The University of Law is planning to launch a branch in Leeds and close in York, in a move that could double the number of course places the institution offers in the region.
Europe’s biggest law school intends to open in the centre of Leeds by September next year. The move will involve closing the university’s current branch in York, but ultimately the total student body will increase from 300 to around 600, with specific emphasis on boosting the number of undergraduate LLB places.
“We want to contribute to the continued growth and success of the thriving legal community in Leeds,’ said university president, Professor Nigel Savage. He described Leeds as having experienced a business “renaissance” in recent years and that moving into the city “would enable law firms to source high calibre law students as well as the highest quality legal training for the staff”.
The move is expected to cost the university some £1.25m, although officials anticipated there would be limited staff redundancies. Leeds is only slightly more than 25 miles from York and the university expects many existing staff will be willing to relocate.
According to the university, the move will allow it “to offer a broader range of programmes to a wider group of students”.
The announcement was greeted by leading players in the local legal sphere. John Pickering, the chief executive partner at Yorkshire-headquartered Irwin Mitchell, commented: “A buoyant legal services market needs an organisation like the university to drive innovation and prepare the next generation of young lawyers for the range of demands that they face in delivering legal services.”
Walker Morris partner Gwendoline Davies, said: “As the demand for bright young talent continues to grow, the presence of the university would play a significant role in keeping Leeds at the forefront of legal training excellence.”
The Guildford-based institution – which was granted university status last November – most recently added to its property portfolio in 2010, when it opened its ninth centre in Bristol. A year earlier it launched a Manchester branch, with Prof Savage saying the success of that opening – he claims it met its three-year business plan target only a year after unveiling – has spurred expansion plans in the north.
“We realise that the market has changed and there is a different legal services environment,” said Savage, “but we are still expecting significant growth.”
University officials said they were currently considering three Leeds city-centre venues, but would not specify details.