John Doyle: ‘I feel let down by the system’

John Doyle

John Doyle, a 21-year-old law student from just outside Glasgow, should be a poster-boy for the Scottish Government’s progressive education policies.  Instead he has been left desperately frustrated and on the verge of abandoning his plans of a career in the legal profession.  

The elder son of a retired policeman and a self-employed mum, neither of his parents had the opportunity to go to University.  Work experience at Glasgow Sheriff Court and the good prospects for lawyers sparked his interest in a legal career.  Through ability and hard work at school, he won the offer of a place studying for a law degree at the University of Edinburgh’s prestigious School of Law.  The scrapping of tuition fees and the removal of the graduate endowment meant he felt able to take up this opportunity rather than stay at home to find work or study for a less well recognised qualification.

Four years later, and about to graduate, he should be looking forward to the next step in fulfilling his ambition to qualify as a solicitor.  Instead, he may have to abandon his plans entirely.  Over the past few years, the rising costs of studying the Diploma in Legal Practice, which John needs to complete to qualify as a lawyer, have rapidly outstripped the funding available from the Scottish Government.  This now covers only half the cost of the fees, although the money is available to all students, most of whom – by the Government’s own figures – do not require the help John needs.  The Scottish Government has also removed any element of support for living costs for post graduate students, with the exception of those training to be teachers or social workers.  John now faces having to find £8,000 – £10,000 to cover the balance of the fees and his living costs for the year. John said:

 Money has always been tight when I’ve been at university and I’ve twice needed help from the university’s hardship fund to get through. During my studies I’ve not had to pay fees and I’ve had a full student loan for living costs in each year. But the Diploma now costs nearly £7,000 and Diploma students are not eligible for living costs loans. I know my parents will try their best to support me but they are already both working and supporting my younger brother, so I just don’t know how I will be able to find this money.

It’s not that I feel a sense of entitlement, but I’m now in a Catch-22 situation. I’ve worked hard and done well at university but now I can’t turn this into a career without spending lots of money. I feel frustrated and let down by the system.

John has applied for the Diploma but still has no idea where he will find the money to cover the year of studying. Reluctantly, he has been reconsidering whether he can realise his ambitions, or whether a change of direction is the only option. Ironically, one option will be to leave Scotland altogether and pursue further study abroad where post graduate fees are living costs are much lower. 


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