Common Professional Examination
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The Common Professional Examination/Graduate Diploma in Law (CPE/GDL) is a postgraduate law course in England and Wales that is taken by non-law graduates (graduates who have a degree in a discipline that is not law or not a qualifying law degree for legal practice) wishing to become either a solicitor or barrister in England and Wales. The course thus allows non-law students to convert to law after university (exceptions exist for non-graduates depending on circumstances); it is also commonly known as a "law conversion course". Regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, the course is designed as an intense programme covering roughly the same content as a Law degree LL.B (Hons) and the main goal is to allow people with a greater variety of educational backgrounds into the legal profession.
Most CPE courses award a diploma and are thus often titled Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). Common post-nominal abbreviations include LL.Dip (Lex. Legis Diploma), PgDL (Post Graduate Diploma in Law) or Dip.Law (Diploma in Law).
The CPE is one (full-time) or two (part-time) years long, and successful candidates may proceed to either the Legal Practice Course (LPC) for solicitors or the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) for barristers. It is regulated by the Law Society of England and Wales with admissions handled through the Central Applications Board.
Some law students study for four years (rather than three years, although this is usually only the case for students taking a combined law degree with the LPC, or for those whose courses include study abroad), making it possible for both non-law and law graduates of the same starting year to finish at the same time, with the CPE providing the "foundations of legal knowledge".
UK course providers
The CPE is also offered by some more established British universities, such as Cardiff University, the University of East Anglia, Keele University, the University of Sheffield, the University of Sussex and Swansea University. However, it is more commonly offered by new universities such as Birmingham City University, London Metropolitan University, the University of Westminster, Middlesex University, De Montfort University and the University of East London.
In Hong Kong the CPE is also recognised for the purpose of admission to the Postgraduate Certificate in Laws (PCLL) course, which can be seen as the local equivalent to the LPC/BPTC and is a prerequisite to become a solicitor or barrister in Hong Kong. Since 2008, all overseas candidates including CPE graduates are required to pass additional conversion exams before the commencement of the PCLL course, to reflect the impact of the post-1997 Hong Kong Basic Law.
Graduate Diploma in English and Hong Kong Law
The CPE is offered by the University of Hong Kong's School of Professional and Continuing Education (HKU SPACE) in Hong Kong jointly with Manchester Metropolitan University. The program is also known as, and completion of the program leads to the awarding of, the Graduate Diploma in English and Hong Kong Law (GDEHKL).