Cambridge Tripos System - can one combine Law and English?

(17 Posts)
hattymattie Sat 23-Feb-13 08:06:13

Hello - the Law/Engineering daughter has finally decided on Law but she loves her English Literature. I was reading the Cambridge prospectus and am under the impression that one can study English for the first year and then two years of law and come out with a BA law at the end.

Does this sound correct or have I totally misunderstood the system?

Thistledew Sat 23-Feb-13 08:24:12

I don't know about the system and if she can do this, but if she is at all interested in a career in law then a BA is no good- she will need an LLB.

You can study a BA if you want to do law, but you then have to do a one year conversion course before taking the post- graduate legal qualifications. If she already has a BA in law she will find the conversion course horribly repetitive.

hattymattie Sat 23-Feb-13 09:26:55

I've looked at their prospectus - and have the impression it's recognised so you don't have to do the conversion. I need to double check that.

brainonastick Sat 23-Feb-13 09:35:00

Not in the way you think - ie she can't agree to do that at the outset. She would be accepted onto the English course. If she wanted to change to law after part one, then that would be up to the law dept to accept her, and her college to agree. As law is a popular subject, that is by no means certain. If she wants to end up with a law degree, then that is what she needs to apply for. Why can't she pursue her interest in English as a sideline herself?

Sympathique Sat 23-Feb-13 17:07:02

She'd also be unlikely to get a place if they get an inkling that her heart isn't in what she's applying for.

Even if she gets in, agree with brainonastick that changing isn't always allowed - and even when there seems no reason why not; college directors of studies (which is who she would need to convince) vary.

hattymattie Sat 23-Feb-13 18:28:42

It's just that it's mentioned in the Law prospectus - it hadn't occurred to me before that. It says you can change from another subject to law under the tripos system although they prefer that you mention that you'd like to do this at the application stage. Agree sympathique I'm not sure if you can play it like that but it appears this is a unique to cambridge thing - not other universities. I may e-mail them on Monday just to clear it up.

Sympathique Sat 23-Feb-13 18:32:25

OK, I stand corrected. Hope it works out.

Fayrazzled Sat 23-Feb-13 18:33:48

It would be better if your daughter emailed them rather than you! Certainly 20 years ago when I read law at Cambridge it would have been unusual to read English in part 1 of the Tripos and then change to law. Law was v competitive and thre was very little switching into it, although technically possible.

It's also bollocks that you need an LLB, the Cambridge law degree which results in a BA meets the Law Society's/ Bar's requirements.

hattymattie Sat 23-Feb-13 18:50:59

sympa I've checked on The Student Room website - and I don't think it's that easy to change after all - she could apply for English and then ask to change but it has to be agreed. I think their prospectus is maybe a bit misleading in that respect.

Fay - yes both Oxford and Cambridge do BA law which as far as I understand it counts as an LLB from other universities.

Email Cambridge.

The issue is that she can't decide to do it at the outset, and they won't guarantee that she could. So it's a bit of a gamble. It'd also be a worry that she'd have missed the first year, but I knew someone who changed from English to Maths, which is more dramatic, and he did fine.

georgettemagritte Fri 01-Mar-13 22:09:45

I can give you definitive information on this (I know the statutes well and regularly handle subject changes). It is only possible to combine English and Law if she is willing to do a four-year degree. English is one of the few Triposes which still have a two-year Part I (i.e. there are two years before the students take their first University honours examination). This means that she would have to do two years of English before being able to switch to Law. To fulfil the professional requirements to practise in law she would then need to take the full two years of the Law Part I (IA and IB university honours examinations).

The other way around also needs four years: she would need to complete both parts of the Law Part I before changing to English, and students who don't have Part I English are required to complete a two-year Part II in English. So it would be possible, but it would take four years for either route (with the additional costs of fees and maintenance for an extra year). Set against the cost of a Diploma in law year for non-law graduates, though, and the fourth year may look less expensive (but you would need to check that all of the professional exemptions could be achieved in just the Law Part I).

Sadly there is not any way of getting around the need for the extra year, as this is required by the way the University's statutes work (e.g. how many qualifying honours examinations must be taken and when in order to graduate). I have known a few students switch between these Triposes though, so it's not uncommon.

Of course, it also depends on whether the fellows in the college will allow a switch. If done part way through the course, most colleges have an unofficial policy of only allowing subject changes if a student achieves a 2:1 in the original subject before being allowed to switch. It's at the discretion of the fellows in the destination subject whether to allow a change, however; and they will normally require the student to take a full admissions test and interviews before deciding (and the student won't be accepted if s/he does not come up to standard compared to the usual admissions criteria in the subject). If a student is applying to do a split Tripos at the outset, s/he will normally be required to satisfy the fellows' admissions criteria in both subjects before admission. (This isn't easy - bear in mind that the admissions criteria - not just the grades, but the style of thinking they are looking for - in different subjects can be very different, and students may be suited to one discipline, but not really to another. Admissions staff and academics are not really looking for all-rounders, but for students who have an ability, potential or feel for that specific discipline. It's actually very unusual to see a candidate who would be equally suited to more than one subject). In the case of Law and English, both are very popular/competitive subjects in admissions terms - English possibly harder to get in for than Law, even!

