Offering more law degrees “could save struggling universities”

Universities should prioritise law degrees for investment because they produce “better employability outcomes”, are “comparatively cheap to deliver” and “well-suited to remote or blended learning”, a report has found.

LexisNexis said that with universities “in a tight spot financially”, law faculties should make “a strong business case for more investment”, enabling them not only to expand but be “the saviour of struggling universities”.

In the report Law degrees: The saviour of UK universities, LexisNexis said the combined pressure of the pandemic and Brexit meant that studying in the UK was no longer viable for many international students.

At the same time, many domestic students believed online learning was not worth the cost of tuition and were demanding full or partial refunds. Despite government bailouts, at least 13 universities were at risk of going bankrupt.

Researchers said law, above “almost any other undergraduate degree subject” was seen as a ‘safe bet’ by students and UCAS figures showed that law applications had increased by 9.3% in 2021 – ahead of other ‘safe’ subjects like maths, computing and business and management.

Employment outcomes from law degrees were strong, with an average employment rate of 74% within six months of graduation and 95% after 15 months.

“Because law degrees are relatively cheap to deliver – and substantially cheaper than other vocational subjects – they produce not only employable graduates, but impressive profit margins for universities.

“While a medicine degree costs over £18,000 per student and a dentistry degree £21,000, law degrees come in at around £9,000.

“Law degrees are also easy to deliver remotely – a crucial capability, as remote and blended learning will no doubt remain a reality for the foreseeable future.”

The report said there were currently six applications for every place a UK law degree, so that even with rigorous entry criteria there was “substantial room” for growth.

“The law faculties that had seen the most intake growth in recent years have also seen their employability scores climb. One drives the other.”

Partnerships with local law firms and legal aid centres gave undergraduates the opportunity for practical learning, boosting employability, while investing in the right technical tools and solutions was critical.

“It helps students to boost their employability and bridge the gap between knowledge of legal theory and its application in practice.”

The report concluded: “Universities are in a tight spot financially, and need to think strategically about where best to invest their now-limited budgets. Law faculty leads should be the loudest voice at the table as those conversations take place.

“By making a strong business case for more investment, they can not only grow their own departments and improve outcomes for students – but be the saviour of struggling universities.”

Richard Crouch, research solutions director at LexisNexis UK, added: “Law degrees promise significant return on investment for universities. It’s proven that where employability outcomes are strong, student growth follows.

“Post-crisis, law faculties can leverage their strong reputation for – and long track record of – employability to capitalise on growing student demand and save imperilled universities.”

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