Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge

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Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge
University of Cambridge coat of arms official.svg
Undergraduates 700
Postgraduates 250
Location Cambridge, United Kingdom
Campus Sidgwick Site
Website www.law.cam.ac.uk
University of Cambridge logo.svg

The Faculty of Law, Cambridge is the law school of the University of Cambridge. The Faculty is one of the world’s oldest and finest law schools, renowned for the quality of its teaching and its cutting-edge legal research, particularly in international law.[1] It is regularly ranked as the best law school in the United Kingdom by major national league tables. In September 2017, it was ranked the second best law school in the world.[2]

Legal study at the University of Cambridge began in the thirteenth century and the Faculty sits the oldest law professorship in the English-speaking world, the Regius Professorship of Civil Law, founded in 1540.[3]

The Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge during the day

Today, the Faculty incorporates the Institute of Criminology as well as 11 Research Centres, including the world's leading research institute for international law, The Lauterpacht Centre for International Law. The Faculty has 24 professors, six readers, and over 70 other University, Faculty and College Teaching Officers. The student body comprises about 700 undergraduate and 225 graduate students.


The history of legal education in Cambridge dates back to the thirteenth century, when the core subjects of legal study in all European universities were Civil law (the law of ancient Rome) and the Canon law of the Church. Early graduates of the Cambridge Faculty of Canon Law held the highest judicial positions in Europe in the Rota at Avignon. Notable alumni of the Faculty include William Bateman and Thomas Fastolf, who wrote the first known law reports in the ius commune tradition, and William Lyndwood, the principal commentator on medieval English Canon law.[4]

Sir Thomas Smith, first Regius Professor of Civil Law at Cambridge.

During the English Reformation, King Henry VIII ordered the Faculty to stop teaching canon law in 1535. Nonetheless, the Faculty received some compensation when the same king appointed Thomas Smith as the first Regius Professor of Civil Law in 1540. Academical legal learning was cosmopolitan; Cambridge doctors of law practised in the ecclesiastical and admiralty courts, assisted the nation in foreign embassies, and discoursed on law, justice and government in philosophical and comparative terms.[5]

English law was added to the curriculum in 1800, with the foundation of the Downing Professorship of the Laws of England. Examinations in law for the B.A. Degree began in 1858, and the Faculty grew steadily in size and in the range of its interests. The other established chairs in the Faculty are: the Whewell (International Law, 1867), the Rouse Ball (English Law, 1927), the Wolfson (Criminology, 1959), the Arthur Goodhart Visiting Professorship (1971), the Professorship of Law (1973) the S.J. Berwin (Corporate Law, 1991), the Herchel Smith Professorship of Intellectual Property Law (1993), and the Professorship of European Law (1994).[6]

Among benefactions received by the Faculty to support study and research have been the Whewell Trust Fund (1867), for scholarships in international law; Edmund Yorke's bequest (1873), used for the Yorke Prize and other undertakings connected with the study of law; the Maitland Memorial Fund (1906), established in honour of F. W. Maitland, Downing Professor and renowned legal historian, for the promotion of research and instruction in the history of law and of legal language and institutions; the Squire Scholarship Fund, received from the trustees of Miss Rebecca Flower Squire in 1901 to provide scholarships and grants in law; the Wright Rogers bequest (1966), for scholarships and grants; the Hersch Lauterpacht Fund (1967), for the study of international law; and a number of prize funds. Further generous support was provided in connection with the new building.[7]

Courses offered[edit]

The Faculty offers six degrees in Law: BA, LLM, MCL, MLitt, PhD and LLD. In addition, it offers the MPhil in Criminology, the MPhil in Criminological Research, the Diploma in Legal Studies, and the Diploma in International Law.[8]

Rankings and reputation[edit]

(2018, world)
(2018, national)
The Guardian[11]
(2018, national)
Times/Sunday Times[12]
(2017, national)

Cambridge is unanimously ranked as the best law school in the UK by all major national academic league tables. It is currently ranked first by The Guardian',[13] The Times'/The Sunday Times' Good University Guide,[14] and The Complete University Guide.[15] Since it started publishing its annual rankings for 2010, The Guardian has ranked Cambridge first six times (2010,[16] 2012,[17] 2015,[18] 2016,[19] 2017,[20] and 2018[13]). The Complete University Guide has given the top spot to Cambridge since 2013[21] and eight times in the last 11 years.[22] The Times Good University Guide law rankings has Cambridge atop its league table since 2014.[23]

In 2015, the QS World University Rankings ranked Cambridge as the world's second best university for law.[24] In 2017, THE also ranked Cambridge as the world's second best university for law.[25]


David Williams Building[edit]

The Faculty of Law, University of Cambridge in the evening

The Faculty is housed in the David Williams Building on the university's Sidgwick Site in Cambridge. The Building is named after the University's first full-time Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Public Law, Professor Sir David Williams.[26] The Building opened in 1996 and was designed by Norman Foster, who also designed the terminal building at Stansted Airport and 30 St Mary Axe (the "Gherkin" in London). The building suffered serious acoustic problems (primarily due to a lack of consideration of acoustics in Foster's design), with its form amplifying any noise from the lower levels and causing significant disturbance at higher levels, not least in the library.[27] This was fixed in 1999 with the installation of a glazed acoustic screen, separating quiet areas from noisy ones.

