You are viewing information for England.  Change country or region.
Barrister going to court

Diploma of Higher Education in Law

Studying law is stimulating in its own right and will assist you in developing important academic and employability skills. You’ll acquire the legal awareness needed to understand and apply the law and start to develop your skills of legal analysis and methods. Understanding how laws are made, the importance of legal rights and duties and how law impacts upon society helps you understand society and your own role within it. You’ll be well prepared for further study, such as continuing on to complete our law degree, or career development in law, business, government, education, charitable organisations and a wide range of other public facing and regulatory roles.

Key features of the course

  • Develops your understanding of the English legal system and the role and place of law in today’s society.
  • Provides a specialist knowledge of Contract Law, the Law of Torts, Public Law and Criminal Law.
  • Helps develop key legal skills with identifying legal issues and applying legal principles
  • Can assist your career development by demonstrating your academic ability to potential employers.

A nationally recognised qualification in its own right, this diploma of higher education is also equivalent to the first two thirds of the Bachelor of Laws with Honours (LLB) (R81).

Course Summary

+Shortlist Course



  • Widely recognised qualification.
  • Equivalent to the first two thirds of an honours degree.
  • Enhance your professional and technical skills or extend your knowledge and understanding of a subject.
  • Study for interest or career development.
  • Top up to a full honours degree in just two years.
Course code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
How long it takes
Part time – 4 years
Full time – 2 years
Time limit – 12 years
Study method
Distance learning

Course details

This qualification has two stages, each comprising 120 credits.

  • You’ll start Stage 1 with an introduction to criminal law and the criminal court system and will then study tort law and the civil justice system.
  • At Stage 2, you’ll build your legal knowledge with contract law and public law as well as choosing two aspects of the law that are of particular interest.

Prepare for OU study with an Access module

We offer two starting points depending on how confident you are or how long it’s been since you last studied. Choose to dive straight in at Stage 1, or if you’d prefer some extra preparation, you can get started with an optional Access module. See Entry requirements for more details.

Stage 1 (120 credits)

You’ll begin by focusing on a range of criminal offences as well as addressing themes of law reform, human rights and issues relevant to the Criminal Justice System of England and Wales. You’ll then develop an understanding of the range of civil laws, as well as the operation of the civil justice system and explore various torts including negligence, nuisance and defamation.

We strongly advise you study one module per year. However, if you wish to study on a full-time basis you can start with W111 in October and then W112 in February 2023 enabling you to complete both modules within a year.

You'll study both of the following:
Criminal law and the courts (W111)60
Civil justice and tort law (W112)60

Stage 2 (120 credits)

You'll begin this stage by the studying law of relations between individuals and the state before learning how contracts are formed, their contractual terms and how they end. To complete this stage you'll choose two modules that focus on particular aspects of law that are of the most interest or relevance to your career.

You'll study both of the following:
Public law (W211)30
Contract law (W212)30
You’ll also study two from the following:
Business and employment law (W240)30
Evidence law (W250)30
Family law (W230)30
International, environmental and space law (W260)30
*Students who intend to progress to an LLB and aim to be a solicitor or barrister in Northern Ireland will need to study Evidence law (W250).

We regularly review our curriculum; therefore, the qualification described on this page – including its availability, its structure, and available modules – may change over time. If we make changes to this qualification, we’ll update this page as soon as possible. Once you’ve registered or are studying this qualification, where practicable, we’ll inform you in good time of any upcoming changes. If you’d like to know more about the circumstances in which the University might make changes to the curriculum, see our Academic Regulations or contact us. This description was last updated on 15 March 2022.


We make all our qualifications as accessible as possible and have a comprehensive range of services to support all our students. The Diploma of Higher Education in Law uses a variety of study materials and has the following elements:

  • studying online – online learning resources may include websites, audio/video media clips, and interactive activities such as online quizzes and tutorials
  • finding external/third party material online
  • using technology for research purposes involving access to catalogues and databases online
  • continuous and end-of-module assessment in the form of essays, short answer questions
  • using feedback: continuous assessment involves receiving detailed feedback on your work from your tutor and using this feedback to improve your performance

For more detailed information, see the Accessibility Statements on individual module descriptions. If you feel you may need additional support, visit Disability support to find more about what we offer.

Learning outcomes, teaching and assessment

This qualification develops your learning in four main areas:

  • Knowledge and understanding.
  • Cognitive skills.
  • Practical and professional skills.
  • Key skills.

The level and depth of your learning gradually increases as you work through the qualification. You’ll be supported throughout by the OU’s unique style of teaching and assessment – which includes a personal tutor to guide and comment on your work; top quality course texts; elearning resources like podcasts, interactive media and online materials; tutorial groups and community forums.

Read the detailed learning outcomes here

Credit transfer

If you’ve already completed some university-level study somewhere else, you may be able to count it towards this qualification – which could save you time and money by reducing the number of modules you need to study. At the OU we call this credit transfer.

