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Majority of law school websites don’t mention SQE, research finds

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Only 8% give some detail about new course provision

Prospective law students approaching the UCAS cycle for autumn 2021 entry and curious to know how law schools are responding — or not — to the new solicitor super-exam need look no further.

One law lecturer has compiled research based on 119 UK law schools to see what they say about the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE).

The SQE is due to come into force from 1 September 2021 — phasing out the traditional routes to qualification under the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) and Legal Practice Course (LPC). It will be split into two stages, with the first SQE1 sit just over a year away.

Dr Andrew Gilbert last month visited the websites of all the institutions on the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) list of QLD providers.

He found the majority of law schools, 61%, make no mention of the SQE on their websites.

A further 14% of websites mention the SQE with varying levels of detail, according to Gilbert, from a “single sentence to multiple paragraphs and sometimes with a link to the SRA website”, but without reference to the institution’s law courses. This means that three-quarters of websites do not currently indicate that the SQE will have any impact on law courses offered from autumn 2021, the study finds.

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Of the remaining quarter, 17% state the SQE will affect future course provision but include “no detailed information about the substance of changes and/or when they will take place”; and 8% of websites give some detail about new course provision in response to the SQE.

Gilbert found that most references are to the SQE generally, but where specific reference is made it tends to be to SQE1, with only three websites explicitly mentioning SQE2.

Commenting on the findings, Gilbert said:

“It’s reasonable to assume that some law schools are planning curriculum changes in response to the SQE and these are awaiting formal approval, and there is also evidence that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected institutional timelines. I speculate that there are other institutions which are biding their time to see what others do before finalising their own offerings. It seems likely that websites will be updated in the coming months as more law schools unveil their plans for 2021.”

Gilbert also checked out the websites of the SRA’s list of SQE training providers. At the time the research was conducted, the list contained 41 entries, of which 15 also appeared on the QLD list. Of the 26 not on the QLD list, Gilbert found six state they will be offering SQE training but details are “limited at present”, and a further two provide detailed information for their SQE1 and SQE2 prep courses, including course length and actual or estimated course fees.

The SQE is yet to be formally approved by the Legal Services Board. A decision is expected at the end of the month.

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