses. In 2013, the most recent year for which statistics are available, there were 6,175 students on the Legal Practice Course.

Professor Nigel Savage, the former president of the University of Law, criticised top undergraduate law faculties for encouraging too many students to read law — and for running outmoded courses.

“Many haven’t updated their syllabuses for years,” Savage told Legal Cheek earlier today, just after the University of Law had awarded him an honorary doctorate. “It makes you wonder what they are preparing these students for.”

The UCAS figures also showed a steady rise in the number of women law students. In 2012 they made up nearly 62.5% of undergraduates; last year that figure had risen to 65%.