Cost rise comes despite delays and technical issues affecting January results day
Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) fees are set to increase this year, the regulator has confirmed.
SQE1 will go up from £1,558 to £1,622 and SQE2 from £2,422 to £2,493. That’s an extra £135 for candidates sitting both assessments, with any prep course fees on top.
The rise will come into effect for anyone booking SQE2 in October 2022 and subsequent assessments, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) announced yesterday in a bulletin.
“This below-inflation increase will pay for SQE assessment developments such as remote proctoring arrangements,” the bulletin said. “This was an additional requirement following the Covid-19 pandemic, which could be deployed if there were widespread test centre closures, or major restrictions on international travel impacting a large number of candidates.”
The SQE officially went live on 1 September 2021, becoming the new route to qualify as a solicitor in England and Wales.
Since then the SRA’s new qualifying regime has encountered a few bumps in the road.
SQE1 results day in January was marred by technical glitches, data issues and delays, resulting in some students finding out whether they had passed or failed late into the evening and some receiving other candidates’ scores. Just over half (53%) of students made the grade, leading some law school leaders to question the “low” pass mark. Further, the regulator found there to be differences in success rates between ethnic groups: some 65% of white candidates passed SQE1, compared to 43% Asian and 39% Black candidates.
A month later Legal Cheek reported that some students faced wait times of up to two hours when attempting to book sittings for SQE2.
In other SQE-related news, the first SQE2 exams are due to get underway this month. More than 770 candidates will complete written assessments in 90+ test centres across the UK and abroad, the regulator confirmed, whilst the oral exams will take place in London, Manchester and Cardiff. The results for this exam sitting will be available from late August.
The Law Society has responded to news of the price increase.
“We understand that businesses and institutions across England and Wales are increasing their fees because of inflation,” said president I. Stephanie Boyce in a statement. “But we are concerned about what this could mean for aspiring solicitors from lower socio-economic backgrounds, especially at a time when we know the cost of living is due to skyrocket again in October.
“It was hoped that the SQE would increase social mobility. However, with rising costs and a lack of loans for those who need them, this aim looks less achievable,” Boyce continued. “We repeat our call to the UK government to provide access to funding for those wishing to take the SQE to ensure everybody has the same opportunities and choices available to them regardless of background.”