Skip to main content

Which course is right for me? LLM Qualifying Law Degree vs. Graduate Diploma in Law

The LLM Qualifying Law Degree and the Graduate Diploma in Law are similar programmes in two key ways: eligibility and core knowledge. Both programmes are designed to offer a basic legal education to students who already have a first degree in something other than an LLB from a UK university. In terms of core knowledge, both programmes cover the seven foundations of legal knowledge necessary for entry onto Bar Training Courses, and typically required of SQE providers for the standard SQE preparation for becoming a solicitor.

However, the programmes are different in a variety of ways, so it is important to consider them carefully and choose the programme that is right for you. The key differences are outlined below.

Curriculum and skills

The GDL involves fewer credits, most of its examinations are examination based and its condensed schedule requires students to absorb more topics more quickly than the LLM QLD. The LLM QLD involves more credits overall and is taught at master's level, but it has a slightly slower pace and involves more essay-based assessment than the GDL. While the degrees cover similar legal content, exam-based skills are more central in the GDL and writing skills are more central to the LLM QLD curriculum. This distinction is a matter of preference, as both exam and essay formats are useful in vocational training and legal practice for different reasons.

Use of the degree

The GDL's principle and, some would argue, exclusive use is as a way to prepare for progression onto legal practice courses including SQE preparation courses and Bar Training Courses. The LLM QLD on the other hand is a full master's degree, and as such, it can be used to pursue further postgraduate study, including at doctoral level, and fulfil the relevant employment expectations of postgraduate qualification. LLM QLD is generally a more versatile degree.

Cost and financial support

The GDL costs significantly less than the LLM QLD, which is a benefit. However, the GDL programme is not eligible for postgraduate loans, whereas the LLM QLD is eligible. This is an important consideration for many students. If you have independent funding, the GDL may be an option for you, but if not, consider the LLM QLD.


The GDL is one year full time, two years part time, while the LLM QLD is two years full time and three years part time. Shorter is not always better; consider whether you want to get to the vocational preparation stage as quickly as possible or whether you want to take more time to learn  foundational legal skills, make contacts in the legal profession, and participate in activities like mooting, clinics and the law review prior to vocational training. If you want the quickest route, choose the GDL, and if you want to build your skills and experience to make your self as competitive as possible prior to the vocational stage, choose the LLM QLD.