If you’ve always wanted to experience Oxford’s historic student city, a spot of punting and a few spires, Oxford Brookes could be for you. With a 99% pass-rate for the GDL, a cram course that’s notoriously difficult to do well in, the university must be doing something right.
The GDL is often thought of as an intense, spoon-fed memory game, compressing as it does a law degree into a single year. The Brookes experience is different: “I feel better [off] than my colleagues who went to the bigger London providers (BPP etc) as we were encouraged to read cases and discuss the law rather than learning from manuals,” one recent graduate tells us.
Students are attracted “by the challenge of the Brookes GDL where there is a more academic approach rather than being simply taught for the exam”. Though you should expect to work with a “lack of manuals”, this “allows a greater depth of understanding than elsewhere and whilst the year is challenging it is also highly rewarding”.
Seminar groups are small: you “have the opportunity to discuss and debate issues with your tutors”. Indeed, the cohort as a whole is low in numbers in relation to other providers, which means, “you study in a much more friendly and collaborative atmosphere”.
Tutors have more time to meet students’ needs beyond the four (or seven) corners of the GDL curriculum itself. There is a “can-do attitude at Brookes” which is “very refreshing”: “anything you decide you’d like to do will be not only supported but also encouraged”. For example, one student asked their tutor if they could put on a family law lecture: “As well as being incredibly supportive, he put me in touch with the right people in Brookes to help with the organisation”. The opportunity to arrange something like this is “a freedom I don’t think would often be found at other universities”, the student adds.
The lectures themselves are “engaging”, and students speak of the “great lecturers” who have “extensive knowledge”. Others say that the tutors are a “totally a mixed bag” but that “some were awesome”. What’s “particularly helpful” is that “the coursework and exams are spread over three sessions, which allows you to focus on particular areas in turn”. It’s rare to find a GDL provider that delivers the course in manageable chunks.
One insider advises future GDL students to “join the University of Oxford law society for decent lectures and exposure to firms and chambers”. Sounds like a great way to do what is a law student’s most loved and hated pastime – networking. But it might also be a necessity: one student didn’t get very far with Brookes’ own careers service as, apparently, “no one seemed to know what a barrister was”.
That said, Brookes says it does have “strong links with law firms and barristers’ chambers in both London and Oxford”. It also runs a “very helpful” ‘barrister mentoring scheme’ that pairs students with junior barristers. The biggest perk of all is that you’ll have access to the world famous Bodleian Law Library: not only is this a library of legal deposit (it has the right to a copy of every single item published in the UK) but it is also expansive, with 430 seats for 430 avid law students.