updated on 12 February 2020
The introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam (SQE) should be delayed, according to leading law academics, because continuing uncertainty around the new system is making it impossible for students to make informed decisions about the choices available to them.
The Committee of Heads of Heads of UK Law Schools (CHULS) sent a joint letter to the SRA outlining concerns over the SQE timetable. A key issue is that once SQE is introduced, “the SRA will no longer require students to undertake a period of legal education at degree level.” And with the SQE yet to be granted regulatory approval and uncertainty continuing to linger over the new SQE assessments, the CHULS argues that it is currently impossible for universities and law schools to tell students whether choosing a law degree will prepare them for the new super exam.
The letter says: “Young people under the age of 18 are making potentially life-changing decisions with only fragmentary information available…We therefore the SRA to announce a delay now, to ensure that young people making these vital decisions have the information available to make their choice.”
The SRA has said it will respond to the letter in due course.
Meanwhile, former SRA executive director Crispin Passmore has urged the regulator to ignore critics of the SQE and “get on” with introducing the new system. Delivering the keynote speech at Legal Cheek’s LegalEdCon North earlier this month, Passmore said: “SQE provides a plain canvas for educators, employers and students to paint their own picture. It is one more step in giving legal businesses the opportunity to create compelling offers to students, lawyers and clients. Those that respond by doing the same as now are likely to be missing opportunities. That is their choice as much as others will choose to innovate. That choice is at the heart of the evolving legal market.”
Passmore argued that law schools will be able to offer SQE courses after – or as part of – their law degree programmes and pointed out that: “We see some City firms recruiting half their graduates from outside of the law school. What does that tell us about the value they really put on the Qualifying Law Degree?"