Plans to introduce accelerated two-year degree courses could create a ‘two-tiered’ profession if students are not given time to take part in ‘crucial’ work experience schemes during holidays, junior lawyers have warned.
Responding to a government consultation, the Law Society’s Junior Lawyers Division (JLD) said proposals could result in ‘increased and additional terms’ for those on the fast track programme, meaning they may not have the time to apply for work experience.
This could lead to a two-tier system in terms of opportunity, the JLD said.
The Department for Education published a consultation on accelerated degrees in December. It said those who opted for a two-year degree, against the three-year degree, could save 20% in fees.
In its response, seen by the Gazette, the JLD that, although it supported the idea in principle, there is ’a long way to go to get this proposal constructed into an acceptable form.’
It warned that a 20% discount rate would not necessarily be enough of an incentive for students to study for two years rather than three. ‘Many of those that we spoke to asked why the proposed reduction was not a third as opposed to 20%, and we would welcome clarification on that point before expressing a view on the appropriate level of disccount,’ it said.
The JLD, which represents law students up to those with five years of post-qualification experience, added that the proposals could also impact academics.
In its response, the division says academics are not just lecturing but often conducting research or working as well, enabling them to stay at the forefront of their particular specialisms.
‘With accelerated degrees, and less time outside of the academic programme, lecturers may not be able to balance the two or they may have to give up one or the other,’ the response warned.
It added that the proposals could see the three-year degree route ditched altogether as the complexities of running a three-year and a two-year degree alongside each other may mean universities move toward only offering two year degrees, especially if it proves to be more economical.
The government’s consultation closes this month.