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Law Society calls on government to fund SQE loans as over 1,000 students enrol for first exam

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New route likely to cost more than £20k, professional body warns

The Law Society of England and Wales has called on the government to fund loans for students taking the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE).

In its submission to the Treasury ahead of the 2021 spending review and autumn budget, the Society warned that the costs of SQE exams and prep courses are likely to add up to more than £20,000. This figure does not include any costs students might incur for travel and accommodation.

“We are concerned that candidates from less privileged backgrounds will face a significant barrier to entry to the legal profession, with consequences for the diversity of the profession,” the Society said.

It also warned that the cost of the SQE could have implications for the government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda. “[W]hile City law firms will be able to continue covering the costs of qualification for their trainees, as they do currently, the smaller firms that dominate in small and medium-sized towns will not have the money to do likewise,” it continued. “These regional firms’ ability to attract talented individuals and create good quality, high value, professional jobs in their local areas will come under threat.”

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The Society recommended the introduction of a publicly funded loan scheme for SQE candidates, similar to the ‘professional career development’ loans that were available to students on the Legal Practice Course before the scheme’s discontinuation.

“There are a number of different avenues for achieving this — whether by extending an existing scheme, such as the ‘advanced learner loans’ scheme, or by creating a bespoke product — and we are open to working with the government to identify the most appropriate solution,” the Society added.

The recommendation comes after the Solicitors Regulation Authority said 1,155 students had signed up to take the first ever SQE exam next month. The majority of the candidates (74%) are taking the assessment in the UK, with the remainder doing so overseas.

The next budget, along with the conclusions of the 2021 spending review, will be held on 27 October. The SQE officially came into force on 1 September this year.

The 2022 Legal Cheek SQE Provider List

15 Comments

James

SQE exam seems quite difficult for low income grads. It should be exempt for law grads!

BPP Shareholder

All aboard the government-subsidised dollar train, choo-choo!

The Voice Of The People

Goodness me, if this state of affairs wasn’t so sad it would be a rather funny parody.

As someone that was on the receiving end of a professional career loan, I can tell
you first hand the anxiety and concern of finishing a professional qualification with the bank breathing down your neck. In an industry as competitive as law, when repayments become due and you don’t have the means to pay them without a job, you are forced to… you guessed it… get a job. The likelihood is this usually isn’t in law.

Widening access to the profession means dropping the cost across the board, I have watched with disdain seeing the preparation costs gradually increase and increase from the providers. In a few years it will basically be on par with the LPC.

I wish the Law Society would do something useful and take ownership of the problem – perhaps by using their considerable incomes to collate an industry leading set of practitioners, academics and tutors to create the perfect preparatory materials that could be entirely digitised and made available at a very affordable rate for prospective lawyers.

This provides access to opportunity for all, then only the best performing are selected, as is fair. For those that are ambitious that do not make it, they are also not crippled by further debts, nor is the public purse for that matter.

But of course, that won’t happen.

Why?

Because it seems that the whole world is built around protecting and enshrining existing privilege, and keeping rich business partners… well rich.

Again, that’s the status quo the world over – but don’t insult the collective intelligence of the industry and prospective students by suggesting it is anything but.

The Voice Of The People

Also – if you are reading this dear reader and happen to one day find yourself in a position of power and influence in such a dinosaur institution, for the love of all things holy (and my own sanity) please wedge the opportunity door open for those that will follow – and firmly!

I'm shocked, I tell you, shocked!

“the costs of SQE exams and prep courses are likely to add up to more than £20,000.”

£20k being the rough cost of the LPC.

From the SRA’s website justifying the introduction of the SQE:

“There remain only a handful of professions in the UK that are built on a system of qualification where candidates are precluded to the same extent by financial means, or by their willingness to engage in high levels of borrowing at significant personal risk. Increased competitive pressures are likely to be introduced by the SQE, with an expectation this will drive down costs, potentially lowering this financial barrier for trainees.”

Lolm

Erm LPC is 17k at most, so SQE is more when it was supposedly meant to be cheaper and the future!

Infoguy

It’s not. Sqe 1 from babri costs £3000.00
Exam fee is £1500
Sqe 2 course costs £3500
Exam fee is £2500

Eddie the Future Expat

Lmao this is the state of the UK in a nutshell. Decrepit, overtaxed, overpriced and budget value. And it’s only going to get worse my friends.

What an utter sh*thole, thank god I’m leaving 😂

There are alternatives…

If the SQE is so prohibitive why not take the CILEx route? Or an apprenticeship? There are many routes into the profession which cost very little and as such are more likely to be funded, even by the smaller firms.

Sigh

Though the whole point of SQE was that it was meant to be cheaper than LPC and therefore more accessible…..

k

wtf will i wanna do cilex?

Studen

If you’ve already started cilex like me and paid the fees you’ll be instantly regretting it lol

Anonymous

The SQE costs under £4k and is split into a cheaper SQE1 chunk then a second SQE2 chunk if you pass the first one and choose to continue.

There are courses advertised for a few thousand and not everyone will need to complete formal training.

There are courses which take monthly instalments from people’s salaries.

There are LLB and LLM courses which integrate SQE prep and are eligible for “standard” government funding.

More apprenticeships are popping up for people to earn while they learn.

Some firms are expected to pay for the SQE if people complete a longer period of qualifying work experience with them, which will presumably also be paid.

But TLS has calculated that the SQE will cost £20k? If someone is stupid enough to pay over £16k for a standalone prep course without sufficient income of their own and/or financial support, then they really can’t be helped by Government debt.

Sorry, I mean Government funding.

Dr Giles Proctor

At The College of Legal Practice, we fully support any initiative, including loans, that will help support students preparing for the SQE, in line with our commitment to increasing access to the profession. We are fully behind this call for further funding support.

However, we believe legal training providers have a duty to consider the barriers they create in accessing preparation course for the SQE, largely through cost. The SQE is intended to reduce barriers to the profession and we would like providers to consider how preparation for a central gateway assessment like the SQE, which replaces the outgoing vocational LPC training regime, still attracts the level of fees charged for the LPC. Students must come first here.

Mina

I’m not sure where they got the 20k figure from?

The SQE1 exam is £1500 and the SQE3 exam fee is £2500. There are lots of prep courses with varying prices and they are not compulsory…

Could you clarify where you got the 20k figure from? That is misleading…

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