More pressure on legal education

Legal education market shrinks again as NCLT stops taking on LPC, GDL students


The recent decision of the National College of Legal Training (NCLT) to halt recruitment for its LPC and GDL courses bears a remarkable resemblance to the closure of Oxford Brookes’ LPC just three months ago.

Both are smaller providers based in public institutions and both are blaming drops in numbers of students for their demise, while the giants of private education are circling.

Days after the news that Oxford Brookes had decided to close its LPC the newly minted University of Law, sniffing a money-maker, made its bid to take over the course, agreeing to run it on the Oxford Brookes campus for at least a year. At the time, the university said that although it had had no plans to move into the Oxford market, its new base meant it would be re-evaluating that situation.

So far, no private provider has made a bid to take over courses at the NCLT, made up of a nationwide group of universities that linked up to provide LPC and GDL training under the same brand as recently as 2010. Meaning, of course, that the business case must be non-existent. But while no formal bid is made, students in those locations will be scooped up by private providers.

Both cases highlight the fact that the legal education marketplace is shrinking and student choice is disappearing. The NCLT was the last hope of some students, forced to self-fund and unable to afford the figures charged by most providers.

Providers are agreed on the source of the trouble: the dean of BPP Law School Peter Crisp summed it up when he said “quality is expensive to deliver”, while the University of Law blamed the trouble on the lack of extras such as employability services, only feasible when an educator is sufficiently flush with cash.

But while public institutions fold, the monopoly among providers becomes more marked, and costs escalate.

No big deal for City firms, but certainly troubling for embattled publicly funded practices who, among myriad other problems, see new talent unable to make it over the first hurdle.