Battle for students as LPC take-up dwindles

Enrolments on the LPC have plummeted across the market, with the University of Huddersfield ­seeing a 68 per cent drop in student numbers for the 2010-11 academic year.

Although Huddersfield was affected the most, it was followed closely by Leeds Metropolitan University’s 62 per cent drop.

Central Applications Board (CAB) figures leaked to The Lawyer show that almost all providers saw ­double-digit drops in ­student numbers (click here for the full results).

The slump comes as ­students are struggling to access funding for the course, which costs £6,000-£12,900, after RBS and NatWest withdrew vital postgraduate loan facilities.

A Huddersfield spokes-person said the university had seen a “significant resurgence” in applications and recruitment for 2011-12.

“Undoubtedly the effects of the recession were keenly felt in our recruitment for 2010-11,” he added.

Several providers claimed that the statistics do not tell the full story as they exclude part-time courses and exempting law degrees, such as those offered by Northumbria University.

See reaction below

————————————————-

In a statement from Bournemouth University a spokesperson said: “We’re pretty certain the figures are accurate. The fluctuation you’ve highlighted is a small numbers issue where percentage figures are relatively unhelpful. As a university that focuses on the professions we have a solid track record when it comes to responding to professional demand. We pride ourselves on providing an excellent experience for our students who appreciate the personal that results from being part of a small cohort.”

Dean of BPP Law School Peter Crisp said: “As with the GDL, CAB only process applications for students starting a full-time LPC at the beginning of the traditional academic year i.e. September. They do no handle students who are starting half way through the academic year in January and February i.e. our January start LPC or accelerated Feb start LPC even though these programmes are full-time LPCs. So the CAB figures exclude our January and February starters i.e. the 280 students who started in January and February 2011.”

In a statement from Brighton University a spokesperson said: “We would point out that our GDL is a part-time course onto which we take a limited number of full time students.”

In a statement from the College of Law a spokesperson said: “When we received the original CAB data in November our LPC numbers were shown incorrectly as 2831. We were subsequently sent a revised figure by CAB of 3195 which is the actual FT enrolment figure.”

In a statement from the University of Central Lancashire a spokesperson said: “We are aware that full-time enrolments onto both of these courses were lower than the previous year, however the number of part-time students on both CPE and LPC remain strong, up by 10% overall.
The Lancashire Law School prides itself on its excellent graduate employment statistics and this is evident in the interest we are seeing from prospective 2011 students. First choice applications for the full time LPC for 2011 are up by 40% compared to this time last year and even more significantly, the number of those who have already accepted and paid their deposit is up by 70%.

We are continuing to develop a variety of courses including a newly validated M Law degree which combines the academic and vocational stages, ensuring  that learning is in line with the changing legal market place and will continue to meet student demands and expectations.”

Head of University of East Anglia Law School Prof Alastair Mullis said: “The dip in 2010/11 appears to have been a one-off. We expect to have in the region of 40 students registering this year for the GDL conversion course, with acceptances from about 35 students so far. The number of applications for the GDL dropped across the sector last year and we were not immune.”

In a statement from the University of Huddersfield a spokesperson said: “The figures for the full-time GDL are in keeping with the national recruitment trends that has shown a decrease in applications over several years, however because of the nature of the course, in that it is a flexible and distance learning course delivered by way of eLearning via the internet, we do not distinguish between full-time and part-time students. In this type of delivery we achieve significant economies of scale and efficiencies. As the course suggests it is a course, which provides student to have a flexible. The figures are not accurate in any event. In 2010/11 we had 11 full-time students, together with 33 part-time students i.e. 44 in total. In 2009/10 we had 21 full-time students and 45 part-time students i.e. 66 in total.

With regards to the LPC the University of Huddersfield, unlike many providers, has had a major restructuring of the course so that again full-time students are taught together in order to achieve economies of scale. We do not therefore distinguish beteen the two different modes so that we teach efficiently. The figures for 2010/11 were 6 full-time students and 31 part-time students i.e. 47 in total. The figures for 2009/10 were 19 full-time and 51 part-time students i.e. 70 in total. It is true that for 2010/11 we had fewer applications but this is in line with the general reduction in applications nationally that has been occurring over the last five years. Undoubtedly the effects of the recession were keenly felt in our recruitment for 2010/11. This year has seen a significant resurgence in applications in which we have seen applications and recruitment increase by fivefold.

In 2008 the University became the first university since 1992 to have a four year “integrated” law degree validated by the JASB and the SRA. The result of this is that the vast majority of our professionally based students now come to us via our ground breaking four year integrated law degree tht combines the LLB and LPC. Students on this course obtain an LLB, a Master of Law and Practice degree and complete the LPC professional elements at the same time. The fees for the extra year are exactly the same as for normal undergraduate courses i.e. £3250 and this fee is a deferred fee under the government scheme. Students therefore pay between a third and half the price for the LPC elements on the integrated four-year degree. There is now so much “added value” on this route that this is the preferred course of choice for those seeking to qualify professionally.”

