Over the past few months there has been huge uproar from students all over the country following the unveiling of the Coalition Government’s controversial plans for university funding.
The front pages of newspapers have been splattered with incensed protesting students and violence against the police. As a student myself it would make sense that I join the masses and campaign against this new policy. But I won’t.
I am now studying for my AS Levels with a view of studying law at university, much like many of you I am sure, and eventually working as a barrister.
The initial shock that came when people opened their newspapers to see the headlines “Tuition Fees Rise” is understandable, as for many the dreams of studying at university seem to be slipping away. But here is where the trouble arises. Attention to the detail of the articles diminishes so that people do not learn that this is not a death sentence. Indeed, it is arguably beneficial.
Under the new policy no one need pay their tuition fees upfront, and they only begin to pay back their loans if and when they earn over £21,000, and even then, the repayment scheme results in only small amounts being paid back each month. As the icing on the cake, if the debt is not paid off after thirty years it is written off, regardless of how much still remains to be paid back. Not only does this potentially make university more accessible to the students from less well off backgrounds, but £150m is now being invested in a National Scholarships Programme.
But for as aspiring lawyers, there is more cause for concern. According to the Law Society, most solicitors qualify by studying law as a first degree and then spending a year on the Legal Practice Course (LPC). Coupled with the increased tuition fees and the LPC, which costs between £6,000 and £10,000, the amount of debt can seem daunting, and the same goes for barristers who can spend up to £30,000 on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) when including living expenses.
However, these expenses were already in place and problematic before the tuition fees rose. In fact, the new scheme ensures that when an individual earns over £21,000 they have lower monthly payments to make than they did when repaying the graduate tax, with most graduates being £540 better off a year.
In contend that aspiring lawyers from poorer backgrounds may indeed find that some law firms’ recruitment policies are greater hurdles than the tuition fees.
And apparently I am not alone in my thinking. A survey taken by nearly 2,000 students on the College’s Graduate Diploma in Law, LPC and BPTC in September 2010 showed that two thirds of law students are in favour of tuition fees rather than a graduate tax (although only a quarter would like to pay over £5,000 per year) believing that cuts to public spending are necessary to reduce the country’s economic difficulties.
In the ideal world university education would be free for everyone but unfortunately the world isn’t ideal.