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AIBU to feel disheartened that my uni would rather I drop out?

(105 Posts)
Ljsj Mon 14-Oct-19 23:06:34

I'll try keep it brief.
At uni, my degree course nationwide doesn't require a sandwich placement year but my uni has a mandatory one (so, not necessary to get this degree, but at my uni they make it that way). My placement year is next year.
I have a young child, which makes life slightly more complicated as unlike the majority of my course mates I can't move back in with my parents and I can't move wherever I can get a placement.
Initially we were told there would be very few paid placements, upon further inspection it turns out no placements are local, save for a voluntary role with a charity, this is unpaid work.
The placement must be 35-40 hours a week, for 40 weeks.
There's no maintenance loan from student finance during this time and the uni doesn't offer any grants.
I cannot progress onto my final year unless I undertake a placement.

Have spoken to the uni, people in several separate departments, and they've all passed me around and the final answer is "drop out, or transfer universities if you want to finish your degree". Neither are really an option, and I'm a bit baffled that they've been so dismissive about it, they won't let me skip the placement year.

I've asked everywhere I can and I'm not getting anywhere. Is it mad for them to suggest dropping out or am I overreacting? I'm in my second year so have already completed my first year. Do not have a partner so no second salary I can live off for the year whilst I undertake an unpaid placement. Longshot, but does anyone have a clue what I can do?

Preggosaurus9 Mon 14-Oct-19 23:08:48

Transfer to another uni. It's not hard assuming you got good grades for 1st and 2nd year. I did it.

TitianaTitsling Mon 14-Oct-19 23:09:05

What's the course you are on to not get any funding for a placement?

user1474894224 Mon 14-Oct-19 23:09:20

What are you studying? What are the placements?

Preggosaurus9 Mon 14-Oct-19 23:10:09

Just seen you're in 2nd year now. I'd start enquiring with prospective unis now about when they would want you to apply to transfer.

LaurieFairyCake Mon 14-Oct-19 23:10:50

I don't understand this at all - they expect adults to take unpaid work for a YEAR with no grants/loans etc before they can go on to the third year?

Did you KNOW this before starting?

I would move uni's. It's not like you have much of a choice.

Is there hardship payments ?

Jollitwiglet Mon 14-Oct-19 23:10:56

Did the course details show you would have to do the placement before you started?

Perunatop Mon 14-Oct-19 23:12:57

It does sound absurd to expect you to survive for a year without payment or funding but TBH you should have researched this before committing to the course. A transfer to another uni sounds your best option.

TitianaTitsling Mon 14-Oct-19 23:13:06

Surely not everyone has parents/dp who can financially support them for a year?

Fallulah Mon 14-Oct-19 23:13:15

Could you be proactive and find your own placement, or does it have to be one the university approves?

I thought you could still claim support while on a sandwich year? Might be out of date though, so apologies if I am.

Possibility of part time/weekend work alongside the placement? A lot of people have to do this (accepting it is more difficult with a child):

BabyofMine Mon 14-Oct-19 23:13:56

Why did you apply for a course with such a requirement??

SarahAndQuack Mon 14-Oct-19 23:15:23

shock And they didn't mention this when you started the degree?

I think you need to take them evidence that this has been sprung on you (eg., a copy of the prospectus from the year you applied).

Frankly, I think they are on shaky ground if they're requiring you to volunteer for a year to complete a degree, even if they did say it up front. How can that be ethical?!

I think you should insist they make a paid placement available. It is fair enough if you have to move to do it, I think - but they cannot expect you to move and to work for free.

CloudRusting Mon 14-Oct-19 23:15:43

If it was like this from when you applied then you’re going to have to suck it up and transfer or do extra work around the placement to make ends meet.

If they have made the placement year mandatory since you signed up then I’d be raising Merry hell.

BitchyArriver Mon 14-Oct-19 23:15:47

That’s shit OP flowers

Did you not know when you started that paid placements would be like hens teeth? It’s a pity you didn’t find this out first but it’s too late now.

Can you find your own placement? I found my own for my hospitality degree as I didn’t want to work for free or be up against 50 students competing for the few paid ones.

If not it looks like the best option now is to transfer unis if you can. Is there more than one in your town offering your degree? Could you finish with OU? Will the uni offer you a HND for the first 2 years?

