Welsh wannabe lawyers unable to obtain vital student funding just weeks before law school starts

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By Thomas Connelly on

And their government is being blamed

Welsh law students hoping to cross the border and enrol at one of BPP or the University of Law’s (ULaw) English campuses next month are currently unable to obtain student funding.

As things stand English wannabe lawyers are able to apply for a low interest loans to help cover the cost of their legal studies through Student Finance England (SFE). However, it has emerged that Welsh law students (the vast majority of whom have already accepted offers to study in England) are currently unable to access the same level of financial support through Student Finance Wales (SFW).

One Welsh student, hoping to start her LLM in England this September, told Legal Cheek:

There are other [finance] sources available, but the repayment scheme for Student Finance is by far the most favourable. It means Welsh students are being treated differently to English students.

So what’s the problem? Well, like many government-backed organisations, it appears to be excessive red tape. A spokesperson for the Student Loans Company (SLC) told us:

The Welsh government is responsible for administering and assessing specific designation applications from providers. Only when they provide confirmation to SLC that a course has been designated can SFW make student finance available to students.

Meanwhile, BPP assured Legal Cheek it had already applied and was awaiting a response from the the Welsh government. A spokesperson said:

We understand that such applications from alternative providers will take around three months for a decision. We regret that this is impacting negatively on students wishing to join us in September and want to offer assurances that we are doing our utmost to achieve a resolution to this obstacle.

We received a similar response from ULaw, with a spokesperson telling us:

We have submitted our applications and are awaiting final confirmation on the outcome from the Welsh government. Where we have been aware of students that are impacted by these delays we have been in regular contact and kept them up to date with progress.

The Welsh government has issued this statement on the matter:

The Welsh Government is pleased that it is able to make postgraduate support available for the first time in the 2017/18 academic year for students from Wales. Administrative arrangements have been made as swiftly as possible to ensure that courses may be designated for the purpose of providing support to students commencing courses this year.

Unfortunately for Welsh lawyer hopefuls, it would appear the waiting game continues.

The news follows the introduction of several new law courses by BPP and ULaw specifically that allow student loan eligibility. In April, BPP unveiled two new solicitor and barrister focused LLM programmes, while ULaw introduced a new Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and LLM combo late last year. Both qualify for around £10,000 in financial support.

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