Law is the hardest degree to get a first in

Avatar photo

By Katie King on

You’re twice as likely to get top marks if you study medicine

It is more difficult to get a first class degree in law than it is in any other subject, including medicine.

In 2015/16, just under 14% of law students graduated with first class degrees. This is ten percentage points lower than the average across all ‘non-clinical subject areas’ (24%).

By comparison, 28% of students graduating in ‘subjects allied to medicine’ got a first. For engineering and technology the figure is 33%, as it is too for computer science. More essay-based subjects such as social studies, and historical and philosophical studies boasted scores of 20% and 21% respectively. Mathematical sciences topped the table with 37% graduating with a first.

That said, law examiners seem to be more generous on the 2:1 front. Fifty-eight percent graduate with an upper second degree, which is notably higher than the average figure of 50%. This means that, overall, 72% of lawyers graduate with either a first or an upper second class degree, which is just below the 73% average. Many law firms specify training contract candidates must have a minimum of a 2:1 degree.

Percentage of first class degrees awarded in 2015/16

Released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), the data also shows law students are more likely to be female and are among the most ethnically diverse in the country.

On the gender diversity front, the new research shows 62% of law students are women. While a number of subjects were notably male dominated (only 17% of computer science and 17% of engineering and technology were female), on average females made up 56.5% of students.

HESA’s new research — which focuses on student populations in 2015/2016 — also show that 66% of law students are white. This means 34% are from black or minority ethnic (BME) backgrounds. Like the gender diversity stats, this figure is one of the highest among degree disciplines. To compare, only 11% of historical and philosophical studies students are BME. The average figure is 22%.

For all the latest commercial awareness info, and advance notification of Legal Cheek’s careers events, sign up to the Legal Cheek Hub here.