The David Williams Building contains the University's Squire Law Library, together with offices, lecture and seminar rooms and common room facilities.

The interior of the Faculty building

Squire Law Library[edit]

The Squire Law Library, which occupies the majority of the first, second and third floors of the building, is a dependent library of Cambridge University Library.[28] It contains one of the three largest legal collections in the UK with almost 180,000 volumes. The collection is very strong across UK law, the law of other major common law countries (the United States, Australia, Canada and New Zealand), and the law of the European Union, France and Germany. There are, additionally, smaller collections for the law of many other countries. The library provides its users with access to many major legal databases.

The library was founded in 1904, at first with only 8,000 volumes,[29] although this soon increased. In 1934, together with the Seeley Historical Library, it moved to the Cockerell Building on Senate House Passage, previously the home of the University Library built in 1837-42. The Squire took over the whole of the Cockerell Building on the construction of James Stirling's building for the history library in 1968. With the Squire's own move in turn, its former site became the library of Gonville and Caius College.

Most individual colleges also have a smaller law library of their own.

Research centres[edit]

The Faculty has a number of associated research centres:


There are a number of groups and societies based around the Faculty of Law:

Most colleges also have their own law societies.


Notable publications produced under the aegis of the Faculty include:

Notable persons[edit]


See List of University of Cambridge people


Named Chairs


  • Eilís Ferran, Professor of Company and Securities Law since 2005


  1. ^ "RAE 2008: law results". London: The Guardian. 18 December 2008. Retrieved 24 August 2010. 
  2. ^ "World University Rankings". Times Higher Education (THE). 2017-08-18. Retrieved 2017-09-09. 
  3. ^ Helmholz, R. H. (2003). The Oxford History of the Laws of England: The Canon law and ecclesiastical jurisdiction from 597 to the 1640s. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198258971. 
  4. ^ "History of the Faculty | Faculty of Law". www.law.cam.ac.uk. Retrieved 2017-05-16. 
  5. ^ "History of the Faculty | Faculty of Law". www.law.cam.ac.uk. Retrieved 2017-05-16. 
  6. ^ "History of the Faculty | Faculty of Law". www.law.cam.ac.uk. Retrieved 2017-05-16. 
  7. ^ "History of the Faculty | Faculty of Law". www.law.cam.ac.uk. Retrieved 2017-05-16. 
  8. ^ "Prospective students | Faculty of Law". www.law.cam.ac.uk. Retrieved 2017-05-16. 
  9. ^ "QS World University Rankings 2018". Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd. Retrieved 8 June 2017. 
  10. ^ "University League Table 2018". The Complete University Guide. Retrieved 26 April 2017. 
  11. ^ "University league tables 2018". The Guardian. 16 May 2017. Retrieved 16 May 2017. 
  12. ^ "The Times and Sunday Times University Good University Guide 2017". Times Newspapers. Retrieved 23 September 2016. 
  13. ^ a b "University guide 2018: league table for law". the Guardian. Retrieved 2017-05-17. 
  14. ^ HitCreative. "The Times and The Sunday Times | Education - UniversityGuide". st.hitcreative.com. Retrieved 2017-05-17. 
  15. ^ "Law - Top UK University Subject Tables and Rankings 2018". Retrieved 2017-05-17. 
  16. ^ "University guide 2010: Law". the Guardian. 2009-05-12. Retrieved 2017-05-17. 
  17. ^ "University guide 2012: Law". the Guardian. 2011-05-17. Retrieved 2017-05-17. 
  18. ^ "University guide 2015: league table for law". The Guardian. 2014-06-03. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-05-17. 
  19. ^ "University guide 2016: league table for law". the Guardian. Retrieved 2017-05-17. 
  20. ^ "University guide 2017: league table for law". the Guardian. Retrieved 2017-05-17. 
  21. ^ "Law - Top UK University Subject Tables and Rankings 2013". Retrieved 2017-05-17. 
  22. ^ "Law - Top UK University Subject Tables and Rankings 2008". Retrieved 2017-05-17. 
  23. ^ HitCreative. "The Times and The Sunday Times | Education - Table UniversityGuide". st.hitcreative.com. Retrieved 2017-05-17. 
  24. ^ "QS World University Rankings by Subject 2015 - Law". Top Universities. 2015-04-22. Retrieved 2017-05-17. 
  25. ^ "World University Rankings". Times Higher Education (THE). 2017-08-18. Retrieved 2017-09-09. 
  26. ^ "Naming of the Law Faculty building | Faculty of Law". www.law.cam.ac.uk. Retrieved 2017-05-04. 
  27. ^ "Faculty of Law Lawlink: Issue 1, August 2000 - Faculty Resources - Faculty of Law". Law.cam.ac.uk. 15 March 2005. Archived from the original on 22 February 2012. Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  28. ^ "A brief history | Squire Law Library". www.squire.law.cam.ac.uk. Retrieved 2017-02-23. 
  29. ^ Squire Law Library Appeal, Law Faculty website. Accessed 2012-04-02.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 52°12′06″N 0°06′35″E / 52.2017°N 0.1096°E / 52.2017; 0.1096