In March 2015, the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills published a consultation on postgraduate study, student loans and other support.
In particular it was seeking views on proposals to introduce loans for postgraduate taught master’s degrees and to improve support for research students.
The JLD has responded to the consultation as there are clear implications for those considering a career in law.
The JLD welcomes the government’s proposal to provide support for postgraduate studies. This support will be incredibly beneficial to law students seeking to embark on a career in law, particularly where they are unable to rely on parental support. This once again shows the government’s commitment to social mobility - a passion which the JLD shares.
We responded to this consultation to provide context to legal education, and bring out some specific considerations for which we would be grateful for further information.
It is clear that a Master of Laws (LLM) is a postgraduate taught master’s programme, which would fall within the scope of the proposed course eligibility in the consultation. Individuals who are considering an LLM will therefore, prima facie, be eligible for the postgraduate loan.
Several educational institutions are starting to provide a joint LLM alongside the Legal Practice Course (LPC). Currently, the LPC is a key requirement for junior lawyers prior to qualifying as a solicitor.
Our assumption is that the joint LLM-LPC programme will also be eligible for the postgraduate loan, but we would seek clarification from the government on this. We would submit that it is in the interests of students for the postgraduate loan to be available for joint LLM-LPC courses, as it is an efficient course for students to obtain both an academic qualification, as well as the required professional qualification.
We would also welcome clarification from the government on whether the stand-alone LPC will be eligible for the postgraduate loan. Our understanding is that the stand-alone LPC will be considered an ‘other postgraduate course’ or ‘OPG’ and therefore will not be eligible for the postgraduate loan.
In addition to the above, we are concerned by the proposal to limit the postgraduate loan to individuals under the age of 30. Despite our review of annex 5 of the consultation document, the JLD believes that there should not be an age restriction on loan eligibility.
It is very common in the current legal market for individuals above this age to enter the profession, and we would imagine this is similar in other professions.
The JLD recommends the government to remove the age requirement on loan eligibility as this is prejudicial to principles of equality and ensuring that any individual can have the option of completing a postgraduate master’s course to further their career and education.