Articles From the Team

The accelerated degree plan, will future lawyers be behind the curve?

The Department for Education have published a consultation on whether there should be an accelerated degree programme for higher education students in order to “save students money, time and get them earning in the workforce sooner”. A critic could agree that the real reasons are in order to save the government money, time and get students into the tax system quicker. The proposal is for an accelerated degree to take 2 years instead of 3.

Typically it seems that the changes to the student financial eco system (where interest rates on loans have reached exorbitant levels, tuition fees are through the roof and debts are unlikely to ever be paid off) are starting to bite the government where it hurts. The vast sell off of the student loan book, far below their net asset value, to sophisticated investors (read as pensions and hedge funds) seems a strange approach and arguably, as ever, is socialising the losses onto the tax payer whilst privatising the profits.

Another side effect of course, which has been highlighted by the Law Society’s Junior Lawyers Division (JLD), is that the legal professional may turn into a ‘two-tiered’ profession if students are not given time to take part in ‘crucial’ work experience schemes during holidays, In essence the JLD said proposals could result in ‘increased and additional work’ for those on the fast track programme, meaning they may not have the time to apply for that crucial work experience.

Indeed the overall response from the JLD said that although it supported the idea in principle, ‘there is ’a long way to go to get this proposal constructed into an acceptable form.’

The JLD, which represents law students up to those with five years of post-qualification experience, added that the proposals could also impact academics.

In its response, the division says academics are not just lecturing but often conducting research or working as well, enabling them to stay at the forefront of their particular specialisms.

‘With accelerated degrees, and less time outside of the academic programme, lecturers may not be able to balance the two or they may have to give up one or the other,’ the response warned.

It added that the proposals could see the three-year degree route ditched altogether as the complexities of running a three-year and a two-year degree alongside each other may mean universities move toward only offering two year degrees, especially if it proves to be more economical.

The government’s consultation closes this month.

My personal fear is that students will reach the age of 20 having been thrashed and put through exam after exam and will have learned very little about life, which is of course the most important learning point of all.

For more information please contact Mike Huggins at BCL Legal.


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