Tucked away behind the cultural quarters of the South Bank, BPP’s Waterloo campus is one of the biggest Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) providers in the UK. Known for its strong business culture, BPP has very good links with City law firms. If you’re hoping to go down the solicitor route in the corporate and commercial sphere it’s worth considering that as many as 60 law firms exclusively send their trainee solicitors to study at BPP.
Unlike many GDL providers, BPP delivers the course with a commercial focus. The business vibe is underlined by the copies of the Financial Times that are available for free everyday in the Waterloo building. Many of the lecturers and tutors have been practising solicitors and barristers. As former lawyers, they’re well placed to offer insight into life in legal practice. The students value this and say “it helps you stand out as a candidate if you are applying from a non-law, non Oxbridge background”.
The GDL experience is nearly always intense. As one BPP Waterloo student cautions: “Be prepared to replace all of your friends with case law”. But unlike many GDL providers, the EU law exam at BPP is mercifully a multiple-choice test, so perhaps there is still a slim chance of a social life. Down the road from the campus, The Thirsty Bear pub is a common BPP student haunt in the afterhours, and sometimes in between seminars…
As with any GDL provider, the quality of teaching has mixed reviews. Insiders tell Legal Cheek that there are “excellent, committed tutors” but also one or two “truly dreadful” ones. But the majority of teachers are “on hand to answer queries relatively quickly” with “no sugar-coating”, which students say they appreciate. Students also value the “good equity teaching – which is by far one of the hardest parts of the GDL”. Course materials are generally given a big thumb’s up – resources are plentiful and ‘Study Notes’ are issued as a matter of route, though students say that the majority of text books are unneeded and end up being left untouched due to the heavy workload.
Be warned that you’ve got to have a good work ethic to do well on the GDL at BPP. “Not having compulsory mocks means you have to try and fit in extra work on top of already extra work,” reports one student. In order to get feedback to prepare you for the exams, you’ve got to have enough self-discipline to hand in work that you’re not strictly required to do.
A strong point are BPP’s online resources. Your entire course is made available via the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment), otherwise known as the “saving grace”. As one student notes, “Everything you need is there”. All lectures are uploaded on to the VLE, as well as reading and seminar materials for each module, and revision lectures closer to the exam period.
This could be why many students talk about a “spoon-fed” work culture. But this isn’t necessarily a bad thing; indeed the “get-the-job-done type environment” is a major plus if you’re doing the course part-time alongside working full-time.
Study spaces are functional – smarter than a typical uni, but some way off a magic circle law firm. An insider gives an eerie account of how “the light in the group study room buzzed”, then when the fan broke it “gave off a super loud hum”. If ghostly thrills aren’t for you, perhaps you’ll be happier working in the library where there are computers on all desks, printers and a reasonable wifi speed.
But what’s a law school without a canteen? Some say Waterloo is due a refurb, and that the café leaves a lot to be desired. It doesn’t serve hot food and there have been sightings of small furry friends scurrying around the common room, as well as beyond it – one student wistfully recalls “the sound of a mouse dying in a trap behind a bin during a land law tutorial” as a highlight. However, there is coffee, two microwaves (very popular) and enough tables to go around, alongside sofas, a pool table and a giant game of Connect Four. These small perks on your lunch break take your mind off the impending exam hell (six exams across three weeks).
Often students see the GDL as just a “means to an end” and a “test of memory”, forgetting that it’s also a time for landing a job. In this respect BPP does offer some handy extras. Students cram into the commercial awareness workshops, while the regular careers events and law fairs are an equally a big hit. Reporting on the standard of the careers service, one former student said: “I had one meeting with them over applications and they were very helpful – got me a TC!”
Oh, and you can also convert your GDL into a LLB for free if you complete a few more modules. In practice it doesn’t mean much, but your parents will be proud.