Leading City law firms have announced their intentions to review the financial support packages they offer to students, following the planned three fold increase in tuition fees charged by universities.
The firms in question, Clifford Chance, Linklaters, Herbert Smith, Hogan Lovells, Eversheds, Addleshaw Goddard and Bird & Bird, are seven of the top twenty UK law firms based on revenue.
Funding options undergoing consideration include bursaries, sponsorship and scholarships for undergraduates. Some are also considering donating to university law departments.
According to Graduate Recruitment Partner Matthew White, the focus for Herbert Smith is on \”employability issues and doing more to raise career aspirations both for university and school-age students\”.
Hogan Lovells Associate Director for Legal Resourcing Clare Harris said, \”Our immediate priority will be to provide any additional support for our future trainees who may require it, both during their time at university and at law school, should funding prove to be a difficulty and where there are genuine cases of hardship\”.
Many university students and professors have shown themselves to be open to the plans. Lawrence Wilcock, President of LawSoc, commented, \”No student should be dissuaded from pursuing the career of their choice because of financial difficulties, so just as I gladly accept reforms to student support within universities, any assistance from the legal sector should be thoroughly welcomed so as to ensure ongoing diversity.\”
First-year law students Pooja Menon at St. John\’s, and Vandana Singh at Exeter, both welcomed \”the legal profession taking the initiative\”. However Singh added, \”I don\’t really think it would make too much of a difference on the decision of whether to go to university or not especially because this kind of help will probably be very limited and very exclusive.\”
Karim El-Bar, a prospective law student, also expressed doubts, observing, \”Corporate law is only one branch of a very large and varied profession. Corporate law firms dominate the jobs market, and in future are more likely to dominate due to the planned cuts.
\”I welcome city law firms\’ decisions to assist with law undergraduates financially, however the same attitude has to be undertaken by firms specialising in other areas for future generations of lawyers, who might not necessarily want to specialise in corporate law. Lawyers who aren\’t getting this extra support in the face of rising tuition fees are naturally going to find it harder to get a job.\”
In a similar vein, Universities Minister David Willets has called for other companies to follow the example set by accountancy firm KPMG, which announced earlier this year that it is offering school leavers the chance to study at a top university for free.
GlaxoSmithKline has also promised financial support for students, announcing that it will pay up to Â£27,000 for between 50 and 100 graduate recruits on its training programmes. The pharmaceutical firm\’s total support budget is approximately Â£3 million a year.
GSK chief executive Andrew Witty said that the program was \”a great way for us to try and ensure that we get that next brilliant scientist.\” He also noted that the investment cost was a \”relatively small amount\” in comparison to the Â£4 billion spent by the company on research and development.
Oxford is one of the increasing number of universities who have confirmed plans to charge the maximum Â£9000 in annual fees from October 2012, following Lord Browne\’s review of higher education funding. Students will potentially graduate with debts over Â£40,000.