Sign on and specialise in law

Q & A with Jacqueline Cheltenham on reading law at The University of Law

The University of Law was established in 1876. It allows future barristers and solicitors the opportunity to specialise in law and has much to offer compared to other universities in the United Kingdom (UK). Unlike most one campus-ground universities, The University of Law has 12 campuses spread across the UK, providing more choice to law degree undergraduate students, considering what they can afford.

Students taking up a Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) in pursuit of becoming a barrister have the option of studying in campuses in big cities such as Bloomsbury in London, Leeds or Birmingham. Those aspiring to become solicitors have a wider selection of campuses (including partner universities) to choose from.

Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) National Director at The University of Law, Jacqueline Cheltenham, who was in Malaysia for a week, shares a thing or two.

Q: Why study law?

A: Law opens up to many career pathways. You can be a lawyer or go into politics, work with the government, be an academician, a law lecturer or venture into business or the financial world. It is a solid degree to have as law itself is a part of the fabric of society and makes an interesting profession and an exciting career.

Q: What are the benefits of studying law at The University of Law?

A: It can be cheaper, depending on which campus you study at. Studying in the city of London will surely be more expensive but London is also where all the big law firms are. Then again, you can get the same experience, studying in Birmingham or Leeds, where the costs, of living and the degree, is lower. The university is highly commended. Moreover, results released in August 2018 was testament as the university received the highest ratings across three assessments of which its students achieved high scores in the examinations set by the Bar Standards Board.

[As a barrister herself, Jacqueline, who was called to the Bar in 1992 and has practiced criminal law for prosecution and defense, stands by certification from the UK.]

Q:What are the criteria/skills needed in pursuing a law degree?

A: Personality wise, you need to be well prepared and articulate, have relatively acceptable persuasive powers, and most importantly be thorough and have good logical thinking skills. Training before becoming a lawyer will enhance these skills. In taking up a degree, you need to have a strong and solid academic background with good grades. Malaysian students with STPM, UEC and A-Level qualifications are eligible. Students with SPM and O-level will be required to take up a nine-month foundation course.

Q:What is the difference between a solicitor and barrister?

A: A member of the public with legal issues would seek a solicitor at first. The solicitor will then refer the case to a barrister for courtroom advocacy. But in complex legal cases, a solicitor might refer matters to a barrister to write an opinion on the best course of action. Generally, you would more often see the solicitor meeting with people in their office or doing more office-based work while barristers appear in the courts. Then again, things are changing now in the UK. However, students who study law can choose to become a solicitor or barrister, whichever they prefer.

Q:What is next after attaining a degree in law?

A: Malaysian students take up the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) in the UK. It is a one academic-year course, essentially 9 to 10 months. The course provides students with particular skills required to become a barrister, which focuses on advocacy and writing opinions. Students can expect to learn written skills and develop good advocacy abilities and professional ethics, plus gain knowledge and information on procedures in civil and criminal courts. On completion of the BPTC, a student can return to Malaysia to do 9 months of chambering before being called to the bar in Malaysia.

Q: What is the difference between the BPTC and BPTC LLM and why pursue the programme in the UK?

A: The BPTC is about advocacy and litigation procedures; it is a basic course whereas the BPTC LLM, which is the same, includes an added module which gives the student enough credits to take up a Masters of Law Degree for Admission to the Bar. The student will also receive some sort of an “internship” opportunity where they get a chance to work on real life Pro-Bono cases.

The programme in UK or Wales bestow qualifications that are globally recognised and being called to the Bar in the UK is seen as prestigious. Additionally, studying abroad would already build a student’s confidence as they get to study, meet different people and develop their world view away from home. The course is also advocacy-focused and the student will end up with excellent advocacy and written skills. Even if for a year, a student will have much to gain and bring back to the legal system in Malaysia.

Q:Why take up the BPTC or BPTC LLM at The University of Law?

One of the things students are particularly concerned about is career prospects. In the UK, it is extremely competitive to gain pupillage. The average rate of students finding pupillage is 25% whereas in The University of Law, 71% of the students were offered pupillage in chambers or law firms in the year 2017.

Our university also enjoys high exam success rates. The University of Law was the highest-rated institution recently (Aug 2018 results). Our students attained the highest overall pass rates in three of the 12 assessment exams set by the Bar Standard Board - in Criminal Litigation, Evidence and Sentencing; Civil Litigation and Evidence; and Professional Ethics; and these are known to be the most challenging papers.

Our campuses with the best pass rates are Bloomsbury in London, Leeds and Birmingham.

Q: Why is it that students from The University of Law are known to do well in exams?

A: Part of the reason why we do well is because we are thorough with our applications. While most students who apply for a course in law go through a screening process called the BarSAS (Bar Student Application Service), students who apply with our university are put through two stages. Only selected students who pass the BarSAS application will be asked to proceed to the next round of selections where they have to perform a “Plea Mitigation” for five minutes based on a summary brief. Before they receive an offer, students will be interviewed.

We don’t expect perfection; we’re looking for potential. We want students who are able to demonstrate logical thinking and persuasive skills, who can converse confidently, are focused, determined, hard-working and well prepared.

Q: How is the university different from other universities?

A: We have many campuses around the country which means students have more choice for the same quality learning experiences.

We are also law focused. Most universities offer a variety of programmes and courses such as science, engineering and finance, whereas we are specialised in law, and all attention is concentrated in this area of study. Moreover, all our tutors are either practicing barristers or solicitors.

Additionally, The University of Law’s Director of International (GUS) Kelvin Jones said: “We work with 90 out the top 100 law firms in the UK and for the Legal Practice Course (LPC), we have employment guarantee.

“If a student doesn’t get employment in nine months they will get 50% of their fees refunded and the remaining 50% as a credit for a future programme of study.

“We are confident of the education we provide and the service in employability.”

The university has also obtained the highest standard - the Gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF), which is decided by a government body based on teaching, systems, student outcomes, innovations, student ratings and others. It also offers online law courses and business courses for working professionals. Currently, there are about 60 Malaysians studying at The University of Law. For more information, visit

Bristol University of Law.

Cheltenham (left) and Jones.