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Distance Learning LLM

Modern technology has opened up a number of opportunities for postgraduate study – and distance learning LLM programmes are no exception.

The majority of the world’s universities and further education institutions now utilise a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) to deliver at least some aspects of both their undergraduate and postgraduate courses, whether that be in the form of releasing assessment tasks and research material, to delivering online lectures and seminars, or ‘webinars’, or providing a platform where course peers and tutors can interact and discuss course topics.

This form of learning – commonly known as E-learning – now allows prospective postgraduate law students to take up their studies at a time and place that suits them and their lifestyle and commitments. A distance learning LLM is therefore an increasingly popular choice for those who wish to remain in part- or full-time employment, for example those with young families to support or professionals who don’t want to take a career break to study. Those already working in the legal sector also opt for this style of study, allowing them to keep their day job whilst expanding their legal knowledge.

It also can be an option for those who don’t want to, or are unable to relocate to another town or city in order to study at a law school campus, including international students who may wish to study the law of a foreign jurisdiction but not go abroad.

Financially a full-time LLM can be very demanding (fees need to be paid in full at the beginning of the course and you must have sufficient funds for the year’s costs, as there will be very little time to work as well), so distance learning is one way of making postgraduate study more affordable and feasible.

Main features of a distance learning LLM

A distance learning LLM, or online LLM, is generally available to all law graduates, non-law graduates or individuals with equivalent qualifications, as with the full-time and part-time study mode programmes. The concept is simple: you can study an area of law, or a specific legal topic, in depth via the use of your provider’s online resources and your own independent research.

As with a full-time or part-time LLM, assessment consists of one or two extended pieces of work, usually an essay and dissertation. The difference lies in how you participate in lectures and seminars: If you take on a taught course, you will access materials via your law school’s VLE. Online seminars and lectures are all archived, meaning you can access them at any time. This makes it all fit nicely around when you have time to study, and any potentially tricky time zone differences if you’re studying from another country.

Distance learning will mean that you are, most of the time, away from the actual university campus. Most courses will include a mandatory short induction element before the course itself begins in order to help all new students learn how to use the system. There may also be a weekend now and again where on-site attendance is necessary, however the vast majority of contact with your tutor will be via email correspondence, online seminars, or via your course’s VLE network. As a rule, there is very little face-to-face teaching time involved with distance learning/online programmes.

This type of course can take between two and five years to complete; the exact length of an individual’s course is determined by their own personal commitments and the time they are able to dedicate to their studies, and the course provider’s own deadlines.

Which subject specialisms are on offer?

Institutions across the world are really starting to embrace opportunities for distance learning courses in law. Though the list of subject specialisms currently available as online course is more limited compared to full- and part-time programmes, institutions based in the UK alone offer a varied range, and it’s highly likely distance learning LLM choices will grow in the near future. Here’s a look at some of the distance learning subjects currently offered in the UK:

  • Environmental Law
  • Human rights Law
  • Information Technology Law
  • Commercial Law
  • Employment Law
  • Computer & Communications Law
  • Health Care Ethics & Law
  • International Business Law
  • International Finance & Banking Law
  • International & Intellectual Property Law
  • Commercial Law
  • International Law
  • General LLM
  • Mental Health Law
  • Medical Law
  • International Trade & Commerce Law
  • Information Technology & Telecommunications Law
  • Food Law
  • Maritime Law
  • Oil & Gas Law
  • Computer & Communications Law

Who provides distance learning/online LLMs?

There are a handful of UK law schools currently offering this type of LLM:

  • Northumbria University
  • University of Manchester
  • University of Huddersfield
  • Aberystwyth University
  • University of Liverpool
  • University of Leicester
  • Queen Mary University
  • University of Southampton
  • University of Reading
  • University of London
  • London Metropolitan University
  • University of Central Lancashire
  • Institute of Advanced Legal Studies
  • De Montfort University
  • Robert Gordon University
  • University of Salford
  • Nottingham Trent University
  • Lancaster University
  • University of Dundee
  • University of Northampton
  • University of Law
  • Staffordshire University
  • City University

Not all subjects will be available with all of these institutions, so it’s worth doing your research.

Pros of distance learning

If the time demands and costs of full-time study are make that option unrealistic for you, then distance learning can be a great alternate way for you to pursue postgraduate study. As long as you manage to put a steady routine into place, its flexibility can allow you to continue with your job, stay in an area you need to be, and carry on tending to any other important commitments in your life. Working while you study can also make funding your course much more feasible.

Access to lectures, seminars and materials at any time you want can also be very useful as you study and progress through your course.

Cons of distance learning

There’s no hiding the fact that balancing a job and your other responsibilities with study can be tough.  You’ll have to be prepared to establish a strict work-life-study routine in order to successfully get through the course and keep up with your day job.

Distance learning will also mean you will not have access to the university environment and its benefits on a day-to-day basis. Some people can find it difficult to learn without face-to-face tutoring and the regular support network of their course peers, although any weekend sessions will still provide an opportunity to make contact with others on your course.

It’s therefore vital to think hard about how you learn best and whether this style of study will work for you, before opting for a distance learning programme.

By Jos Weale, Editor,