Education funding proposals threaten access to legal profession

Law students could be among the hardest hit if the Government continues with its plan to charge undergraduates upwards of 3,000 per year in tuition costs.

The Law Society and the Bar Council fear the proposals, which could saddle students with debts of up to 21,000, could have a terrible impact on access to the profession.

A spokesperson for the Bar Council said there was great concern over the plans outlined in the education white paper, due to be published just days after Lawyer 2B goes to press.

Predicting that the paper will “throw up many challenges” for law schools, the spokesperson said they would be keeping a close eye on the role of the “fees regulator”, a position which will be created to ensure universities admit students from poorer backgrounds.

A Law Society spokesman agreed that the prospect of increased student debt could damage its attempts to introduce a wider cross section to the prospect of a legal career.

“It’s an obstacle,” he admitted. “We’re concerned about the level of debt facing many students pursuing legal careers.”

As a 2002 survey by the Trainee Solicitors Group (TSG) revealed, law students were already likely to be burdened with debts of up to 30,000.

TSG chair Nadia Akhtar added: “The TSG has always sought to question the rising costs of legal education, and has highlighted [the fact that] increasing costs will only hinder access to the profession for those from less privileged backgrounds.”