Graduate Diploma in Law (Common Professional Examination)

Time for a career change? Law is an exciting and rewarding profession. Use a non-legal degree to fast-track your legal qualifications.

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Our Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) is a conversion course. If you have a non-law undergraduate degree it can help you gain your first legal qualification quickly. In just one year, you’ll lay down the foundations you need to forge a legal career.

There’s a strong focus on developing your practical legal skills. We’ll also help you develop the fundamental legal knowledge you’ll need to work in the sector. 

It’s a great introduction to law and a stepping stone to further legal qualifications, such as the Legal Practice Course to become a solicitor or the Bar Training Course to become a barrister.

Legal knowledge

You’ll cover core areas of law, including criminal, public and land law. There are also specific units to develop your practical skills, in particular mooting. 

Many of our team are practising legal professionals and understand what’s needed to succeed in the field. We have experts in various areas of the law who will share their passion and enthusiasm with you.

Supporting your studies 

You’ll have plenty of support from your tutors during this course. There are high levels of face-to-face teaching and an open-door policy for advice and academic support.

Features and Benefits

  • Fast-track legal qualification – convert your existing non-law undergraduate degree, or extensive work experience, into a legal qualification in one year.
  • Law School experience – study surrounded by other law students and supported by an expert teaching team. Join the Law Society for networking, guest lectures and social events.
  • Thriving legal hub – Manchester has a dynamic legal sector. We have close links with the Northern Circuit and our courses are well respected by national law firms.
  • Pro bono work – put your legal skills and knowledge to the test by volunteering with our partners. Gain valuable experience before starting work.
  • Mooting opportunities – we are a leading centre for mooting and advocacy in the UK. Join the Mooting Society to participate in regular debates and competitions.
  • Legal experts – learn from experienced professionals and get your legal education off to the best start. They know what it takes to succeed.
  • Top legal facilities – make use of our 24-hour library, mock courtroom and dedicated careers and employability service.
  • Ready for work – you’ll develop the professional skills you need to forge a career in law. Your previous education and experience will add an extra dimension to your CV.
"The GDL course is geared towards being a practitioner, with hands-on teaching about how to apply law, which goes far beyond simply understanding it." Minos Christodoulou, GDL graduate.

“Our GDL programme not only gives students an excellent academic education, but we also encourage students to develop core legal skills such as advocacy and problem solving through participations in our award-winning Mooting Society.”

Siobhan Leonard, GDL Programme Director.

Career Prospects

The GDL has a very practical focus. From day one you’ll be encouraged to think and behave like a legal professional. That makes it easier to transition to a legal role once you complete your course.

This is the first step towards developing a legal career. After your GDL you’ll be ready to study for the Legal Practice Course to become a solicitor, or the Bar Training Course to become a barrister.

If you’re interested in academic research in law you can explore the options for masters-level study, such as the LLM.

Our links to the Northern Circuit give you the opportunity to make professional connections before you graduate.

The GDL can also complement career development in other areas, such as policing, criminology and the public sector.

Learn more about graduate careers

Entry requirements

You should have an honours degree from the UK or the ROI. International students with a degree are eligible to apply as long as equivalence to a UK/ROI honours degree is demonstrated.

International applicants or students without a degree but with work experience should contact for further details on entry requirements. Due to the popularity of the GDL, preference is usually given to higher classifications.

International students, please visit or contact


“Studying law at Manchester Metropolitan University is a great choice. We are situated in the heart of the city of Manchester, the second largest legal centre in the UK…”
Listen to what Jackie Panter, Associate Head, has to say about studying at Manchester Metropolitan University…

Course details

Our Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) is a conversion course that lets you chart a future in law – whether you have an undergraduate degree in another subject area, or you’ve spent your career in a different profession.

In just a year, you can build the knowledge and skills to achieve a qualification, preparing for a career in a range of legal professions. While you’ll learn about the fundamentals of law, it’s also a course with a focus on skills. So it’s not just about the theory, but about the practice of law too.

Before you even start the course in September, we’ll send you an induction pack, which includes a link to our online revision and self-testing resources. With the induction programme, you’ll be able to start off by building a solid understanding of the English legal system, together with an introduction to essential legal research techniques and the law-related IT systems we offer at Manchester Law School

Once you’ve completed your induction, you’ll be ready to explore the seven foundations of legal knowledge, from contract and criminal law to equities and trusts. With these core units, you’ll not only develop the understanding that’s fundamental for anyone working in law, but also lay the foundation for any future training, like working to become a solicitor or barrister.

