125 years of the School of Law

Liberty building (School of Law)

Since the first session of the School in October 1899, education of our students – first in law and more recently in law and criminology – have been at the heart of who we are.

The student body has, however, changed significantly over the last 125 years. The starting cohort was just 22 students, almost all of whom were local, male and part-time. Today the landscape is very different. There is a wider range of courses on offer, the cohort mix has changed dramatically, and almost all our students are now full-time.

A growing school

Perhaps the most striking change over the period is the increase in number of students enrolled in the School; from 22 in 1899 to more than 2,350 in 2024

When I took up my place [in 1968] I was one of about 100 first year students of whom 20 were women.

Alumnus David Griffiths (Law 1971)
Staff and students at the School of Law, 1949-50

Staff and students at the School of Law, 1949-50

We currently have over 1,800 undergraduates and nearly 500 postgraduate students in the School. Of our postgraduates, 90 are studying for a PhD, with the remainder taking one of our 13 Masters programmes.

Going global

Back in 1899, students in the School were all from the UK and most were local. Today, the School is now a truly international community. Our undergraduate students come from 86 different countries, from Australia to Zimbabwe. After domestic students, students from Malaysia, Canada and India represent the largest percentages of undergraduates.

Our postgraduates hail from 33 different countries, with the highest representation coming from China, UK, India and Indonesia. Our postgraduate researchers come from more than 20 different countries, with the highest international representation from Saudi Arabia, China and Nigeria. The last application cycle saw applications from students in more than 100 different countries.

Undergrads sol 2019 800 x 400 1 1

School of Law undergraduates and staff, 2019

International study

As well as welcoming students to Leeds from all over the world, many of our students undertake a year abroad as part of their degree. Many study in English but we also have students who study in Spanish, French and German. To encourage more students to travel abroad we have provided scholarships for summer schools and students who do not want to spend a full year abroad can get some experience during a shorter, more focused programme.


A s part of a Russell Group University, we are one of the leading law schools for research in the UK and our research explores issues across many aspects of law and criminal justice, informing policy and practice on a national and international level.

Director of the Centre for Business Law and Practice Pinar Akman at her inaugural lecture in 2017

Director of the Centre for Business Law and Practice Pinar Akman at her inaugural lecture in 2017

Research in the School is organised around our research centres: the Centre for Criminal Justice Studies; the Centre for Business Law and Practice; the Centre for Innovation and Research in Legal Education; and the Centre for Law and Social Justice. All are now thriving centres producing work that is shaping how we think about law and criminal justice. They have proved highly successful in raising our research profile and in attracting leading scholars to the School.

In the recent Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021), our School was ranked 4th overall in the UK for the quality of our research, 86% of the research publications that it submitted to the REF have been assessed as either ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’, and 100% of its impact submission has been rated ‘world-leading’.

Community Engagement

At the School of Law, Community Engagement projects are at the heart of our mission to effect positive change in our community. These projects offer invaluable volunteering and 'pro bono' opportunities, enabling students to apply the knowledge and skills gained throughout their studies in real-world settings. With a rich history of providing such opportunities, the School has achieved recognition through numerous national and University awards. Whether it is offering legal assistance to migrants, advocating for social justice causes, or engaging in research initiatives with local partners, our community engagement projects empower students to make a meaningful impact while fostering a sense of responsibility and service within our student body.

School of Law community engagement social

School of Law community engagement social


The School of Law alumni network is a truly global community. We currently have more than 16,000 alumni around the world in more than 110 countries. The School of Law alumni include judges from the highest courts around the world, senior partners in major international law firms, leading barristers, significant political figures, businesspeople, journalists, entrepreneurs, activists, and many other national leaders.

Over the last 125 years the School of Law has developed to meet the challenges of the current legal and political landscape. The history of the School is inevitably marked by many changes. Our dedication to providing a top-quality education and student experience has remained constant, however, as has our drive to produce world-class impactful research. On this anniversary, we  reflect on our many achievements with pride and look forward to the future with optimism.

Head of the School of Law, Professor Louise Ellison

Follow our story

Join our 125th anniversary celebrations! Whether you are a student, staff, or alumni who has won an award, been featured in your local or national news, or just have some positive news to share about yourself, please get in touch at law@leeds.ac.uk.

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