On the face of it learning to drive appears a relatively cheap skill to acquire. A theory test costs £23 and a practical £62. Simple.
Unfortunately, that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
For many people (myself included) it takes more than one attempt (the less written about that the better). And there are further costs on top of this of course. Depending on what driving school you use and how many hours you have to put in before you are adjudged competent enough to take the practical, the cost can quickly skyrocket.
The same problem, as one tweeter pointed out to me, can be said of the Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) plans for a centralised ‘super-exam’ for aspiring solicitors.
The regulator has finally given an estimate for the proposed cost of taking the two-part Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) which it says could be between £3,000 and £4,500. That in itself is just an estimate and the final confirmed figure could well be higher - one suspects it won’t end up being lower.
On the face of it, it’s cheaper than taking a degree and forking out up to £16,000 on the LPC.
But the SRA ignores the elephant in the room.
How will people prepare for the exam and how much will this preparation cost?
We know a degree is no longer required in order to take the exam. However, education institutions will still be clamouring to offer ‘SQE prep courses’. Goldsmiths, University of London, has already indicated it will offer such a course.
Add these fees (whatever they may be) to the exam and you could be left facing similar, perhaps even higher, costs than under the existing route.
We can also assume that not every student will pass both exams first time leaving some people up to £9,000 or more out of pocket on qualification. With no loan available to fund taking the SQE the cost, however much it ends up being, must be paid up front. I can’t think of too many people who have that kind of money stuffed behind their sofas.
And what about candiates who do not take a preparatory course, either through personal or financial constraints? Will they be viewed by recruiting firms with a less favourable eye than those that have? The Law Society’s Junior Lawyers Division has warned this could lead to a ’two-tiered’ profession.
The SRA says the SQE will ensure 'everyone meets the same standards’.
First and foremost though, everyone must get the same opportunity.