Law, Architecture and Veterinary Professions: Student Support Compared

In his answer during themed questions in the Scottish Parliament on 31 May, Mike Russell said, of the suggestion that DPLP students should be made eligible for student maintenance loans:

We do not support similar schemes for other professions in which employment is mainly private, such as the architecture and veterinary professions, and I do not think that we should do so in the case of the legal profession.

On closer analysis, Mr Russell’s assertion about support for architecture and veterinary medicine students is wrong. As described below, both architecture and veterinary medicine do both benefit from extensions to the normal level of undergraduate support, presumably because qualification for these professions requires more than a standard four-year degree. In fact, these routes to professional qualification would still be more generously supported than law, even if the Scottish Government did agree to extend student maintenance loans to DPLP students.  And despite Mr Russell’s denials, his fellow minsters are elsewhere happy to take credit for their support for access to the veterinary profession and to commit itself to its continuance.

Architecture

As described on the SAAS website, architecture students benefit from up to six years of living costs support on the same terms as undergraduates. This includes the four years of their undergraduate degree, one year of the postgraduate diploma required to gain exemption from the professional examinations (the RIBA Part 2 exams), and one year of vocational training in an architectural practice.  The situation may be complicated by the fact that some Universities (such as Edinburgh) only offer 2 year postgraduate courses which may not attract support.  However, other institutions (such as Strathclyde) do offer a one year course.  In any event, it is clear in principle that government is willing to extend additional funding to architecture students.

There is a clear comparison between an architect’s postgraduate diploma and the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice (DPLP), so architecture represents a direct example of where students studying for relevant postgraduate professional qualifications are supported with undergraduate student loans.

Veterinary Medicine

Qualification for the veterinary profession is arranged differently from either law or architecture but also serves as an example where student support continues for longer than the standard four years of undergraduate support. In veterinary medicine, there is no requirement for a postgraduate qualification to enter the profession, instead the qualifying undergraduate degree lasts for five years, rather than four. Veterinary medicine students remain fully eligible for student support for this extra year of their undergraduate degree, meaning they benefit from five years of student maintenance loan.

The fact that all five years of the veterinary medicine qualification is classified as an undergraduate degree also has significant implications for fee costs. Scottish students have their fees for the fifth year of their study met by the government. The true cost of a year of veterinary study, as reflected in the fees for students undertaking veterinary medicine as a second degree, is well over £20,000. The government’s approach to funding veterinary qualifications shelters students from this cost.

Other Professions

Other professions supported by the government with extended living costs support are:

  • Medicine and Dentistry. Up to five years on undergraduate terms including one optional year not required for professional qualification, remaining years with living costs support provided through NHS funding.
  • Teaching. Free fees and living costs support through extended undergraduate loans for the year of the Postgraduate Diploma in Education.
  • Social work. Fee and living costs bursaries provided through SSSC, the social services regulatory body, for the year of the postgraduate Diploma in Social Work.
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