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Students campaign for extended Diploma funding

25 April 2012

Edinburgh Law Students Council has appealed to the Scottish Government for it to extend eligibility for student loans for living costs to cover the Diploma in Professional Legal Practice (DPLP) from academic year 2012-13.

Ministers are replacing the former grant to 300 Diploma students, usually awarded on academic merit, with a loan available to all students taking the course (subject to exceptions), but capped at the £3,400 level of the former grant. Course fees alone usualy amount to between £5,500 and £6,500.

In a web post carrying a link to their letter to ministers, the students say: "We have so far had a very positive response from our local MSPs, from all parts of the political spectrum. Although the official line from the Scottish Government was originally ‘no’, we understand that the matter is being looked at, so we’re grateful for the support we’ve had from both Government and opposition MSPs."

They argue that whilst it is a positive change that partial fee funding will now be available to all Diploma students, meeting the funding gap will place a "potentially insurmountable barrier" in the way of those unable to support themselves through part-time work, or rely on parents or on savings, through what is "an academic year of extremely demanding and time-intensive vocational study".

Extending loans to living costs could make a "massive contribution" to overcoming this problem, the students say, and the means-testing of loans would ensure that only those who really need assistance benefit. "As we understand it, this change requires only an amendment to the relevant secondary legislation, so could be achieved quickly if the Government wished to do so."

With the Diploma being a requirement for entry to the legal profession, they add, it should be regarded as in the same category as other postgraduate courses not falling within the funding scheme, such as those required for postgraduate entry to the teaching and social work professions respectively, for which living costs funding is available. "We believe that similar provision for DPLP students is justified."

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