Spreading the message

Online Publicity for the Campaign

We have had some good responses through pushing the campaign (and this blog) via twitter (using my twitter feed: @TimHaddow).

As you may have seen, the campaign has featured in:

I’ve also seen a significant number of re-tweets including from some influential legal tweeters and this blog has also had well over 300 views in the 36 hours or so since it went live.

Further Meetings

Over the next week or so, I have meetings pencilled in with the Education and Training Director at the Law Society of Scotland and with the Edinburgh University Students’ Association President and representatives from NUS Scotland.  I understand EUSA and NUS have a meeting coming up soon with Mike Russell, the Cabinet Secretary for Education.

I also hope to meet Jenny Marra MSP and see whether there’s been any progress from her perspective following my meeting with a member of her staff last week.

Background Media Coverage

I’ve added a page summarising media coverage to this site, including some media coverage of the background to the DPLP Funding changes.  I hope to be able to add to this as we gain more coverage!

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Meeting with MSPs Marco Biagi and Jenny Marra

I met this morning with both Marco Biagi and a member of Jenny Marra’s team (Jenny herself having been dragged in to speak in a debate at short-notice).

Meeting with Marco Biagi

In many ways, this was a very positive meeting.  Marco is clearly doing some work behind the scenes and has had some meetings with government officials looking at costs and the practicality of what we are asking for.  Whilst he was keen to emphasise that no decisions had been made and that he could make no promises , it is clearly positive that our case is being taken seriously within government.

On the negative side, Marco reflected that government officials have said that it would not be possible to do anything for students starting this September.  This seemed to be based on two issues:

  • The legislative timetable.
  • Contractual difficulties with making amendments to the SAAS online applications system.

I challenged this on the basis that that the deadline for applications for living costs support for students starting this September is 31 March 2013.  Although best if funding is available at the start of the course, this means that the government have eleven-and-a-half months to sort something out that would provide some benefit to students, as long as some sort of government assurance was in place by course start-date.  On the specific issues mentioned:

  •  I cannot accept that the legislative timetable is unachievable, especially given the high level of cross-party support we’ve seen so far.
  • Whilst it is understood that there may be contractual issues around website maintenance, there must shurely be some sort of work-around that could be put in place by SAAS with the application of some imagination.

Meeting with Jenny Marra’s staff

Jenny was unfortunately called away just before the meeting.  However, I had lengthy discussions with Ross,  her parliamentary assistant.  She is very supportive or our campaign and understands the issues having trained as a lawyer herself.   She has also been involved with some wider discussions with the Law Society of Scotland over issues around legal training.  I discussed with Ross our reasoning on focusing on the living-costs loan part of the overall DPLP issue.

We discussed ways in which Jenny could help the campaign and I will hopefully meet with her in person in the next week or so.

 

University of Edinburgh announces bursary for PG Students (including DPLP)

Update (and some good news…) on the diploma funding issue for those who have applied to the Edinburgh Diploma. You may have already spotted this but the University have just announced a bursary programme for PG students. There are around 100 bursaries available each worth £1000. *Please note* these bursaries are open to all Edin Uni PG students on courses which share the funding mechanism of the DPLP, so it doesn’t mean that there will be 100 bursaries for the DPLP. In past years, the DPLP made up approximately one-third of places on these courses, so that gives an indication of the level of competition likely.

Bursary award will be on the basis of need, not academic merit. For more details see: http://www.ed.ac.uk/schools-departments/student-funding/postgraduate/uk-eu/other-funding/bursary

Prof McAra has said that she is negotiating for some additional bursary funding for DPLP students that qualify for the wider Uni scheme. I will provide an update if I hear any more. We have seen no further movement from the Scottish Government. However, I am meeting with another MSP on Thursday who is interested in taking the issue forward. I am also scheduled to meet the EUSA President and NUS Scotland. They have a meeting scheduled with the Cabinet Secretary for Education, so this will be another opportunity to have our case put to the government.

Lobbying through NUS and EUSA

We’ve also been trying to gather support through the various student representative bodies.  We’ve corresponded with the President and Vice-President Academic Affairs at Edinburgh University Students’ Association (EUSA) and with the policy officer of NUS Scotland.

  • I have been invited to meet with EUSA and NUS Scotland on 1 May.
  • I understand that the EUSA President and NUS Scotland are due to have a meeting with Mike Russell (Cabinet Secretary for Education), so hopefully our issue will be raised by the student representatives.

A further MSP contact…

On the advice of the Scottish Young Laywers’ Association, we contacted Jenny Marra MSP.  She is the Labour spokesperson on Legal Affairs and the deputy convener of the Justice committee.  She has a strong interest in legal training.

I spoke to her on the phone and she has some ideas about taking the issue forward.  I hope to meet up with her next week.

So far all our contacts and discussion with MSPs has been in the context of education, so it is helpful to have made a contact on the legal affairs side of things.  I certainly feel that this is much more an ‘access to the professions’ issue, rather than an ‘access to education’ issue.