Law Update: Local authority funding falling, figures reveal

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The Independent Online
A dramatic drop in funding for law students has been revealed in figures published this week by both the College of Law and the Council of Legal Education. The college, the largest provider of professional training for would-be solicitors, reports that the proportion of students' fees paid by local authorities has dropped to 9 per cent from 23 per cent last year. In 1989/90, they accounted for 64 per cent of total fees paid for the final-year course.

Local education authorities now provide pounds 1.4m, compared with a peak of pounds 5.6m in 1990/91. Students now contribute 65 per cent of the total fees paid to the college, compared with 28 per cent four years ago. The rest of the money is found mainly from sponsorship by law firms.

A similar story is reported at the Bar. According to the CLE, which runs the bar school, the Inns of Court School of Law, the number of students being helped by LEA grants has dropped by half to 200 students, or 20 per cent of those on this year's vocational course. Of these, only 57 received a grant for the full cost of the fees, a fall of almost 60 per cent over the last year.

John Taylor, the secretary of the CLE, says that the figures confirm a continuing decline since 1989, when nearly half the students were on full LEA grants, and two-thirds received some kind of LEA help. 'The Inns of Court provide generous scholarships, but even so I fear many deserving students are being deterred from a career as a barrister because of the expense,' he says. 'More and more students are seeking help from our counselling service because of stress due to financial worries.'

Richard Holbrook, chairman of the College of Law's board of management, agrees. 'I fear many deserving students who could become first-class lawyers are having to give up their dreams of becoming solicitors soon after their law degree ends.' Students are having to 'beg and borrow' to make ends meet, he says, adding: 'The law, whether we like it or not, is becoming much more a middle-class profession for the children of well-off families.'

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