The Law course at Cambridge provides students with an understanding of the subject which is both deeper and broader than that which can be acquired through merely vocational training. Law is studied at Cambridge not simply as a set of rules, but in its wider social, political and philosophical contexts — students are encouraged (even required!) to confront these broader, underlying issues, and to think critically about the Law. Although it is not necessary to do a Law degree in order to become a solicitor or barrister — there are other routes into the legal professions — we think that studying Law has a great deal to offer.
With over 80 teaching staff, the Cambridge Law Faculty is able to offer undergraduates a very wide range of papers from which to choose, including specializations in international law, public law, legal theory and history, business law, family law and society, and criminology. In addition, all of the ‘foundation’ subjects - such as Constitutional Law and Criminal Law - are offered, allowing students to be exempted from the relevant professional examinations. It is possible for a year to be spent between the second and third years of residence reading Law at a French, German, Spanish or Dutch university.
Undergraduates are generally assessed by written examinations, but third-years may also opt to write a dissertation on one of a range of topics (which currently include Crime and Criminal Justice, Family in Society, and Law and Ethics of Medicine).
Most students who study Law at University get an LLB (Bachelor of Laws) degree. In contrast, students who successfully complete the Cambridge Law course receive — like all Cambridge graduates, whatever their subject — a BA (Bachelor of Arts) degree. However, a Cambridge Law degree is in practice no different from an LLB: in particular, Cambridge Law graduates with a BA degree are in precisely the same position as those with LLB degrees when it comes to being exempted from relevant professional examinations.
If you would like to learn more about the Law course at Cambridge, you will find that the Faculty of Law’s BA course website is an excellent resource. You may also want to read further about Law as a subject, in order to develop and test your interest in it. To that end, you may wish to look at the Public Law for Everyone blog, which is written by Mark Elliott, one of the St Catharine’s Law Fellows. The blog includes a section aimed specifically at people who are thinking of applying to study Law at university, and contains links to suggested reading and resources that may be of interest.
Faculty website: www.law.cam.ac.uk
Although most Law undergraduates attend lectures arranged by the University, the College-based supervision system is central to the process of studying Law at Cambridge. Supervisions give undergraduates the opportunity to test their knowledge and to discuss areas of difficulty or uncertainty. In each College, Law students are supervised by a combination of the College’s own Fellows and Fellows from other Colleges. Since St Catharine's has a relatively large number of Law Fellows, we are able to supervise many papers within the Law Tripos in house. In other papers, we arrange for our students to be taught by experts from other Colleges.
Supervisions in Law are generally conducted in groups of three or four students. This small-group setting encourages discussion, which is vital for the subject, while still ensuring that no student is lost in the crowd. The Law Fellows seek to encourage a work ethos that is both relaxed and scholarly. The Directors of Studies are always available to assist undergraduates with work-related problems as soon as they arise. They meet regularly with students at the start and end of each term to discuss progress.
Undergraduates reading Law at St Catharine's benefit from the College Library's excellent legal resources. We have all of the important textbooks and many supplementary texts, all of the main series of Law Reports and the major journals. Students also have access to a wide range of internet resources.
There are usually up to thirty students reading Law in St Catharine's at any given time. We normally aim to admit approximately eight undergraduates to read Law each year. It is possible to switch to Law after having read another subject for one or two years. The College also admits graduates for the LLM and other higher degrees.
The College actively encourages its students to achieve their full academic potential and to become well-rounded lawyers through participation in a wide range of Law-related activities. To that end, the Law Fellows run an ‘enrichment programme’ for Law students at St Catharine’s each year, which aims to complement the lectures and supervisions which are offered as standard to all Law students across the University. The enrichment programme encompasses a wide range of areas, including study and exams skills workshops for first-year students, a mooting competition and advocacy exercise, and external speaker events. In running the enrichment programme, the Law Fellows are assisted by members of the St Catharine’s College Law Network: a group of St Catharine’s graduates who have gone on to practice Law in a variety of contexts, and who return to the College to share their experience and expertise with current students. Alongside the enrichment programme, the student-run College Law Society arranges a variety of social events for Law students.