Samosaurus Mon 14-Oct-19 23:16:14

How could you have missed this when you applied?! I agree it is unreasonable but if that’s part of the university’s compulsory criteria to get one of their degrees then I don’t think there will be much you can do about it.

Mouikey Mon 14-Oct-19 23:16:58

Hopefully I don’t come across to harshly, but did you not look into this before applying to this uni? Why did you pick a 4 year course above a 3 year course without a placement elsewhere? I assume that the placement year would put you ahead of the game in terms of experience once you graduate? If you graduate after 3 years, what kind of employment would you expect? Would you go into a similar unpaid internship or low paid position - I.e. do you suck it up now or later?

What’s the likelihood of finding a permanent position once you graduate in the town/city you currently live in or will you have to move then?

All the above would determine next steps, but if you can’t afford it, you can’t afford it so the choice is as stark as drop out or transfer.

drspouse Mon 14-Oct-19 23:18:26

If it's for a full year and you have no real support locally but you could get a paid placement elsewhere, could you move for that year?

mauvaisereputation Mon 14-Oct-19 23:19:21

Can you transfer to a different course at this uni?

MummytoCSJH Mon 14-Oct-19 23:23:11

You can get student finance whilst on an unpaid placement year. There are no courses where this isn't the case especially with a young child as you still get all the grants and childcare etc. I know because I am on a similar course with a sandwich year. You've been given the wrong info I'm afraid, but don't worry.

Butchyrestingface Mon 14-Oct-19 23:23:21

Was this somehow not made explicit to you during the application process? Why is transferring not an option?

It sounds like a ridiculous set up. They must have to process a fuck tonne of transfers.

hotdogwoof Mon 14-Oct-19 23:23:36

I had something similar. I was to work 40 hours a week, no pay, I was to pay for hospital accommodation for 4 weeks. I have a young son. I didn't have anyone to take him (I didn't want to leave him for 4 weeks either) and uni were shit. No advice, no point me in the direction of x person, just a well you will need to find a more family friendly course.

I left.

If you have the option to transfer then do it if you want to continue your course.

Ljsj Mon 14-Oct-19 23:27:10

I can't afford to move and need to remain living reasonably close to my child's father as he has her weekday evenings and the closest unis are a few hours away.

I was also under the impression SFE would still pay full maintenance loan, but they don't even with unpaid, you get a max of £2700 for the whole year. The only funded unpaid placements are ones within the prison service, the NHS or an LA. NHS placements locally are only for the obvious, ie. Psychology, medical etc. Students, I am neither, and my LA don't take on students from my degree subject.

I did research this before committing to the course, but I also didn't have a choice with what uni I went to, and there was no indication that the placement wasn't paid, in fact the uni website states they only allow unpaid placements if it's under 10 weeks or a voluntary role, and when we had a talk last year on placements salaries were discussed and nothing indicated they weren't paid. I'm not the only one on my course in a position where this has left them in a bad position, understandably!

They're not exactly expecting students to go a year unpaid, they're expecting students to go home to live with their parents who are meant to support them for the duration of the year if unpaid, or to secure a placement in London or other large cities where paid placements (with very decent salaries for a placement) are.

RavenLG Mon 14-Oct-19 23:27:22

I used to work in a university placement team, and unpaid placements were always avoided unless the student could prove they could fund the year without a wage.

However, it seems like you were aware of the situation before you started the course. They told you there would be limited paid placements, and did not say the paid ones would be local. 90% of the students I worked with moved away for the year to take the placement year. I don’t think there is much you can do if this is a requirement of your course. Is there anyone you could speak with in your student union (academic rep?)

Orchidfeed Mon 14-Oct-19 23:28:30

Your options would appear to be either transfer to another uni - I hope there is one fairly near - or try to find a paid placement.

Talk to your student union - I don’t think you will be the first to have had this problem

Butchyrestingface Mon 14-Oct-19 23:31:18

Sounds like unworkable, elitist bullshit. Which doesn’t exactly help you, I appreciate. I would be raising the issues about the lack of transparency and conflicting information given to studies, which obv informed your decision to study there?

Do you have a students council you can approach for help?

