What are we asking for?

We are asking the Scottish Government to extend eligibility for student loans for living costs to cover the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice (DPLP) for next academic year (2012/13).

We have so far had a very positive response from our local MSPs, from all parts of the political spectrum.  Although the official line from the Scottish Government was originally  ‘no’, we understand that the matter is being looked at, so we’re grateful for the support we’ve had from both government and opposition MSPs.  For latest updates and progress, see Latest Updates.

Our position is set out in our letter to the Scottish Government but can be summarised as:

  • Whilst it is a positive change that partial fees funding will now be available to all students undertaking the DPLP, this only partially addresses the costs facing potential DPLP students. They must also find around £3,000 to top-up the loan to pay their fees and then support themselves through an academic year of extremely demanding and time-intensive vocational study. With limited opportunity to undertake part-time work, students will be forced to rely on parents or on savings whilst they study. For many from a less-advantaged background, neither of these options will be possible. Regardless of their aptitude for the legal profession, these students face a potentially insurmountable barrier.
  • We acknowledge that the legal profession itself should play a greater role in ensuring the profession is accessible to all with the ability. By extending student loans for living costs to the DPLP, the Scottish Government could make a massive contribution to overcoming this problem for those for whom self-funding is not a possibility. There are likely to be around only 600 DPLP students next year, whilst the means-testing of student loans will ensure only those who really need assistance benefit. The salary of trainee lawyers also means most loans will be repaid very shortly after completion of the DPLP. As we understand it, this change requires only an amendment to the relevant secondary legislation, so could be achieved quickly if the Government wished to do so.
  • We appreciate that this would distinguish the DPLP from other courses funded by the Postgraduate Studies Award Scheme (PSAS). But, as we understand it, the DPLP is the only PSAS-funded course that is a requirement for entry to a particular profession. This places the DPLP in the same category as other, non-PSAS, postgraduate courses, specifically the PGDE and DipSW (required for postgraduate entry to the teaching and social work professions respectively). Living costs funding is available for students on these courses. We believe that similar provision for DPLP students is justified.
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