Tomorrow's barristers and solicitors will incur more debt in achieving their qualifications than any generation of legal professionals before them.
Last month BPP University law school took the dubious honour of offering the most expensive legal practice course (LPC) in England and Wales. The University will charge an eye watering £15,740 in London, and a whopping £19,070 for its Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). The schools explain away the high fees by citing high overhead costs and commercial property rents.
But as graduates already leave higher education with fee debts of £27,000 after their first degree, this raises the question of whether efforts to improve diversity will be hampered by extortionate costs.
One problem is that the group of existing top-tier providers is so small. BPP and the University of Law have most of the market sewn up. Another is that the University of Law is facing increased costs after its former private equity owners sold three pieces of prime property in London, Birmingham and York. Ultimately, the leading providers maintain that offering a high-quality course means incurring high overheads. Peter Crisp, the chief executive of the BPP law school, says that his institution’s Bar course has no more than four students per class. “We are very conscious of cost,” he says, pointing out that BPP doles out £500,000 a year in scholarships and bursaries. “But you can’t escape the fact that it is expensive to produce the best possible lawyers who have the best chance of having successful careers.