Three of our students recently recorded a video, entitled “A Day in the Life of a Cambridge Law Student”, for the Faculty of Law’s website. The video, which gives an insight into what it is like to be a Law student at Cambridge—and at St Catharine’s—can be viewed here.
The College has a significant number of generous prizes, awards and bursaries specifically for Law students. This includes Entrance Bursaries (which may be held in conjunction with University Bursaries), prizes for outstanding success in examinations and for success in advocacy, book grant awards, and awards to assist members of the College commencing legal practice or embarking on postgraduate study. Further information about these various Funds is sent to students when their places are confirmed and during their time as undergraduates.
We do not favour any particular combination of A Level (or equivalent) subjects; we welcome applications from candidates studying arts, humanities or science subjects (or a combination of them). Some applicants will be studying Law at school, but most will not. The Cambridge Law course does not expect entering students to have any specific knowledge of the law. Our admissions process is designed neither to advantage nor disadvantage applicants based on their school subjects.
Our typical A2 offer is A*AA (or the equivalent in Advanced Highers, International Baccalaureate, or other comparable examinations). Most applicants have already performed well at GCSE or in equivalent examinations. However, we do not just consider exam grades when deciding whether to make an offer (and, if so, what the offer should be). We look at each applicant as an individual and carefully consider all relevant circumstances.
It is possible to combine Law with another subject. We would normally expect Law to be taken second. Candidates who are thinking about combining Law with another subject should apply for admission in the other subject.
Please note that we do not accept affiliated student applications in Law (i.e. applicants who already hold a degree). We recommend that such applicants get in touch with one of the colleges which specialise in affiliated students.
Our interview process is designed to introduce applicants to methods of legal reasoning. We are looking for an ability to think clearly and flexibly, to reason in a logical way, and to see issues from a variety of perspectives. Law applicants have two interviews of approximately 30 minutes each conducted by the College’s Law Fellows. Both interviews are designed to explore the applicant's aptitude for and interest in Law as an academic subject. The first interview focusses on a short text, such as an excerpt from the report of a judgment in a legal case, which applicants are given to read before the interview commences. The interview uses the text as a basis for discussion and as a vehicle for exploring legal issues while presupposing no prior knowledge of Law. Discussion in the second interview also focusses on a text that applicants are given the opportunity to read and think about beforehand. The text for the second interview takes the form of a short extract from a piece of legislation. Applicants are asked to work through a scenario, in order to explore how the legislation might apply in a ‘real life’ situation. Again, no prior knowledge of the Law is required or expected.
Cambridge Law Test
In common with other Cambridge Colleges, St Catharine’s uses the Cambridge Law Test. Candidates sit the Test whilst in Cambridge for interview: there is no need to register for it; arrangements to take the Test are made automatically by Colleges as part of the process of organising interviews. The Test assumes and requires no knowledge of Law. In the Test, which lasts for one hour, applicants are required to answer an essay-based question that is designed to test general skills of comprehension and exposition. Further information about the Cambridge Law Test, along with some sample Test papers, can be found here
Law. This word headed my timetable, characterised the faculty building I would become familiar with, and entitled the subject that would surround me for the next three years at university. Beyond this, I was unsure what exactly Law as a subject entailed, and what reading Law at Cambridge would hold for me. Now, one year after I nervously but excitedly arrived on my first day, my experience of studying Law at St Catharine's is marked by positivity and happiness. Lectures, supervisions and exams, have of course been hugely challenging and very hard work; yet overcoming such challenges has been equally immensely satisfying and I eagerly anticipate all that lies ahead.
St Catharine's has a great sense of community, and the lawyers share a distinct closeness that is evident across year groups. Unlike some other subjects, all first year law modules are compulsory. This has proved to be very advantageous because from an early stage in the year, each of us could easily relate to one another, and our shared experiences quickly led to friendship. Pragmatically, we could ask each other questions, meet up to discuss ideas before supervisions and plan past exam questions as our own exams approached.
