Understanding student finance can be as challenging as finding it. For undergraduate students there is much available from government sources: see the guides on DirectGov and the City University website. Postgraduate Student Finance is much more interesting. Whether you’re looking to complete a Graduate Diploma in Law, or intending to qualify to the Bar, there are various funding sources available.
The obvious initial pool to apply to is that of scholarships, both within your Law School (here’s City’s information on Awards) and the University’s central Student Centre (again here’s the information for City students).
For would-be solicitors, the Law Society has two schemes offering funding support for the LPC including the Law Society Bursary Scheme (for those who can “demonstrate exceptional academic ability and potential as a solicitor”) and the Law Society Diversity Access Scheme for those who need to overcome exceptional obstacles to qualify as a solicitor. It is unconfirmed whether these schemes will continue into 2012 but an announcement is likely to be made in January 2012. The Law Society page on funding also gives an overview of other options, including the Graham Rushton Award for visually impaired students and several Trusts set up to help those seeking to qualify.
What about barristers? The Inns of Court offer various scholarships for those looking to study the GDL or BTPC: Grays Inn (GDL, BTPC), Middle Temple, Inner Temple and Lincoln’s Inn. There are also awards for visually impaired students/students with disabilities: the Hebe Plunkett Award at Grays Inn offers awards up to £10,000 to fund the GDL, BPTC or pupillage and at Inner Temple Disability Grants are available.
For those with disabilities there are other funding options around; for grants of up to £500 for extra equipment, travel costs, a helper/note-taker see the Student Disability Fund, and the government offers Disabled Students’ Allowances. The Snowdon Awards Scheme is also worth a look – they provide ‘grants to students with physical or sensory disability, to help them complete further or higher education or training’.
Some postgraduate students take out significant funds through Professional and Career Development Loans, though the banks have tightened up on these for many law courses as these often lead to further study (they are not available to fund the GDL). The Bar Council and the four Inns have reached an agreement with HSBC Bank to form the Bar Loans Scheme. Next to consider yourself for is charity funding. Thousands of charities exist in the UK, so there’s no shortage of people to ask for assistance: though this can be hit and miss. We would recommend using local library registers as well as the Charity Commission website.
The Turn2us website may be useful in accessing benefit and grants information.
It’s not hard to see that key is preparation and advance applications. Start your search, ideally, a year before commencing studies. As part of this search you can request a comprehensive Alternative Guide to Postgraduate Funding from the Student Centre. Finally, we would recommend looking at ways to plan your money through Martin Lewis’ MoneySavingExpert.com and Brightside’s Student Calculator.
Thanks to Thomas Pearson, Financial Support Adviser for the Student Centre at City University for helping form the basis of this piece.