Response from the Scottish Government

Today, we received a reply from the Scottish Government Higher Education and Learner Support Division to our letter asking for the introduction of living cost loans for DPLP students.

I have pasted the full text below for anyone who is really keen to plough through two pages of stuff that’s mostly irrelevant to what we asked (and arguably does not make much sense either). However, the key line is: there are no plans to re-introduce the living costs support for DPLP students. The only justification given is: the Scottish budget faces real and significant long term cuts in coming years and tough decisions have had to be made to prioritise spending.

You can judge for yourself but, to me, there appears to be little serious engagement with the issues raised. Our next step is to go back to the local MSPs to see if they can put any pressure on the government. If anyone wants to write to their own MSP on the issue, please do so! Feel free to borrow bits from (or use entirely) the letter we wrote to the Scottish Government.

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PDF Version: Scottish Government Response to Initial Letter

Thank you for your letter of 21 February to Mr Michael Russell, Cabinet Secretary for
Education and Lifelong Learning, regarding the availability of student loans for living costs to
cover the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice students in academic year 2012/13. As a
member of the Higher Education and Learner Support Division Mr Russell has asked me to
thank you for your letter and to reply on his behalf.

The Law Society has demonstrated its commitment to widening access to the legal
profession to students from diverse backgrounds. However, concerns have been raised
both by students and HEIs that the Society still continued to assess “academic merit”, the
measure for allocation of the 300 PSAS funded DLP places, largely based on professional
subjects which the law students study in 1st or 2nd year of their undergraduate degrees.
There is some evidence that students from those lower income backgrounds take longer to
settle into university and do not start to “perform” to their full potential until 3rd or possibly 4th
year. It seems then to work against these students to measure their “merit” at such an early
stage of their academic development. You then have the perverse situation where
institutions widen access to the law profession on one hand, but the outgoing Law Society
selection criteria may have disadvantaged those students before they have time to develop.

The family income of DLP students suggests there is still a relatively narrow social profile of
graduate students seeking to undertake the next step in their legal training. When the
means-tested elements of postgraduate student support under the old PSAS were
examined, generally around 70 to 80 percent of applicants were awarded some element of
support. However, when you examine DLP students who applied to SAAS under the old PSAS only 30 to 40 percent were awarded any living cost grant.

Education and lifelong learning are key drivers for jobs and economic growth. The Spending
Review reflects our commitment to enable children and young people to improve their life
chances, reach their full potential and make the best possible contribution to Scotland’s
economy. However, the Scottish budget faces real and significant long term cuts in coming
years and tough decisions have had to be made to prioritise spending.

A new postgraduate loan scheme will commence in academic year 2012-13, loans of up to
£3,400 will be available to Scottish domiciled students (and EU). The new scheme will
support part-time study as well as full-time. The living cost element of the outgoing PSAS
scheme was discontinued 2 years ago and there are no plans to re-introduce the living costs
support for DLP students or other postgraduate students.

There are various alternative sources of financial support and you may find the following
general advice useful:

A Professional and Career Development Loan (PCDL) is a deferred payment bank loan to
help pay for vocational training, leading to employment in the UK or the EU. The course
must be vocational and can be full time, part time or distance learning. The loan can cover
up to two years of learning (or up to three years if the course includes work experience) and
can be between £300 and £10,000. Further information and guidance is available at
http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/EducationAndLearning/AdultLearning/CareerDevelopmentLoans/index
.htm.

The Student Awards Agency for Scotland (SAAS) maintains a Register of Educational Trusts
and Endowments containing details of all Scottish Trusts, and will search the Register on
completion of an enquiry form. A copy of the form can be obtained from SAAS by calling
0300-555-0505 or via their website at http://www.saas.gov.uk.

Another useful source of funding is the website http://www.scholarship-search.org.uk. You may
wish to visit this site which holds information on scholarships and sponsorships available to
students throughout the United Kingdom.

You may also find it helpful to visit the website http://www.postgraduatestudentships.co.uk which
provides information on postgraduate funding available in the UK.

There are also educational trusts and charities that make individual awards to students.

Potentially useful publications include the Educational Grants Directory, the Charities Digest,
the Grants Register and the Directory of Grant Making Trusts, all of which are available from larger public libraries.

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