The Fellows and staff of the college — crucial to the St Catharine's community — are hugely supportive and very encouraging. It is apparent how much they wish each student to fulfil their potential from the lengths they go to offer help, and supervisors' belief in each student's ability to achieve allows self doubt to be overcome. Perseverance and determination to work hard flourish in the academic college environment, yet such is rewarded through dinners, balls and other social occasions. College Law Society events provide an opportunity for Fellows and both graduate and undergraduate students to socialise together, extending the community beyond simply legal academia. As a first year law student, conversing with Fellows, alumni and postgraduate students provides inspiring insight into all that a Law degree can lead to, and the potential that is being nurtured here at Catz.
My first year has been a remarkable journey for me as a person, and as I look ahead to studying law next year — this ever changing and quickly developing subject — all my nerves have gone. This time as I arrive for my first day as a second year student, I will only be excited.
Studying law at any Cambridge college is immensely difficult, requiring a lot from the students who embark on the 3 year Tripos, but that is most definitely rewarded by the joys and pleasures that come from studying law here. St Catharine’s provides an excellent environment to study with five law fellows (as of October 2015) who are specialists across varied areas of law who really care about you as an individual and your development and not as just a statistic on the league tables. You have regular meetings with your Director of Studies who guides you in approaching a law degree – including how to make sure you have a balance between work and relaxation. I have had an amazing time at St. Catharine’s – Catz – and I would not change a moment of it.
The “legal community” in the college is second to none. There is a great rapport between the fellows and the students. Coming from Northern Ireland, and being immensely shy, I was really worried that I would not manage to finish my first term at Cambridge: and here I am about to go off on an Erasmus year to study law in France. The support and comradery of our legal community is evident from day one when all the new first years are contacted by the Law Reps who organise meet and greets, socials and much more. It doesn’t take long before you feel right at home and part of something very special – especially with all the events run by the College’s Student led Law Society. I had the privilege of being Secretary to the College Law Society and during our Annual Dinner, whilst at the top table, I was able to see graduate students engaging with first years, fellows with third years and so on – everyone felt at ease to talk to one another and genuinely wanted to be there. I was glad that I was able to thank them all for making law at Catz what it is. It is moments like those that make me realise how special the legal community is for those within it at this College.
I have met amazing people here, and friends that I will have for life. The work is difficult, law is not a subject for the faint of heart, but the support provided in Catz gets you through it. I have had many a cry and many a laugh during my studies here; but I wouldn’t change a moment of it as I have had the chance to do things that I never thought possible and to push myself intellectually beyond what I thought I was capable of ever achieving. I will miss everyone in College next year, but I know they are happy I am doing what is best for me in going to France; and I am happy knowing that I will have another year after it in a great College and I will be welcomed back with open arms.
I boarded a plane to Amsterdam in September 2014, laden with all the worldly possessions I could possibly fit into a 20kg suitcase, and with the same lingering apprehension I felt when I first stepped through the gates of St Catharine’s College to start my law degree two years earlier. Studying abroad for a year in the Netherlands as part of the Erasmus programme has been a thoroughly worthwhile and enjoyable experience. Along with my peers who travelled to France, Spain and Germany, I have had the opportunity to study law from a different vantage point, meeting friends from across the world, and picking up language skills along the way.
Studying law is not easy: reading lists are inevitably long; small group sessions inevitably challenging; and high expectations are placed on students to work hard to reach their potential. But on my year abroad I recognised unique aspects of law at Catz that we often take for granted. One only has to look towards the close-knit friendships between law students across all years, and to the dedicated fellows who are not only leaders in their respective fields but also genuinely care about their students, to understand that Catz is a friendly place to be. Help is never far away, and the novelty of often being taught by the person who wrote the textbook is yet to wear off! It is certainly an ambitious place, but competitiveness is reserved for the moot court room and the sports field, and instead students help each other and learn together. What makes Catz impressive is not its beautiful buildings or victorious hockey teams (although those are pretty great), but its sense of community. It is this that makes it a particularly happy and fun place to live and study, and what makes me excited to return for my final year.