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LPC students unhappy about return to in-person exams

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Exclusive: SRA has told legal education providers to revert to face-to-face assessments

A number of law students have criticised what they describe as The University of Law’s (ULaw) “sudden” decision to revert back to in-person exams now that lockdown restrictions have been lifted.

Up until Friday, students on the accelerated Legal Practice Course (LPC) at ULaw Moorgate tell us they were given a choice between in-person and remotely proctored exams.

But now they tell us the exams, which are less than three weeks away, have switched from online and typed to in-person and handwritten. Legal Cheek has been told the “last minute” change has apparently caused “huge levels of distress” for some students.

ULaw says it empathises with students but is bound by rules set out by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

An email sent to students last week and seen by Legal Cheek, informed them that since coronavirus restrictions have been lifted, the “default position” is now that exams for solicitors’ accounts, dispute resolution, and business, will be held in-person on campus, “except in certain limited circumstances”.

The limited circumstances include, for example, where students are in isolation from or vulnerable to Covid-19, or where they are in countries where travel to and from the UK is restricted, according to the email.

Some students claim the switch has “disadvantaged” those who have prepared for months for online exams. Recent mock exams were completed online “rendering the experience far less useful and reflective” of the real assessments.

“Most of us have not completed a written paper since summer ’19,” one disgruntled student told Legal Cheek.

Universities across the country moved to remote teaching and assessment when the nation plunged into lockdown at the start of last year. It has not been without hiccups, with reports detailing the technical difficulties encountered by students.

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Law schools have been accommodating (insofar as the SRA allows), switching to open book exams for the LPC.

A ULaw spokesperson told Legal Cheek:

“We empathise with our students who have undoubtedly had to embrace a great number of changes as we have navigated through the pandemic. As a university we are bound by SRA regulations. Following our representations, the SRA confirmed that, with the lifting of national Covid restrictions, all providers would need to revert to face-to-face assessments on campus, subject to limited exceptions. We will continue to support our students however we can.”

An SRA spokesperson said: “We allowed remote assessments in response to the Covid-19 restrictions. With those restrictions no longer in place, we have said providers should revert to face-to-face assessments, except in exceptional circumstances.”

In May, the SRA made clear that law schools are able to provide remote LPC assessments on a permanent basis so long as they meet regulatory requirements.

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