Having learned the knowledge, you’ll have a chance to bridge the gap between academic studies and professional practice. With our Legal Skills and Practice unit, you’ll discover the realities of applying the law to practical scenarios. You’ll analyse issues, conduct legal research and develop your problem-solving skills. And, in our mock courtroom, you’ll be able to hone your skills in a realistic environment.

As part of Manchester Law School, you’ll also find a range of opportunities to go further with your studies. We have a busy programme of guest lectures and events where you can connect with legal professionals. There’s a Mooting and Advocacy Society, where you can compete and put your skills to the test. And, with our various pro bono schemes, you can learn real-world professional skills while making a real difference in the community.

If you’re new to law, our GDL course provides the best first step. With a solid grounding in fundamental knowledge and vital practical skills, it opens up a range of possibilities and career paths in the legal profession.

You’ll study eight core units for the GDL – with one unit covering each of the seven foundations of legal knowledge, plus a unit designed to offer an introduction into Legal Skills and Practice.

From September 2020, you will also be able to select one option unit from:

  • Mooting
  • Legal Technology

Read more about this year of study

Core Units

Contract Law

This unit aims to provide students with the fundamental principles and key doctrines of the English law of contract. Students will be introduced to the nature of contractual obligations, the legal principles that govern the formation, content and validity of contracts and the remedies for breach of contractual obligations. This unit will focus on further developing the students’ graduate skills of research, application and problem solving in a legal context, enabling them to apply their knowledge to realistic scenarios in order to provide arguable conclusions to legal problems.

Criminal Law

This unit will cover the core elements of the major crimes in the law of England and Wales and involves consideration of topics such as general principles of criminal liability, offences against the person and property, and general defences to criminal liability. The emphasis will be on understanding how strong and effective arguments are constructed, building upon previous skills developed in case analysis and legal reasoning, drafting and using skeleton arguments, and making oral arguments.

Equity and Trusts

The unit examines the nature of Equity, its history and development and takes in key topics such as Private Express Trusts and Gifts; Certainties, Constitution & Formalities, Secret Trusts, Charitable Trusts, Implied Trusts, Administration of Trusts and Breach, Liability & Remedies. Skills developed include the ability to analyse, apply and communicate the concepts and principles of Equity & Trusts to provide written solutions to legal issues drawn from theory and case studies. 

EU Law

This unit will focus on the relationship between the UK and EU, and the evolving legal and political changes impacting upon it. The unit will build upon previous skills introduced in effective legal research, using sources, and legal writing.

Land Law

This unit will examine some of the core aspects of property law, including topics such as Foundation concepts of Land Law, Estates and Interests in Land, Easements and Profits, Mortgages, Adverse Possession, Registered Land, Contributory Occupiers, Covenants affecting Freehold Land, Leases and Trusts of Land. It will equip students with the skills to assess a given scenario, work in groups, and construct and communicate advice in a professional manner.

Legal Skills and Practice

The aim of the unit is to introduce and test knowledge of the English Legal System (ELS) and legal method to graduates of other disciplines and to allow exposure to an additional, practical field of law. The fundamental concepts of ELS and legal method studied include court hierarchy, the doctrine of precedent, statutory interpretation, and sources of law. The unit aims to develop key legal /employability skills including legal problem solving and critical analysis, reasoning, arguing and advocating in an articulate manner both in writing and orally via a compulsory presentation (at the end of the unit).

Public Law

This unit enables students to study the institutions of government and the mechanisms that determine their operation as well as the legal relationship between the citizen and the state. It covers topics such as the nature and features of the UK Constitution, its sources and core principles, the impact of human rights and judicial review. Skills it develops include the ability to apply and evaluate core constitutional principles as well as engage in problem solving and critical evaluation of Public law in the wider context.

Law of Torts

This unit teaches the key principles and rules in Tort law. These include general principles of the tort of negligence and associated defences; specific aspects of negligence, including liability for psychiatric harm and a range of other torts, including trespass to the person and intentional physical harm along with associated defences, Occupiers’ Liability, Nuisance and the rule in Rylands v Fletcher. Key skills developed include the ability to apply substantive principles of Tort Law to perform given tasks such as developing a reasoned argument on an aspect of Tort law, researching legal principles of Tort and forming legal judgments.

