The University of Law (ULaw) has launched a new initiative promising graduates half their tuition fees back in cash if they fail to land a job nine months after completing their studies. ULaw is the largest legal training provider in the UK and it works with with 90 of the top 100 law firms. These sort of links are said to bring a wealth of expertise and experience to student learning. The scheme will apply to students beginning the Legal Practice Course (LPC) in July or September this year. This is the first initiative of its kind to offer a “money back” deal.
The scheme falls under The University of Law’s ‘employability promise’ for 2016 and the ‘100% for You’ initiative. Given that LPC fees can cost up to £15,200 in some areas of the country, unemployed graduates could gain up to £7,600 back from the university. What’s more, those that study the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), which can cost up to a staggering £19,00, would also receive a 50% discount. ULaw describes that students will be placed firmly at the heart of this “market-changing” new vision for “student success”.
“More than just a degree, today’s students want a clear return on their investment. For law graduates, this means one thing: securing a training contract or a job upon graduation. Our position as the preferred training provider to over 30 major law firms and our experience in training highly skilled law practitioners give us the confidence and the assurance that our graduates will be in employment within nine months,” states University of Law CEO David Johnston.
Nevertheless, the launch of this scheme has occurred in the midst of the post-Brexit climate in which the law sector is predicted to face uncertainty. For instance, before the referendum, it was reported that half of the top graduate employers in the UK threatened to slash their recruitment intake if the UK left the European Union. These graduate employers argued that recruitment would need downscaling if businesses and the economy were faltering and if a reverse of Article 50 led to a lower talent pool of EU graduates for jobs.
Legal Cheek has criticized the small print of this ‘half price’ deal, reporting that the small print excludes “part-time” workers such as those working as paralegals, but have not yet secured a training contract. Equally, employers have questioned how the university will monitor and classify being “out of work”. Likewise, the utility of enrolling students onto the discounted postgraduate courses has been questioned as most law firms insist that masters qualifications fail to improve chances of gaining training contracts or to compensate for previously poor grades. Students currently studying at ULaw have also expressed their disagreements, questioning why candidates unsuccessful at gaining a job should pay half as much as those who are successful.
This initiative is a clear demonstration of confidence in their employability results, which was marked at an impressive 97% from their own figures in 2014. However, this figure also indicates that only three out of every 100 students would qualify for this refund, a number unlikely to “shake-up” the legal training sector as they stated it would.
By Nina Harris