The median earnings of the University of Oxford’s law graduates can run up to £61,500 five years after graduating, while their peers with a law degree from the University of Bradford only earn up to £17,500, according to recently published government figures.

Based on the data, the top 10 institutions with the highest-earning law graduates include the University of Cambridge, London School of Economics, and University College London, while universities with the lowest-earning law graduates, such as the University of Bedfordshire, University of Derby, and University of Wolverhampton.

The vast difference in earnings between Oxford graduates (the highest earners) and Bradford graduates (the lowest earners) highlights the extent of the wage gap between graduates of different English universities.


Top 10 institutions with Highest-earning Law Graduates
Institution Median earnings (five years after 2008-09 graduation) Number of gradautes
University of Oxford £61,500 120
University of Cambridge £54,500 105
London School of Economics £47,500 50
University College London £47,000 55
University of Warwick £41,500 75
Durham University £40,500 75
University of Nottingham £38,000 95
University of Bristol £37,500 95
King’s College London £37,000 125
University of Manchester £35,500 135
Source: Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) data


The UK government released law graduate employment figures from its Longitudinal Education Outcomes (LEO) data as a pilot in the hopes of getting “user feedback”, but emphasised that the publication uses “experimental statistics”.

“We have chosen to pilot outcomes for law graduates as we can report outcomes for a large number of institutions,” the government reported. “Not all institutions offer all subjects; however, we are able to present employment and/or earnings outcomes for law graduates in 76 institutions.”

It plans to release a complete dataset of graduate salary data by subject in the first quarter of next year.

The report noted that differences in institution-level outcomes can be influenced by numerous factors “beyond the educational benefits provided by that institution”, including the subject mix offered, the characteristics of the student intake, and whether certain universities’ graduates participate in activities that the data overlooked, such as self-employment or working abroad.


Those in the higher education sector, however, have warned against including such data in the Teaching Excellence Framework (TEF) to measure graduate outcomes.

Maddalaine Ansell, University Alliance chief executive, said in a statement: “If used as part of TEF, [LEO data] should be benchmarked.”

“Since salary varies according to geography, subject studied and even parental income, raw earnings data should not be used to measure outcomes as part of the Teaching Excellence Framework.

“If properly contextualised to take into account local and regional labour markets, [LEO] has the potential to provide useful information for prospective students choosing courses once the time-lag issue has been addressed: currently it only includes data that are eight years out of date,” she added.


MillionPlus chief executive Pam Tatlow agreed with Ansell, saying that the use of LEO data was “extremely limited” and urged the government against using them as an additional metric for the TEF.

“LEO relies on Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs pay-as-you-earn (PAYE) data and fails to capture the full range of graduate employment patterns, including in sectors such as the creative industries, where portfolio careers and self-employment are common,” she said.

Tatlow continued: “Ministers should resist the temptation of including the LEO data as an additional metric in the TEF. Even as it stands, the LEO data provide only a very partial picture of the value of participating in higher education and have nothing to do with the quality of teaching.”

In August, graduate outcome statistics based on LEO data showed that 10 years after graduating, a quarter of the UK’s 2004 graduate cohort were low-earners, making only £20,000 annually, with median earnings at £31,000.

Image via University of Oxford

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