The most recent change to the solicitor qualification route sees the Solicitors Qualification Exam (SQE) replaces the long-established Legal Practice Course (LPC), introducing new queries as to the available funding options for qualification.
Unlike the LPC, qualification through the SQE doesn’t follow a course structure, but instead involves completing two exams, with the option of undertaking a SQE prep course beforehand. The structure of the new route therefore presents various cost possibilities, and funding options.
The SQE assessments, made up of two compulsory exams and both have separate costs:
These assessment fees are paid directly to Kaplan, who set the exams on behalf of the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
When thinking about the involved costs it is also important to note that the SQE2 is currently only scheduled to be held in Manchester, London, and Cardiff, which means extra travel and accommodation costs for some candidates.
The SRA also has a strict cancellation policy which should also be factored into your financial planning – if you don’t cancel within the 14-day ‘cooling-off period’ after booking your exam, you will be charged 75% of the exam fee, or 100% of the fee if you cancel less than 48 hours before the assessment.
It’s not mandatory to complete a SQE prep course – but a legal training course may increase your chances of passing the assessments.
It’s worth considering a prep course because it’s your best way to reduce the risk of having to pay to re-sit the assessments. However, the cost of a preparation course varies across providers and differs between the type of course. For example, the University of Law charges between £4,000 and £5,650 for its SQE1 prep course.
Take a look at our guide to SQE prep courses to learn more about fees.
There are a few key ways to cover the cost of SQE prep courses:
It’s possible to take out a government student loan if you choose to study a Master’s course that incorporates preparation for SQE1 and SQE2 assessments, because this means you’ll qualify for student finance. This is one of the most popular ways for students to self-fund their studies.
As a Master’s student, you’ll be eligible for a postgraduate government loan of up to £11,570 for the 2021/22 academic year and £11,836 for 2022/23.
Just be aware that you may have to pay for the assessments yourself, so you’ll need to budget for an additional ~£4,000.
If you’re considering using a postgraduate student loan to fund your SQE prep, make sure you understand whether the cost of assessments is included or not – and make sure you are clear about what the government’s Master’s loan entails.
It is also possible to fund your SQE privately by taking out a bank loan to fund your studies.
Most private loans will allow you to borrow more than a UK postgraduate loan, but the amount you can borrow and the interest rate you’ll be charged depends on your personal financial circumstances. For an option like the SQE, where you have to factor in the additional cost of the assessments, this option will allow you to cover the entire costs through a loan (if your application is approved).
As well as high street banks, there are also other lenders who specialise in lending to postgraduate law students.
Some various well-known options include:
You can complete a SQE prep course with either full-time or part-time study. This flexibility means that working while you study is a feasible option that may support you fund the SQE course and assessments.
You could also choose a distance learning prep course so that you can study virtually instead of face-to-face teaching, if you find that helps you to juggle work and learning.
Another option would be to work full-time to fund the SQE1 and then break to work study full-time. You could do the same again for the SQE2, as the two elements are not required to be completed in any succession.
There are many scholarship options available for students, from small discounts to full-fee scholarships depending on provider. It’s worth enquiring with your shortlisted prep providers to see what opportunities they have available to help you finance your studies.
You should research the following opportunities:
The vast majority (if not all) of law firms who previously sponsored students for their LPC have confirmed that they will fund the SQE course fees and the centralised assessment fees of their SQE trainees.
If you land a training contract you should have a signed, formal agreement or contract in place with the firm before you start any education or work.
A legal apprenticeship provides another avenue for funding your solicitor training. That’s because, as an apprentice, all your training – including any preparation for the SQE assessments – and the assessments themselves are paid for by your employer.
There are two types of solicitor apprenticeships available which provide the opportunity for funding:
Another benefit of choosing an apprenticeship is that you’ll be paid a salary while you’re studying. Take a look at the closed apprenticeships advertised on our website for a sense of how much previous apprenticeships have paid – and to find any open ones.
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