Nearly nine out of ten postgraduate law students say that if they were starting university now they would want their degree course to include employability and professional skills rather than just academic knowledge.
However only 16 per cent said that their university offered a very good level of practical help and advice to make them more employable while 40 per cent said that they did not receive enough advice.
Students ranked academic development, employability training and the teaching of professional skills as the three most important roles for universities while their research prowess was seen as the least important factor in students’ choice of where to study.
These were among the findings of an annual survey of its students carried out by The College of Law, the largest postgraduate legal training organisation in Europe, in conjunction with The Times newspaper.
The survey was sent to all students on the College’s Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL), Legal Practice Course (LPC) and Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) in September and asked for their views on career aspirations, student debt, higher education changes and tuition fees, changes to the legal profession, politics and the economy.
Of the nearly 1,800 who responded three quarters thought that higher university tuition fees would deter the best talent from less affluent backgrounds from applying to university. Some 67 per cent said the coalition government had not been effective in its handling of higher education reforms.
However 65 per cent would still have gone to university if fees had been at £9,000 per year when they were due to start. Nearly 60 per cent would have considered doing a two-year degree while two thirds would have looked seriously at an apprenticeship – recruitment into the legal profession at 18 and studying for a degree and professional qualifications while working – if one had been available.
Students’ average debt has risen to £15,600, compared with £14,800 last year, with 37 per cent shouldering debts of more than £20,000. At the same time their salary expectations on qualifying have dropped. Aspiring solicitors now expect to earn an average of £37,200 compared with £38,200 in 2010 and £40,100 in 2008. Would-be barristers’ expected salary has gone down from £34,100 last year to £33,300.
Despite this they still manage a level of optimism when asked about the prospects for the UK economy with 59 per cent believing that a recovery is underway and 73 per cent predicting that in five years time the economy will be slowly recovering, as opposed to in recession or stagnant.
The survey also looked at the changes to the legal services market and found that awareness of Alternative Business Structures (ABS) had jumped sharply with 69 per cent of students aware compared with 44 per cent last year. However 58 per cent said that they would not seek work with an ABS.
Professor Nigel Savage, Chief Executive of The College of Law, said: “The results of this year’s survey reveal the weight that today’s students place on the teaching of employability skills in higher education. They clearly vindicate the College’s strategy of prioritising employability and professional skills both in our post-graduate training and in our undergraduate law degree, which launches next year.
“86% of students say that it’s important for university courses to include employability and professional skills as well as academic teaching yet 40% say that their university did not provide enough practical advice to help them in their careers. This mismatch between what students want and what they are actually getting should be a real wake up call for the traditional universities."
The Times/College of Law Student Survey 2011 – Key findings
Further information from Lucy Wray, Press Officer, The College of Law on 01483 216072 (firstname.lastname@example.org)