The number of law students and aspiring lawyers has reached an all-time high in the UK according to new data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) and London law offices. It shows applications from international students to study law in the country have risen by a staggering 238% over the last 10 years.

Chief executive of UCAS, Clare Marchant, stated that the overall number of applicants to university has risen 4% from 2020 to 2021, highlighting continued interest in higher education and underlining the growing competition for university places. 

Data from UCAS and London criminal defence solicitors Lawtons, showed that 9% of all applications in 2021 were for law, meaning almost 1 in 10 students wanted to pursue a law-related course. The ‘war for talent’ is evident in this industry as junior lawyers can command starting salaries of over £100,000 in London – a pay-packet more than enough to incentivise the thousands of students taking up law degrees. 

A further breakdown of the data showed that whilst international applications had risen, the number of students applying from inside the EU has plummeted 40% to 13,145, dropping from 22,255 in 2020. 

A different UCAS survey highlighted the motivations for students to study in the UK which were reported as: the strong reputation of UK universities (47%), the desire to live in the UK (45%) and the high quality of teaching (43%). These numbers point to strong signs that the UK continues to be a top choice in global higher education.

The surveys also revealed the demographics of the applicants; more than 65% of all law course applications this academic year were from women which is up 12% across all law programs. The rise in applications from women is a strong trend evidenced by the 49% increase in female applications to law courses compared to just 1.9% by males. In 2021, there were 48,065 law course applications by men (31%), and 107,085 by women (69%). 

Taken in combination, the data correlates clearly to the growing demand for legal services – a sector in which there is a shortage of professionals, prompting the growth in law student numbers to plug the gap (and benefit from the generous salaries currently on offer). The legal industry is still highly competitive and is a difficult profession to enter, however, top lawyers say that it is a highly rewarding career provided students are dedicated. 

UK universities are recovering well after the turbulence of the last two years, with an 38% increase in non-EU applicants compared to pre-pandemic levels – a sure sign they are attracting new talent, including an eager cohort of aspiring legal professionals.

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Data provided by UCAS and Lawtons Solicitors.