Assessment weightings and contact hours

10 credits equates to 100 hours of study, which is a combination of lectures, seminars and practical sessions, and independent study. A masters qualification typically comprises of 180 credits, a PGDip 120 credits, a PGCert 60 credits and an MFA 300 credits. The exact composition of your study time and assessments for the course will vary according to your option choices and style of learning, but it could be:


Additional information about this course

If you are thinking of becoming a barrister or a solicitor, you need to be aware that the routes to qualification are changing.

Qualifying as a barrister

The current route of an LLB or the GDL and the BPTC to become a barrister is set to change for September 2020. Please check the regulator website for details on how this could affect you.

Qualifying as a solicitor

From Autumn 2021, the Solicitors Regulation Authority will offer the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) as a pathway to becoming a solicitor. However, the current route of an LLB or GDL plus LPC to become a solicitor will still be available. Find out more at

For the latest information about your route to qualification, please check the relevant regulator website.

Bar Standards Board

Solicitors Regulation Authority

Placement options

As part of Manchester Law School, our GDL students have the opportunity to get involved in voluntary work through the Pro Bono Network. Working with one of our partners to provide free expertise to people in need means having the chance to build real skills and relevant experience.

Through the Pro Bono Network you will get the chance to explore different areas of law in practice. You'll build your professional network and ultimately, you could make a difference to someone's life even before you qualify. it helps you stand out from the crowd and increases your skills, confidence and employability.

We work with a variety of organisations on our pro bono projects, both local and international. If you join our network, you could be working in court with the Personal Support Unit, on a free advice line at Slater & Gordon, with a team of commercial pro bono lawyers at Addleshaw Goddard at our Business Law Cafe or even representing clients at appeal hearings through the Legal Advocacy Support Project.

Find out more about our Pro Bono Network

Manchester Law School

More about the department

Taught by experts

Your studies are supported by a team of committed and enthusiastic teachers and researchers, experts in their chosen field. We also work with external professionals, many of whom are Manchester Met alumni, to enhance your learning and appreciation of the wider subject.

Meet our expert staff


UK and EU students

UK and EU students: Full-time fee: £1157 per 30 credits per year. Tuition fees will remain the same for each year of your course providing you complete it in the normal timeframe (no repeat years or breaks in study).

UK and EU students: Part-time fee: £1157 per 30 credits studied per year. Tuition fees will remain the same for each year of your course providing you complete it in the normal timeframe (no repeat years or breaks in study).

Non-EU and Channel Island students

Non-EU international and Channel Island students: Full-time fee: £1500 per 30 credits per year. Tuition fees will remain the same for each year of your course providing you complete it in the normal timeframe (no repeat years or breaks in study).

Non-EU international and Channel Island students: Part-time fee: £1500 per 30 credits studied per year. Tuition fees will remain the same for each year of your course providing you complete it in the normal timeframe (no repeat years or breaks in study).

Additional Information

A Masters qualification typically comprises 180 credits, a PGDip 120 credits, a PGCert 60 credits, and an MFA 300 credits. Tuition fees will remain the same for each year of study provided the course is completed in the normal timeframe (no repeat years or breaks in study).

Additional costs

Specialist Costs

All of the books required for the course are available from the library. The University also has PC labs and a laptop loan service although many students choose to buy a laptop. However, students are advised that is good practice to purchase a core text book for each of the seven compulsory modules on the GDL. Students may also need to print their assignments and other documents. Campus printing costs start from 5p per page. Estimated costs are £300 for a laptop up to £350 for books and printing.

Postgraduate Loan Scheme

Loans of up to £10,906 for many Postgraduate Courses

Find out more

Alumni Loyalty Discount

Rewarding our graduates

Learn more

Want to know more?

How to apply

Full-time course applications should be made to the Central Applications Board:


Programme Review
Our programmes undergo an annual review and major review (normally at 6 year intervals) to ensure an up-to-date curriculum supported by the latest online learning technology. For further information on when we may make changes to our programmes, please see the changes section of our Terms and Conditions.

Important Notice
This online prospectus provides an overview of our programmes of study and the University. We regularly update our online prospectus so that our published course information is accurate. Please check back to the online prospectus before making an application to us to access the most up to date information for your chosen course of study.

Confirmation of Regulator
The Manchester Metropolitan University is regulated by the Office for Students (OfS). The OfS is the independent regulator of higher education in England. More information on the role of the OfS and its regulatory framework can be found at

All higher education providers registered with the OfS must have a student protection plan in place. The student protection plan sets out what students can expect to happen should a course, campus, or institution close. Access our current Student Protection Plan.