If she enjoys English more but wants to be a lawyer, it's very common to take the professional conversion year/diploma year in law after an English degree, so it's very possible to do it by that route.

I hope this helps - do PM me if you need any further info (or contact the Admissions Tutors direct at the colleges your DD is interested in - they will be happy to help).

georgettemagritte Fri 01-Mar-13 22:19:06

NB the four-year thing only applies to subjects which have a 2-year Part I - most Triposes don't - so the prospectus is correct in saying that it's often possible to take one year in another subject before then taking Part I in Law - just not in the specific case of English (History and ASNAC also have 2-year Part Is, but most other subjects don't, so it would be entirely possible to do, e.g., a Part IA in Economics followed by Parts IA and IB Law). (Don't ask me why - the statutes literally are a law into themselves!)

Sympathique Mon 04-Mar-13 13:34:46

So I was completely wrong to say that an applicant would be disadvantaged if they made it clear in their application/at interview that they wanted to switch at the end of Part 1? (As I stated this, I feel obliged to clear it up!)

georgettemagritte Mon 04-Mar-13 19:55:28

An applicant wouldn't be disadvantaged as such by stating that s/he intended to switch, but it would depend on how definite this was and on the college's policy on whether they require admissions interviews for both subjects in advance (this differs). If the applicant just mentioned in the application form that changing Tripos was something they might be interested in, that would be very different to applying with a definite plan to do so from the outset. In the second case, obviously it makes it a lot harder to get through two sets of admissions criteria rather than one (though this isn't quite the same as being disadvantaged IYSWIM). The best option would be to contact a particular college direct and ask for advice on what their admissions policy would be in each of those situations. The fellows in each subject would need a good reason for why the applicant wanted to pursue both subjects, though - one that is based in a genuine intellectual interest or passion, not just "because I want a well-paid job afterwards" or "to save money on the law conversion year". If the candidate can show that they have a genuine interest that connects both subjects (a passion for the history of copyright, say, or an interest in law and literature), then that helps. There is a risk that s/he could come across as not really interested in either subject quite enough.

Not many students change Tripos, at least on the arts/humanities/social sciences side - primarily because the first two years of the degree courses (Part I) tend to be covering essential ground and skills development, and the really interesting and fun options tend to come in the third year (Part II) and students often see the third year options as the reward for making it through the hard slog of the Part I. It's also the point at which they start to feel confident in the discipline and in the skills they've been developing during the course. Doing the hard slog/preparatory ground in one subject and then doing it again in another, without ever being able to get to the fun part, isn't that appealing for most of the students - an applicant would need to have a good, positive reason for why they wanted to do this which would make sense at interview.

OP, I'd advise that a student apply to do a subject that s/he is most interested in and enthusiastic about and is most talented at, and see how that goes first before thinking about changing subjects. Students often change their mind about what they want to do as they go through the course. Law in particular can always be taken afterwards as the conversion course if a student wants to. Excitement about the subject and passion for what they do (and a talent for it) are some of the biggest factors in the admissions process, so it really shows if an applicant is applying for a subject that they think they "ought" to do (for career reasons, maybe), rather than one they really want to do. It's most important to choose the right course rather than make a career plan in advance!

PenelopePipPop Tue 05-Mar-13 12:05:06

Fayrazzled is right - there has never been a requirement that a qualifying law degree for the purposes of the SRA and the Bar Council must be entitled LLB so long as the degree covers the seven areas considered to be the foundations of legal knowledge.

Must admit I agree with GeorgetteMarie - doing all of Part 1 twice for two different subjects sounds like fantastically hardwork and does mean she will never get to do a Part II which is the fun bit of a Cambridge degree.

Equally it might be the most practical way for your DD to get to enjoy both subjects. If she loves Eng Lit she won't get this opportunity again and if she decides to stick with just Eng Lit she should also look at the costs and practical realities of converting to law later. I don't know if you are able to stump up the fees which are massive, it is a while since I last heard of a law firm willing to finance a conversion as part of a training contract, banks are less willing to provide loans for postgraduate study these days and the rates are not competitive and the conversion year means cramming a lot of study into a short space of time - doable but not necessarily the most fulfilling way to study law.

SavoirFaire Thu 07-Mar-13 22:17:20

Not having law really doesn't put you at a disadvantage for a legal career. If she does a degree at Cambridge but is able to demonstrate her interest in law (work experience, applying for internships etc) she will get a training contract with a law firm who will fund her conversion. I know lots of people who have done this, though granted not in the last 5 years. However, I work with a few law firms now and know enough about their recruitment processes/needs to say I would be gobsmacked if they don't still fund this for students with a very high achieving academic background. There is nothing to stop her calling a few choice law firms HR departments and asking that question now. It would never count against her in the future and they would be impressed at a 17/18 year old having the compunction to call to ask. Personally (not a lawyer, but the child of two, wife of another and friend of many - mostly magic circle) I would never recommend anyone to do law at an undergrad unless they were so passionate about law they could never imagine doing anything else.

KarlosKKrinkelbeim Thu 07-Mar-13 22:21:40

She will have to do 4 years.
It is also bollocks that the Cambridge BA is not adequate for legal practice. I have it and have been practising law very happily for 15 years and certainly I did not do the conversion. Cambridge calls BA what other crapper universities call the LLB (gratuitous dig there, yes I admit it)

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