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Studying Law and Criminal Justice

25 October 2023

In New Zealand, studying law begins at undergraduate level. 

Our unique undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice, the Bachelor of Criminal Justice (BCJ), is the first of its kind in New Zealand. 

Undergraduate students in the UC Faculty of Law can choose to study towards either a Law degree (LLB) or towards a degree in Criminal Justice (BCJ) or both.

We also offer a undergraduate certificate in Criminal Justice (Cert CJ).


The study of law begins at undergraduate level in New Zealand. Students do not complete a Bachelor's Degree before entering Law School, as in some countries. Instead, students enter university from high school or as adult students and begin a programme of study in Law from the first year. The Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree, which has been offered at the University of Canterbury since 1877, can be completed in four years. The LLB is the qualification required to be admitted as a lawyer.

Criminal Justice involves understanding the law and psychology behind crime, its causes and the treatment of convicted offenders.

Industry recognised qualifications

Today, the programme of study towards an LLB is prescribed and carefully monitored for quality by an independent body, the New Zealand Council for Legal Education.

To be eligible for admission as a Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court, a candidate must have graduated with an LLB degree, have passed a course in Legal Ethics and must have completed a Professional Studies course approximately 13 weeks long. Admission as a Barrister and Solicitor of the High Court in New Zealand is recognised internationally.

UC is the only university in Aotearoa that offers you a degree in criminal justice with innovative practical teaching. UC also shares close links with the police and justice sector.


Neither the LLB nor BCJ degrees require students to have a background in any specific subject at school, and entry into the first year is open to all students with University Entrance. Students considering undertaking an LLB or BCJ or both are, however, encouraged to study subjects at school which will enhance their reading, writing and analytical skills.

Entry into second year LLB courses (as is the case in most NZ Law Schools) is subject to limited entry based on first year results, and students are advised in their first semester as to how to apply for admission into second year law.

Students undertaking the LLB will receive a challenging and high-quality education. Most LLB student choose to broaden their studies by undertaking a double degree (for example in Criminal Justice, Commerce, Arts or Science) which not only complements their law degree but also enhances their future employability.

BCJ students will be able to look at criminal justice through a wide lense, giving you a strong foundation in understanding how criminal justice in society works in Aotearoa and internationally. You will also gain research skills in your area of interest in policing and the justice system.

Career-ready graduates

For LLB students there are opportunities to focus on practical skills, through internships and community engagement, including volunteering with Community Law Canterbury or in the UC Clinical Legal Programme. Law students are also encouraged to enter law competitions: mooting, client interviewing, negotiation and witness examination, and UC teams are highly competitive at national and international competitions.

The criminal justice programme prepares graduates for a varied career, enabling mobility across roles, agencies, and public and private sectors. 

Our criminal justice and law academics have real life experience - they work closely with employers to ensure that their courses deliver outcomes in demand in the real world.

Interested in studying Law or Criminal Justice at UC?

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