Panic-stricken students have expressed outrage at NatWest Bank’s shock decision to withdraw its Professional Trainee Loan Scheme, leaving aspiring lawyers with very limited options for self-funding their compulsory post-graduate courses..
Both the College of Law (CoL) and BPP Law School have previously offered tailored loans from the high street lender for full or part-time students studying the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), Legal Practice Course (LPC) or Bar Professional Training Course.
Charlotte Ryves, a law student and PR officer for Nottingham Trent University’s student law society, is struggling to find funding for her LPC and said: “It has made me extremely worried because I can’t afford to self-fund,”
“I think this is going to have a really big impact on the divide between rich and poor. There is already a struggle for poorer students to pursue this career and this is just going to make it harder.”
NatWest offered a competitive loan of up to £25,000 to would-be lawyers with an attractive low interest rate. Elsewhere, the Royal Bank of Scotland, which owns NatWest, is also cancelling its loan products for students, while Lloyds TSB withdrew its professional studies loan over a year a go.
Of the few funding options remaining are Government subsidised Career Development Loans. However, these are not available for GDL students and only offer up to £10,000, of which only 80 per cent is allowed to be used for course fees and the rest for living costs.
Carol Spaderna, who is due to start her LPC at Aberystwyth University this year, said: “For a bank to cut the loan like this is terribly short-sighted. Eventually people like us - those entering into the professions such as medicine and law, will contribute in some way in the future to society.”
In agreement, another student said: “All three of our political parties agree that Britain needs to remain an educated country; so with the recent decision on tuition fees hanging heavily over the heads of many students beginning at undergrad level, something needs to be done to assure them that a good professional education has not now been placed way beyond reach.”
The news arrived as further hikes in legal course fees were announced by the law school giants, with CoL and BPP revealing LPC charges of £12,500 and £12,900 respectively, and Kaplan Law School revealing a LPC cost of £12,295, as reported by Lawyer2B.com last week.
BPP chief executive Peter Crisp said: “We’re currently looking at other loan options and financial providers for our future LPC and GDL students, following notification from NatWest Bank of its decision regarding the provision of professional loans. Our website has been updated to reflect the change, and we will obviously be announcing any arrangements once finalised.”
The CoL, meanwhile, said in a statement that it is in the process of looking at funding options by providing guidance on alternative sources of funding.
“We are also providing guidance and support to help those students hoping to join the NatWest scheme before application stop being accredited in April.”
Elsewhere, a Kaplan spokesperson said in response to the cut: “We have considered this and come to the conclusion that there are other routes to the loans for law students without getting directly involved ourselves.Obviously, we offer a range of payment options from monthly to instalments.”
Meanwhile, the Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) said in statement: “The JLD is disappointed to see Natwest withdraw its professional loan for law students. Funding options are becoming increasingly limited for the majority of students who have not managed to secure a training contract which provides for payment of LPC fees. Once again, the legal profession risks being seen as one of the worst industries for social mobility.“