Four out of 10 students on the Legal Practice Course (LPC) do not go on to get training contracts, the regulator has revealed in a report defending the introduction of the new 'super-exam'.

According to figures for 2011-2019, an average of 9,978 graduates start the LPC every year but only 5,757 go on to complete a recognised period of training. Of these, 5,407 are admitted as solicitors.

Around a quarter of students have their LPC tuition fees – which cost up to £16,750 – paid for by their future employers.

The progression figures were published in an equality, diversity and inclusion risk assessment for the new Solicitors Qualifying Exam, which the Solicitors Regulation Authority hopes will improve access to the profession.

Yesterday the regulator announced that students will pay £3,980 to sit both parts of the assessment. SQE1 – a multiple choice legal knowledge test – will cost £1,558, while SQE 2 will cost £2,422 for written and oral tasks testing practical legal knowledge and skills. 

‘We believe that, overall, our reforms will help to drive a more competitive and flexible legal education and training market which will benefit potential solicitors from a diverse range of backgrounds and address some of the issues with cost inherent in the current system,’ the SRA said.

It added: ’The SQE will provide a level playing field for all candidates, whatever their background. It will assess all candidates to the same standard regardless of their training or prior achievement. Candidates who attended less prestigious universities, or who choose new routes to qualification, can demonstrate to employers that they have reached the same standard as candidates who attended more prestigious universities or followed more traditional routes.’

However stakeholders, including the Law Society and the Junior Lawyers Division, are concerned that the new system could prove just as expensive as the current system when the cost of preparatory courses are taken into account.

There are also concerns that the SQE could create a two-tier profession whereby employers value certain qualification routes above others and wealthier candidates could afford to pay for higher cost courses than candidates from less affluent backgrounds.