The College of Law had been incorporated by royal charter as a charity in 1975, but in 2012, prior to the granting of university status, its educational and training business was split off and incorporated as a private limited company. This became The College of Law Limited and later The University of Law Limited. The college was granted degree-awarding powers in 2006, and in 2012 changed its name to The University of Law (ULaw) when it became the UK's first for-profit educational institution to be granted university status.
The coat of arms of the College of Law of England and Wales was depicted with the mottoLeges Juraque Cognoscamus ("Let us know the laws and rights"). The crest was deprecated when the institution became a private limited company.
The college was created in its legal form by Royal Charter on 5 December 1975. It was registered as a charity on 24 May 1976, with the aim "to promote the advancement of legal education and the study of law in all its branches". Until the transfer of its training business to The College of Law Limited in 2012, The College of Law was in the top 100 of UK charities ranked by expenditure.
Following the recommendations of the Ormrod Report on the reform of legal education in England and Wales, The Law Society submitted proposals in 1975 for a 36-week Final Examination course for aspiring solicitors and a Common Professional Examination (CPE) or law conversion course for non-law graduates to be taught at The College of Law. The first CPE was held in 1978. The number of institutions approved to deliver the CPE gradually increased until by 2006 the BPP Law School and 27 universities, most of them former polytechnics, were also running the course. However, the leading providers of the CPE (now called the Graduate Diploma in Law) remained The College of Law and BPP Law School, whose enrollments still "dwarfed" those of the universities in 2010.
In the 1980s, The Law Society asked the college to produce a scheme for additional tuition in accounts for articled clerks (now trainee solicitors), combining distance learning with one-day's attendance at lectures. Further distance learning courses were developed in a partnership with the Open University beginning in 1998. The Guildford campus of the college also established the Fresh Start distance learning course for solicitors returning to practice after a career break or those wishing to change their specialisation.
The 1990s saw a change in the relationship between The Law Society and The College of Law. In 1994, Nigel Savage, then the dean of Nottingham Trent University's law school, called for a review of the link between the college and The Law Society which had eight of its council members on the college's board of governors. Savage suggested that this gave the college an unfair advantage in recruiting students to the Legal Practice Course which had been set up The Law Society in 1993 to replace the Final Examination course. The society also regulated the course and determined which institutions would receive a licence to deliver it. He proposed that the college should either "come clean" about the relationship and declare itself the official college of The Law Society or sever the link and become completely independent. The college subsequently severed the link, and The Law Society stopped appointing college governors. Savage went on to become the president and CEO of The College of Law in 1996 and served in that capacity for the next 18 years.
The college was granted degree-awarding powers by the Privy Council in 2006, leading to development of its Bachelor and Master of Laws degree programmes. The London Moorgate centre was also opened that year. According to the University of Law, the Moorgate centre is the UK's largest corporate-specific law school.
Logo while known as The College of Law and first used in this form in 2011
In 2012, The College of Law underwent a major restructuring. The College of Law Limited was created as a private limited company to take on its educational and training business. The parent charity changed its name to the Legal Education Foundation. In April of that year, Montagu Private Equity agreed to buy The College of Law Limited for approximately £200 million. On 22 November 2012, it was announced that the college had been granted full university status and its name would be changed to "The University of Law". Shortly thereafter, Montague Private Equity completed the acquisition process. This raised questions about the legality of transferring the degree-awarding powers granted under royal charter to the original College of Law to the newly created company, and then selling that company, now with university status, to a for-profit provider. The UK Department for Business, Innovation and Skills explained that while degree-awarding powers cannot be transferred, when a whole institute changes its legal status, the powers remain with it. This was considered to be the case with The University of Law because all of the original College of Law's education and training business had been transferred to the for-profit college, and the activities remaining with the chartered body were not related to the degree-awarding powers. Dame Fiona Woolf was named the newly created university's first chancellor in 2013.
The university began selling off its property portfolio on a leaseback basis in 2014, starting with the four buildings of its Bloomsbury campus. According to analysis of the university's accounts earlier that year by the Times Higher Education Supplement, the purchase by Montagu Private Equity in 2012 had loaded the university with £177m of debt. Critics had compared the purchase by Montagu Private Equity to the leveraged buyouts of Premier League clubs in English football. At the time, The University of Law's ultimate parent company was L-J Holdco Ltd., which was incorporated in Guernsey and majority owned by Montagu-managed funds.
In June 2015, Montagu Private Equity sold the university to Global University Systems (GUS) for an undisclosed sum. Former UK Education and Employment Secretary and Home Secretary David Blunkett, at the time a visiting lecturer at the London School of Business and Finance (also owned by Global University Systems), was named chairman of the board. The University of Law announced the launch of its De Broc School of Business in July 2015, but it had to defer the first intake of students (originally planned for September of that year) due to low student recruitment.[a]
The summer of 2015 also saw a restructuring of the university's governance. The provost, Andrea Nollent, also assumed the role of Chief Academic Officer. John Latham, who had been its CEO and president since 2014 and had overseen the sale of The University of Law to Global University Systems, resigned by "mutual consent". The office of president became a non-executive position and was assumed by Lord Grabiner. David Johnston, the former chief operating officer, took over as CEO. Johnston was subsequently replaced as CEO by economist Stelios Platis in April 2016. In turn, Platis stepped down in October 2016 and was replaced by Andrea Nollent, who serves as both CEO and Vice-Chancellor.
The Open University's courses in Law (including the LL.B by distance learning) were offered in association with The University of Law. However, the Open University announced in a 2013 press release that this partnership was being phased out and would end completely in 2018.
In 2015, ULaw established a one-year foundation programme for international students wishing to progress to undergraduate legal study in the UK.
The university opened an international branch in Hong Kong in 2019, which operates out of a serviced office. The Christleton (Chester) campus has been sold in 2019 and will only remain in use until summer 2021.
^Law Notes (1981). "Lord Widgery". Vol. 100, No. 9, p. 226. Quote: "Lord Widgery never lost touch with his legal roots: he maintained contact with his former colleagues at Gibson's and subsequently with the College of Law."