How can I fund the SQE?
The new Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) is expected to cost graduates between £3000 and £4500. This is a considerable decrease from the £12,000-£17,000 it previously cost for taking the LPC. There are a few options for funding:
- Undergraduate degree
- Master's degree
- Qualifying work experience (QWE)
- Self funded
- Employer funding
Some universities will incorporate preparation for the SQE1 assessment into their undergraduate law degree programmes. However not all of them, so it's important to look at the various options offered when considering which degree course to take.
Your undergraduate degree will be covered by student finance in the usual way, which covers:
- tuition fees, normally £9,250 per year
- maintenance (living expenses) – this varies according to household; the average maintenance loan is about £6,800.
The SQE assessments costs are not included in the undergraduate degrees; and it is unlikely that any university will choose to include the cost of the SQE assessments in their degree programmes.
The SQE assessments costs will need to be undertaken independently and will not be covered by student finance.
Some universities will offer Master’s in Law programmes which will incorporate preparation for SQE1 and SQE2 assessments, and qualify for student finance in the usual way.
The master’s degrees currently available do not include the SQE assessment fees. While preparation for the SQE assessments is provided, the assessments themselves must be undertaken independently from the course and will not be covered by student finance.
Qualifiying work experience (QWE)
Many law firms will cover or sponsor their employees’ preparation and fees for the required SQE assessments. QWE replaces the training contract and can be completed at any point during the qualification process (although it is anticipated that most students will complete this after SQE1).
QWE may be completed with up to four different legal employers. The type of work which qualifies as QWE includes placements while studying for your degree, time spent as a paralegal or working in a law clinic, as well as working for a two year period with a single law firm.
All QWE is signed off by the legal employer, who must be a solicitor, and is usually also the compliance officer. Several firms have already announced that they will cover the cost of the qualification for their future trainees. However, an agreement should be in place with the firm before you begin the course.
Bank loans/self funded
If you’re self-funding, you may also choose to combine completing your two years’ QWE with part-time study to prepare for the SQE assessments. Some providers of SQE preparation courses have arrangements for candidates to pay in regular instalments for these types of courses.
Many employers will fund training and assessment costs for their ‘trainees’
There are two types of apprenticeships available to those wishing to become a solicitor:
- the school leaver solicitor apprenticeship
- the graduate solicitor apprenticeship (for those who already have an undergraduate degree)
As an apprentice, all your training – including any preparation for the SQE assessments – and the assessments themselves are paid for by your employer. Your employer can use the apprenticeship levy fund to help meet the costs of training, education and assessment.
You will also be paid a salary, which is set out in your employment contract. The cost of this must be met by the employer as they would for any other member of staff.
The level of salary differs depending on your age and how far you are through your apprenticeship but must be at least the national minimum wage.
Funding for SQE assessments
The SQE assessments will need to be organised and paid for independently of the options above, except where you're undertaking an apprenticeship or being sponsored by a firm.
- Apprenticeships include the SQE assessments as they are the final assessment required under the government apprenticeship standard
- Some employers will also meet the costs of the SQE assessments for their candidates
- There are some bursaries or schemes which provide funding to meet the costs of the SQE assessments when taken independently, as with the freestanding SQE preparation courses
Will there be any scholarships available?
There are a few scholarship schemes available. BARBRI offers scholarships for full or partial funding of their SQE prep courses and are both needs based and merit based. You can find more information on BARBRI prep courses and scholarships here: https://barbri-prep.com/sqe/
The Law Society also offers a scholarship scheme, called The Diversity Access Scheme (DAS) which supports talented and tenacious aspiring solicitors from less advantaged backgrounds. It provides funding, work experience and mentoring for successful applicants.
The scheme aims to overcome barriers to access law: finance, professional contacts and work experience. You can find more information on the scheme here: https://www.lawsociety.org.uk/campaigns/diversity-access-scheme
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