Option one: a training contract
The ideal situation, as a lot of aspiring lawyers are well aware, is to secure a training contract before you even start the GDL. Trainees get their GDL and Legal Practice Course (LPC) funded by their future firm, relieving the financial burden and giving you more time to focus on your studies.
The catch is the sheer difficulty of getting a training contract. With around 30,000 people applying for 5,500 training contracts per year, the odds are not in your favour. This fact alone is how many students find themselves asking: “How am I going to afford the GDL?”
Option two: an integrated course
Fortunately, universities and course providers have devised their own solutions to make the GDL more affordable. This generally takes the form of a masters programme integrated with all of the elements of the GDL. Unlike GDLs, masters degrees are eligible for Student Finance postgraduate loans, but like GDLs they include the core modules needed to progress to further legal training. So if you’ve decided to embark on the GDL under your own financial steam, a masters degree—and the corresponding loan—could help to take the edge off the expenses.
Option three: a part-time course
There is also the option to do the GDL as a part-time, distance-learning or even weekend/evening course. It’s an intense undertaking however you decide to do it, so definitely make sure that this suits your style of learning. The major benefit from a financial perspective is the free time a part-time course gives you—when you’re not studying, you can take on a part-time job. A lot of students opt to work in the legal sector while studying, which will be a great asset when it comes to your training contract applications.
Option four: scholarships and bursaries
If you’re determined to self-fund the GDL and want to complete it as soon as possible, there are lots of bursaries and scholarships out there. From independent legal scholarships to those affiliated with a particular theme or institution, it’s possible to get a range of options together and use them simultaneously to pay your course fees and living expenses. A lot of scholarships and bursaries do have deadlines, so if you want to explore this option, the earlier the better.
If all else fails…
If none of the above options appeal to you—and only as an absolute last resort—you could consider getting a private bank loan. This is never ideal and entering any sort of debt should not be taken lightly. Do your research and weigh up the different loans out there, and make sure you only enter into a loan if or when you’re comfortable. If you aren’t comfortable with it, there’s always the opportunity to re-apply for training contracts, seek an integrated masters or go part-time.