Mythical Splendor: LL.M. Programs in Scotland

There are few downsides to attending law school in this beautiful, successful and welcoming country north of England

In law school league tables, Scotland often falls below its southern neighbor England, in the number of schools ranked. Yet with world-class law schools and the highest employment and student satisfaction rates in the UK, doing an LL.M. in Scotland is a great choice for many students.

The country has a renowned education system, with more world-class universities (19) per head of population than anywhere else in the world. Many have excellent law schools. These include the School of Law at the University of Aberdeen in the northeast of Scotland, and Edinburgh Law School in the eponymous capital city to the south. Both run a range of LL.M. programs, and are ranked in the top-15 of The Guardian’s 2019 league table for law. 

Scotland is one of Europe’s industrial powerhouses and a world leader in manufacturing, producing textiles, whisky and shortbread, as well as jet engines, buses, computer software and ships. There’s a strong services sector too, from banking and insurance in Edinburgh, a global finance center, in Glasgow, which is at the frontier of space technology, and Aberdeen, at the heart of global biotech.  

This economic prowess gives LL.M. students access to myriad global companies in Scotland for recruitment, networking, academic projects and guest lectures. “We organize talks from highly successful judges and lawyers, allowing you to engage with current debates,” says Irene-Marie Esser, director of taught postgraduate programs at the University of Glasgow, School of Law. 

A longstanding tradition of education

Established in 1451, the University of Glasgow is the fourth-oldest university in the English-speaking world and is ranked first in Scotland by the 2020 Complete University Guide. It offers a general LL.M. course as well as niche programs covering International Law and Security, Corporate and Financial Law, and Intellectual Property Law and the Digital Economy.

The longevity of Scottish law schools means they have huge alumni networks that are useful for finding employment. Little wonder that Scottish universities have the highest employment rates and student satisfaction in teaching quality in the whole of the UK.

“We have very strong and long-standing ties to all branches of the legal profession across the United Kingdom, as well as overseas in Africa,” says Peter McEleavy, professor of international family law at the University of Dundee’s Law School, a top-five UK law school. 

Dundee’s students can choose from a wide variety of LL.M.s, including in International Commercial Law, Environmental Law, International Criminal Justice and Human Rights Law. Alumni from these programs have risen to the very highest levels of the public and private sectors. Tim Eicke QC, for example, is a UK judge at the European Court of Human Rights. And Anuja Dhir QC is the first non-white judge at the Old Bailey in London.

Lochs, castles, and LL.M. programs

Of course, many students are drawn by Scotland’s mythical splendor. Scotland was voted the most beautiful country in the world in 2017, with its lochs and castles. Ancient monuments abound, as does glorious landscape, from the Highland hills to the Borderland rivers spread across 90 inhabited islands. Unsurprisingly, Scotland is frequently voted among the top five most desirable places to live in the UK. 

“Scotland has something for everyone,” says Esser at Glasgow — an ideal location to explore the length and breadth of Scotland. “From spectacular scenery and adventure sports to breath-taking castles and some of the world’s best-loved cultural festivals, there are plenty of attractions.” 

There are vibrant towns and seven cities (including Stirling, Inverness and Perth), award-winning food and drink, and the world’s largest arts festival — the Edinburgh Fringe. Glasgow is Scotland’s largest and most diverse city, renowned for music, museums and galleries showcasing Scottish culture and heritage, from kilts and bag-pipes to ceilidh dances. It was also voted the world’s friendliest city in 2016. 

Scotland does indeed have a reputation for extending warmth to visitors, so law schools attract a diverse intake from across the globe. “No one nationality predominates amongst our 90 students,” says McEleavy at Dundee Law School. “The people of Dundee are well known for their warm welcome. It is truly a student centered place to live, with students making up one in seven of the population.” 

The cost of living in Scotland can be low compared to other parts of the UK. The average cost of private rent in Dundee is 66 percent less than London, and 20 percent less than the Scottish national average. LL.M. students can choose from university accommodation on campus in the heart of the city, or private flats in adjacent neighborhoods. 

With all this, it’s hard to find a downside to doing an LL.M. in Scotland, though there is one. The weather may leave much to be desired: it’s infamously cold, wet, windy, yet unpredictable. Esser says students find it cozy, however. As the old proverb goes: “In Scotland, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only the wrong clothes.” 

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