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Funding the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE)
On 1 September 2021, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) will introduce a new route to qualifying as a solicitor: the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). We explore the various routes that attract funding for the SQE.
When it is introduced in September 2021, the total cost of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE) assessments will be £3,980.
This will break down as:
- SQE1 – £1,558
- SQE2 – £2,422
If you need to retake any of the assessments, the full price of the assessment will be required again in full.
The SQE assessments are run by Kaplan on behalf of the SRA. You can find more information on how to book them on the SQE assessments website.
It is important to note that there are no required courses for the SQE, other than completing a degree-level qualification.
However, candidates may wish to undertake additional courses, or buy resources, to help them prepare for the SQE assessments.
While the cost of the SQE assessments is more affordable than the fees for the current Legal Practice Course (LPC), it is still significant.
There are various routes that attract funding for the SQE:
- degree level qualification
- master's degrees
- freestanding SQE preparation courses
- qualifying work experience (QWE)
Some universities will incorporate preparation for the SQE1 assessments into their undergraduate law degree programmes. It is important to look at the various options offered when considering which degree course to take.
Your undergraduate degree will be covered by student finance in the usual way.
Student finance loans cover:
- tuition fees, normally £9,250 per year
- maintenance (living expenses) – this varies according to household (for instance, parental) income; the average maintenance loan is about £6,800.
Additional help may be available for disabled students via the disabled students allowance. Depending on the level of need, this can be up to £25,000 per year.
The SQE assessments are not included in the undergraduate degrees currently available; and it is unlikely that any university will choose to include the cost of the SQE assessments in their degree programmes.
The SQE assessments will therefore need to be undertaken independently and will not be covered by student finance.
Some universities will offer Master’s in Law programmes which will incorporate preparation for SQE1 and SQE2 assessments, and qualify for student finance in the usual way.
The master’s degrees currently available do not include the SQE assessment fees. While preparation for the SQE assessments is provided, the assessments themselves must be undertaken independently from the course and will not be covered by student finance.
Candidates should note that the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) does not require a master’s degree in order to qualify as a solicitor, nor any form of preparatory SQE-specific course.
If you wish to prepare for the SQE assessments there are less expensive, shorter, freestanding courses available. However, these would not be covered by any form of loan funding.
Freestanding SQE preparation courses
There are a range of short courses available through various providers which candidates may wish to undertake as part of their preparation for the SQE assessments.
The courses available are of varying lengths, although all are shorter than a year, and they are generally less expensive than the other options detailed above.
You may choose to self-fund all or part of your SQE preparation and assessments, since you may have completed a law degree which included SQE1 preparation.
Alternatively, some course providers will be offering scholarship options or private student loans through student loan companies they are working with directly.
At present, there is no government-backed funding for freestanding SQE preparation courses. We are continuing to engage with the government on this in order to enable all candidates to choose the route that best suits them based on preference, not the availability of loans or funding.
There are also bursaries and scholarships available, which aim to promote social mobility and diversity within the legal profession.
Some education and training providers offer scholarships and bursaries, and we also run the Diversity Access Scheme. You can explore further support and funding options on our website.
There are two types of apprenticeships available to those wishing to become a solicitor:
- the school leaver solicitor apprenticeship
- the graduate solicitor apprenticeship (for those who already have an undergraduate degree)
As an apprentice, all your training – including any preparation for the SQE assessments – and the assessments themselves are paid for by your employer. Your employer can use the apprenticeship levy fund to help meet the costs of training, education and assessment.
You will also be paid a salary, which is set out in your employment contract. The cost of this must be met by the employer as they would for any other member of staff.
The level of salary differs depending on your age and how far you are through your apprenticeship but must be at least the national minimum wage.
You can use the Find an Apprenticeship service to explore this option further and seek an apprenticeship position.
Access to work support is available for apprentices. This would not cover any costs for SQE preparation or assessments but could help candidates to access apprenticeships.
Many law firms will cover or sponsor their employees’ preparation and fees for the required SQE assessments.
If you choose this route, you should have a signed, formal agreement or contract in place with the firm before you start any education or work.
If you’re self-funding, you may also choose to combine completing your two years’ QWE with part-time study to prepare for the SQE assessments. Some providers of SQE preparation courses have arrangements for candidates to pay in regular instalments for these types of courses.
We recommend as a matter of good practice that providers of QWE should pay their SQE candidates the recommended minimum salary.
The SQE assessments will need to be organised and paid for independently of the options above, except where you're undertaking an apprenticeship or being sponsored by a firm.
This is something that you should consider when comparing routes into the profession.
As with the freestanding SQE preparation courses, there is currently no funding for the SQE assessments when sat independently. We are continuing to engage with the government on this.
As set out above, there are routes into the profession which will meet the costs of the SQE assessments.
- Apprenticeships include the SQE assessments as they are the final assessment required under the government apprenticeship standard
- Some employers will also meet the costs of the SQE assessments for their candidates
- There are some bursaries or schemes which provide funding to meet the costs of the SQE assessments when taken independently, as with the freestanding SQE preparation courses
- We run the Diversity Access Scheme, which can be used to meet the assessment costs for the SQE, in addition to any SQE preparation course fees