It’s not just university study that can be considered, you can also transfer study from a wide range of professional or vocational qualifications such as HNCs and HNDs.

You should apply for credit transfer before you register, at least 4 weeks before the registration closing date. For more details and to download an application form, visit our Credit Transfer website.

On completion

On successfully completing this course, we’ll award you our Diploma of Higher Education in Law.

International recognition

If you intend to use your Open University qualifications to seek work or undertake further study outside the UK, we recommend checking whether your intended qualification will meet local requirements for your chosen career. Find out more about international recognition of Open University qualifications.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the qualification-specific regulations below and the academic regulations that are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website. 

Compare this course

Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements for this qualification.

At The Open University we believe education should be open to all, so we provide a high-quality university education to anyone who wishes to realise their ambitions and fulfil their potential.

Even though there are no entry requirements, there are some skills that you'll need to succeed. If you're not quite ready for OU study we can guide you to resources that prepare you, many of which are free.

Answer a few quick questions to check whether you're ready for study success

How much time do I need?

  • Most of our students study part time, completing 60 credits a year.
  • This will usually mean studying for 16–18 hours a week.

Find out if you have enough time to study with our time planner

Preparing for study with an Access module

Students who start their study with an Access module are more likely to be successful when they advance to Stage 1 of their qualification. They’re specially designed to give you a gentle introduction to OU study, boost confidence in your study skills, and help you gain a broad overview of your chosen subject area.

You’ll also benefit from:

  • feedback from your tutor through regular one-to-one phone tutorials
  • support from a dedicated team throughout your study
  • detailed written feedback on your work.
The Access module we’d recommend studying in preparation for this qualification is our:

People, work and society Access module

What you will study

This multidisciplinary module provides an excellent introduction to studying with The Open University; you'll get to cover a wide range of subject areas, including childhood and youth studies, social science, psychology, health, business and law.

View full details of People, work and society Access module

How much will it cost in England?

We believe cost shouldn’t be a barrier to achieving your potential. That’s why we work hard to keep the cost of study as low as possible and have a wide range of flexible ways to pay to help spread the cost.

  • Fees are paid on a module-by-module basis – you won't have to pay for the whole of your qualification up front.
  • A qualification comprises a series of modules, each with an individual fee. Added together, they give you the total cost.
  • Most OU students study part time at a rate of 60 credits a year.
  • Our current fee for 60 credits is £3,228*.
  • Our current fee for 120 credits, which is equivalent to a year's full-time study, is £6,456*.
  • At current prices, the total cost of your qualification would be £12,912*.
  • .

*The fee information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2023. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access. If your income is not more than £25,000 or you are in receipt of a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after you start studying.

Skills for career development

This qualification will provide you with a knowledge and understanding of the English legal system, including the way in which legal cases are argued and decided, and a specialist knowledge and understanding of four substantive legal areas: Contract Law, the Law of Torts, Public Law and Criminal Law. You will also develop a range of legal and other skills, including being able to identify legal issues and apply legal principles and developing your time management and self-motivation abilities.

Career relevance

The knowledge and skills you will gain from studying this diploma are recognised and highly respected by many employers. The diploma will prepare you for career development in law, business, government, education, charitable and non-governmental organisations and a wide range of other public facing and regulatory roles. Roles in finance, human resources, local government or general management all benefit from a legal background and from the discipline of studying law.

You can continue your legal studies by completing the full Bachelor of Laws with Honours (LLB) qualification and this qualification will help you with a legal career. It is necessary to complete further undergraduate legal studies successfully and meet all other requirements of the regulatory authorities in order satisfactorily to complete your training as a solicitor or barrister. Further information about future legal careers can be found in the Bachelor of Laws with Honours (LLB) qualification.

If you want to become a barrister in England and Wales, or a solicitor or barrister in Northern Ireland, you’ll need to complete the LLB within six years.

Exploring your options

Once you register with us (and for up to three years after you finish your studies), you’ll have full access to our careers service for a wide range of information and advice. This includes online forums, website, interview simulation, vacancy service as well as the option to email or speak to a careers adviser. Some areas of the careers service website are available for you to see now, including help with looking for and applying for jobs. You can also read more general information about how OU study enhances your career.

In the meantime if you want to do some research around this qualification and where it might take you, we’ve put together a list of relevant job titles as a starting point. Some careers may require further study, training and/or work experience.

  • barrister
  • barrister's clerk
  • legal executive
  • paralegal
  • company secretary
  • licensed conveyancer
  • detective
  • solicitor advice worker
  • chartered accountant
  • civil service administrator
  • patent attorney
  • trading standards officer
  • forensic computer analyst
  • mediator.

Register for this course

Start dates
Credit transfer: apply by 11/08/2022
Credit transfer: apply by 08/12/2022

Request a prospectus

Our prospectuses help you choose your course, understand what it's like to be an OU student and register for study.

Request prospectus