The BCL is our world-renowned taught graduate course in law, designed to serve outstanding law students from common law backgrounds. As a masters level degree, its academic standard is significantly higher than that required in a first law degree, such as a BA, LLB, or JD, and only those with outstanding first law degrees are admitted. Courses are not introductory, and students are expected to analyse complex material critically and to make their own contribution to the debate.
The BCL aims to bring students into advanced intellectual engagement with some of the most difficult issues in law and legal theory, an engagement distinguished by rigour, depth and conceptual sophistication requiring immersion in law as an academic discipline as well as informed openness to neighbouring disciplines. The BCL raises students to the highest level of professionalism in analysis and argument, equipping them intellectually for legal practice or work as a legal academic at the highest level, as well as for a wide range of other intellectually demanding roles. The course offers a learning experience characterised by a demanding schedule of independent study, highly participative round-table seminars, and a complementary diet of close individual or small-group contact with tutors.
By studying the course, you will obtain a thorough knowledge and deep understanding of four new legal or legally-related subjects – these being subjects which, at undergraduate level were either not studied at all, or were only studied in a more elementary way. You will develop an understanding of neighbouring academic disciplines sufficient for a mature appreciation of the place of law in the world and mature and critical attitude towards law. A knowledge will also be acquired of the values and techniques of advanced legal scholarship and/or the advanced interdisciplinary study of law.
The Oxford BCL has been a pivotal feature of Oxford's law provision since the sixteenth century. This rich history has helped to maintain its status as the most highly regarded taught masters-level qualification in the common law world.
Mindy Chen-Wishart, Associate Dean for Graduate Studies (Taught Courses)
The BCL shares most of its course content with the Magister Juris, which is an equivalent course for students from a civil law background. For the most part, BCL and MJur students study the same options in the same classes, thereby producing a diverse mix of students who can contribute a wide variety of different perspectives to seminar and tutorial discussion.
There are no compulsory courses on the BCL; instead, students choose four options from a selection of 40 or so on offer in any given year. In place of one of the four taught options, students may choose to write a dissertation of 10,000 to 12,500 words on a topic of their choosing (subject to Faculty approval). All options are taught by a combination of lectures and/or seminars and tutorials, apart from the dissertation option, which involves one-to-one sessions with an assigned supervisor.
Seminars are normally led by a senior member of academic staff but are typically interactive in nature, and you will be expected to participate in the discussions arising from the material covered. Tutorials involve an intensive discussion between a tutor and two or three students, providing an opportunity for you to present your ideas and discuss your work with leading academics. Typically, seminars will introduce you to a particular area of study and familiarise you with general concepts and ideas which will then be investigated in greater depth in the tutorials. For most tutorials you will be expected to write an essay, which typically will be marked and returned to you at the next tutorial.
Outside of the seminars and tutorials, you will be expected to read extensively in order to acquire the necessary knowledge to engage with course material at an appropriate level.
The induction programme is usually held in the two weeks preceding Michaelmas term and comprises Bodleian Law library and IT induction sessions, academic primer classes as well as social events.
The Faculty of Law is located in the St Cross Building, where the majority of teaching takes place. The St Cross Building is also the home of the Bodleian Law Library, which has 24 networked computers, giving access to all the online resources within the Library and University. There is a Graduate Reading Room, a large seminar room, two IT rooms, and three small ‘discussion rooms’ for private study or group work.
Pastoral and Welfare Support
In addition to the pastoral support provided by college advisors, the Faculty seeks to support students by various means. Each programme has dedicated administrative support and the administrators in question will be able to help and advise students on a range of matters relating to their studies, or point them towards dedicated sources of support elsewhere in the University. Academic Supervisors and Programme Directors can also serve as a source of support.
Apart from these more general roles, the Faculty also offers support in certain specific areas (for example, Disability Contacts and Harassment Advisors).
The BCL is both challenging and very rewarding. It provides a unique opportunity to engage in lively debate about key legal issues with world-leading academics in the subjects of your choosing. There is a huge variety of topics to study and the academic freedom which the course provides is a rare privilege. I would recommend the BCL wholeheartedly to anyone with a keen interest in studying the law as an academic discipline at the highest level.
Natasha, BCL 2013
The BCL was an extremely intense, but at the same time, extremely rewarding experience. It was for me a period of immense intellectual growth. It was great being able to have seminars and tutorials with some of the best minds in the field, and to discuss and debate contentious points with my course mates. It was an eye-opening experience like no other I’ve had. I highly recommend it!
Timothy, BCL 2016
The BCL presents a unique opportunity, and I would recommend it wholeheartedly. As a Masters program, it changed the way I think about Law and transformed my approach to our discipline. The chance to delve into areas of law in such detail, lead at the helm by world-leading academics, and discuss those professors' latest thoughts on a topic, was fantastic. The tutorial system gave students the opportunity to present their own ideas to a group, defend them and revise them, and receive thoughtful and critical feedback, and my writing capabilities increased dramatically as a result. The courses I took on the BCL also inspired me to apply to a research degree at Oxford and has served as an excellent foundation for my future academic career, as an internationally respected postgraduate program.
But life in Oxford is much more than just study. Via the BCL, I met a group of exceptional young scholars from around the world, with whom I have created lasting friendships, and all of whom share my passion for the study of Law which was a new experience for me. I was also a member of a college, through which I was able to participate in the novel social life of Oxford, filled with formal dinners in gowns, traditions old and new, and a whole host of other activities like rowing, music and student societies.
Philippa, BCL 2015
Applicants are normally expected to be predicted or have achieved a first-class undergraduate degree with honours (or equivalent international qualifications) in law. In the absence of an undergraduate degree in law, candidates may be admitted with a postgraduate diploma or master’s qualification in law at distinction level. For applicants with a degree from the USA, the minimum GPA usually sought is 3.7/4.0.
You will be required to supply supporting documents with your application, including references, written work and an official transcript, which will be used to assess your suitability for the course.