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STUDENTS at three leading law colleges have attacked the newly revised Common Professional Exam, claiming it has become too difficult to pass.
Students at the University of Westminster, City University and the College of Law have sent The Lawyer a dossier of complaints about the new course. They have asked not to be named for fear of jeopardising their future, but said they wanted to make the profession aware of the problems.
Complaints centre around the CPE, a one-year course undertaken by students without a law degree who want to go on to train as solicitors on the Legal Practice Course or go to Bar School.
Students said new CPE requirements introduced this year have boosted internal assessment work but left too little time for exam revision. They claimed more students were having to resit their exams and feared this would reflect badly on them when they applied for jobs.
Students who wanted to become barristers did not even know the results of their resits before the deadline for applications to Pach, the Bar Council's pupillage clearing house scheme. They also suggested Pach should operate before Bar School starts, so students without pupillages could make an informed choice on whether or not to go on the £6,500 course.
At the University of Westminster, 30 per cent of the 61 students had to resit an exam this summer, although only 10 per cent of those failed again. The university's chair of legal studies, Robert Abbey, said the failure rate was not unusual as the CPE was a "tough course".
City head of law, professor Martin Dockray, said only 12 per cent of his students had to resit a CPE exam this year. He said this year's pass rate of 90 per cent was normal.
The College of Law has yet to compile its resit figures but said it had received no complaints about the new course.
Roger Earis, the college's director of academic studies, said the CPE board, which is made up of Law Society and Bar Council members, had brought in greater internal assessment partly because students had asked for it.
But the law schools did sympathise with the students over the deadlines imposed by Pach. One senior academic labelled the system as "pretty much a nonsense".
Students at the University of Westminster also complained about the quality of their tuition. They said they have had three different lecturers for contract law, interrupting the continuity of the course. Westminster said it was unfortunate but out of its hands, because two lecturers left the contract law course during the term.