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The Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) as the latest way for the next generation of lawyers to get certified. Touted as a more accessible route, it will eventually replace the Legal Practice Course (LPC) for a lower price. But there are no plans to ring-fence the SQE within other postgraduate qualifications that are eligible for student loans, and without financing the cost remains unattainable for most, at around £12,000 to £16,500. So, it’s worth researching scholarships: these could fund your entire SQE, or at least make a respectable dent in the bill.
As the SQE is so new, there aren’t many specific sponsorships for it (yet). This means it’s up to you to hunt down the funding options. Set up Google alerts, email or phone university or law firm departments for their insights, ensure that you have any documents you might need as part of the application process ready to reference and jot down the deadlines!
List your relevant skills and notable experiences, so you can easily demonstrate why you should be a successful candidate. Not only does this make the application process less stressful and combat writer’s block, but it can also be used for future submissions like vacation schemes and job interviews.
Remember these grants will be competitive, and a single one is unlikely to fund the entire course, so finding funding from multiple sources is a good idea. Nevertheless, it will look outstanding on your CV: an individual who goes the extra mile to achieve their goals and – especially for career changers or those with a non-law undergraduate degree – can prove your commitment to the profession. Being a scholarship recipient will demonstrate to recruiters that you were an impressive contender pre-SQE, and they’ll want to know more about you.
In 2021, training provider Kaplan (the organisation tasked with running the SQE examinations) announced it will be launching grants to support some candidates, but hasn’t confirmed specific sums or criteria. It should be noted that this is only relates to the £3,980 required for the assessments, which are a separate charge to the tuition fees.
Unlike Student Finance, the Law Society is encompassing the SQE within its Diversity Access Scheme (DAS) to aid students from less advantaged backgrounds. The eligibility here looks at factors like free school meals, attending non-fee-paying schools, personal savings of less than £5,000 and whether parents went to university. In exceptional cases, applicants’ cultural upbringing, health issues and/or disabilities, gender identity, sexuality, race, religion and other personal factors may also be considered.
Both the full amount of tuition and exam fees can be claimed through DAS, and the submission procedure entails a 750-word essay and an interview.
BARBRI, an American legal education supplier, has introduced its own SQE Prep programmes that use online learning to keep costs relatively low at £2,999 per course (you will need to complete both the SQE1 and SQE2) and has announced three scholarships for students.
The Public Sector SQE Scholarship, worth £600, is available to those employed by/seeking employment in the public interest sector, with an annual salary capped at £45,000. The Essay Competition SQE Scholarship gives a range of grants from £1,000 - £2,999 to 10 students who can explain how they will use their legal training to make a tangible difference to people’s lives in a 1,000-word essay. Finally, the First Class Honours SQE Scholarship grants £1,500 to all graduates who achieved a first (or international equivalent) in their undergraduate degree.
The University of Law (ULaw) is also providing some financial assistance. Students undertaking the LLM Legal Practice course (which consists of SQE1 and SQE2) can apply to the Charles Russell Speechlys Scholarship, which grants one student with £5,000: you will need to have an offer of a place on the course, have attained a 2:1 in your degree, earned the highest score on ULaw’s 30-minute online assessment and meet ULaw’s Widening Participation criteria. fFinalists will then need to do a pre-recorded presentation as well as a video interview.
The individual SQE1 and SQE2 preparation courses at ULaw are currently excluded from many of the postgraduate scholarships and bursaries, so make sure you’ve checked the terms and conditions of the awards before you apply!