London South Bank University Principal Lecturer of Law Louise Andronicou said: “London South Bank University (LSBU) offers a very high quality course that represents a fantastic return on investment after graduation. Students seeking to gain their LLM can submit a 20,000 word dissertation following completion of their graduate diploma of law. Courses at LSBU benefit our students as the classes are small and focused on each individual in turn.”

Dean of Northumbria Law School Kevin Kerrigan said: “Difficult economic conditions reduced demand for professional law courses nationally last year.  We have enhanced the attractiveness and relevance of our programmes through initiatives such as the flexible 2-day attendance programme, our guaranteed placement and professional mentor scheme and the iPad Project.  We have seen a sharp rise in interest and we anticipate a significant increase in students commencing these programmes in September 2011.”

Nottingham Law School’s Associate Dean Sylvia Hargreaves said: “At NLS, we have responded to the challenging legal climate and the overall national fall in LPC applications by aiming our high quality programme at the best qualified applicants.  Therefore, we would never seek to fill our full allocation of validated places indiscriminately.  With this emphasis, our recruitment policy ensures the optimum employability outcome for our students.

In addition, we are experiencing sustained strong demand for our thriving suite of undergraduate and masters courses.  As a full service law school, our highly experienced staff enjoy unparalleled opportunities to teach across the full range of our academic, vocational and practitioner programmes.”

Plymouth University Head of the School of Law Professor Simon Payne said: “In 2010-11 Plymouth University, in common with most institutions (23 out of 27 LPC providers and 22 out of 37 GDL/CPE providers), saw falls in enrolments on the Legal Practice Course and on the CPE/GDL law courses. Nationally LPC enrolments in 2010-11 fell by 21% with some providers seeing reductions of up to 70%. GDL enrolments also fell nationally (by around 15%) with falls at some CPE/GDL providers of 50%.

“The position at Plymouth University is therefore broadly in line with national trends. In turn these national trends, in our view, have reflected concerns over the jobs market within the legal profession. There is some evidence that the jobs market for trainee solicitors and para legals is improving now.

“This year at Plymouth we have seen applications and expected enrolments increasing for these courses – LPC is up around 20% this year for example. This reflects the national picture and the way we have tailored our courses to prepare students for careers in legal practice with innovations such as lawyer mentoring on the GDL and practice placements on the LPC.”

Dean of Staffordshire University Law School Rosemary Evans said: ““These figures don’t tell the full story. Some of our places are taken up by part-time students – not accounted for in these figures – and we’ve seen a shift to part-time study in recent years, partly due to the withdrawal of funding by the banks.

 Although we have experienced a drop of about 10 per cent, we’ve retained our market share and are confident that our flexible learning and finance options are attractive to students wanting to study full or part-time.

We welcome the increase in students opting to study on the CPE and feel that this is largely due to the quality of our provision in the Law conversion market – something that has been commented on by this year’s validation panel and JASB representatives who identified four distinctive/positive features.
However, we will be working very hard to ensure that more and more of our graduating students opt to continue their LPC with us.”

In a statement from Swansea University a spokesperson said: “The provision of professional legal education at Swansea is an important part of our engagement with our wider legal community and the Legal Wales agenda in particular.

Whilst you can draw attention to a statistical increase in our GDL numbers, actual student numbers have remained fairly constant following the withdrawal of low interest student loans and the limiting effect of this on the access to the professions.

LPC recruitment is reflective of a challenging legal environment but current evidence suggests we should not expect a further reduction in student demand.

Swansea has also been creative in growing a successful portfolio of CPD provision to meet the market demand for courses like our Higher Courts Rights of Audience Accreditation.”

In a statement from the University of Sussex law school a spokesperson said: “The University of Sussex School of Law is a popular destination for many law students, attracting thousands of applicants seeking places every year.

There are 40 students on the CPE course, the uptake for which is subject to modest annual fluctuations, as is the case here. Your figure of 25 per cent relates to seven places in a relatively small cohort within a large and thriving law school. The main law degree at Sussex is increasingly popular, admits hundreds of students every year, and has over 1700 applications for 2011 entry – an increase of seven per cent on last year
There are benefits to being part of such a small cohort. Students on the CPE at Sussex are taught by research-active staff in an intensive, rigorous programme. Many of our students are local to the Brighton area and a good number are Sussex graduates who decide to stay on at the University. Feedback is very positive, with most of our graduates going on to the LPC or BPTC.”

Head of Bristol Institute of Legal Practice (University of West of England) Steve Dinning said: “CAB figures do not include part time registrations and some providers are permitted to transfer places from FT to PT mode and vice versa. In UWE’s case, the growth of the National College of Training (NCLT) business has a profound affect with an additional 175 part-time places taken (inside existing validation numbers) by both the national NCLT course (116) and the Bristol part-time year 1 course (59), meaning they run at 75.2 per cent capacity for 10/11.”

University of Wolverhampton Associate Dean in the School of law Martin Cartwright said: “The Graduate Diploma in Law ran in the 2010-2011 academic year on a part-time study basis. We are recruiting for a postgraduate LLM programme, which combines the Common Professional Examination (CPE), for September 2011. With regards to the LPC, the reduction in numbers is reflected nationally. We have a strong field of candidates for the 2011/12 year, and we continue to have a solid core of applicants from the Black Country region. We also have a growing international clientele.”