RavenLG Mon 14-Oct-19 23:31:59

crossposted with you.

in fact the uni website states they only allow unpaid placements if it's under 10 weeks or a voluntary role

If this is true and it relates to your course then they could be in breech if the consumer care act. We had to be very careful with information to ensure it was correct and clear.
Read this and if any applies make an appointment with your placement team and raise concerns.
assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/415732/Undergraduate_students_-_your_rights_under_consumer_law.pdf

Ljsj Mon 14-Oct-19 23:33:35

@MummytoCSJH we called SFE today and they replied to my Facebook message stating this. I don't get any grants for dependants or childcare either for the year.

www.kent.ac.uk/finance-student/funding/sandwich.html (not my uni but has the info on it)

www.allaboutcareers.com/careers-advice/student-finance/student-finance-placement-year

Ljsj Mon 14-Oct-19 23:36:53

Sorry its 12 weeks @ravenlg not that it makes any difference but here's the full statement:

1) The placement is short (less than 12 weeks)

B) The placement provider is a Charity or Non-profit organisation. [my] University recognises that charities and other non-profit organisations have limited funds to pay for placement support from undergraduates but that students can benefit from the positive experiences these charities and non-profit organisations can bring.

[my] University does not endorse unpaid placements which do not meet the above criteria. Where an organisation wishes to continue to offer an unpaid placement which does not meet these criteria, advertisement of the placement will not be refused; however, it should be noted that such placements may not attract many applications.

I'll have a read now thank you... Ironically it's a law degree placement

DoctorDoctor Mon 14-Oct-19 23:43:06

That does sound harsh. I would go to your student union and ask for help. Is there any kind of other version of your course validated where the placement is not required?
If you are currently early in your second year, I would start looking for alternative universities you could transfer to the final year - you've got time to look into this. Travelling for just one year might be manageable especially if you don't have lectures every day.

fluffedup Mon 14-Oct-19 23:45:11

How does anyone survive if it's unpaid? In the olden days (30 years ago) the work part of sandwich courses were paid - it seems ridiculous that it should be otherwise.

MummytoCSJH Mon 14-Oct-19 23:45:41

Well fuck. Guess I can't afford to do one either then. I'll have to switch to the 3 year course. Sorry OP sad

Fallingirl Mon 14-Oct-19 23:48:08

Have you considered transfer to The Open University?
Then you would be able to study from home.

Oliversmumsarmy Mon 14-Oct-19 23:52:31

the uni website states they only allow unpaid placements if it's under 10 weeks or a voluntary role

Surely then this would mean the placements had to be paid otherwise it would be false advertising.

They're not exactly expecting students to go a year unpaid, they're expecting students to go home to live with their parents who are meant to support them for the duration of the year

So another words they are expecting students to go a year without pay.

Ljsj Tue 15-Oct-19 00:14:47

@Oliversmumsarmy the only local vacancies for placements are with the CAB! My sister has just moved out I can imagine their reaction if she expected to move back for a year whilst they pay for everything... grin

A PP asked if I could find my own placement and I think I'm going to have to be ballsy and ask around local firms to see if they'd be interested in offering a placement, the worst they can do is say no.

@MummytoCSJH is your course one where your placement could be with the NHS, LA, prison service etc.?

@Fallingirl it was suggested to me at the SU advice drop in this morning (or rather yesterday morning now!) , but as 4 years ago when I decided to go to university, I began to save for a year to move to this town as hometown doesn't have a uni, going through the faff of a house swap, which in turn meant DD's father had to move too just so he could see her regularly, to then do a years access course to avoid doing the OU, and I would be beyond miffed! It's a last resort though as I'm not about to just give up on a degree I've been working towards for years, although I'd have to try and fit part time work around that too as they don't pay you a maintenance loan for an OU degree

ChazsBrilliantAttitude Tue 15-Oct-19 00:15:01

I believe women make up the majority of single parent families so a placement structure that causes undue hardship to a single parent may be indirect discrimination because it disproportionately disadvantages women.

MummytoCSJH Tue 15-Oct-19 00:20:39

I don't know really, it's possible but it's not really the placement I want.. I'm studying forensic sciences. Don't want to derail your thread!

Ljsj Tue 15-Oct-19 00:20:44

@DoctorDoctor I actually have no idea why they aren't offering an alternative pathway that excludes the placement year. It's not necessary for the degree itself, but I think they're concerned that a lot of students would opt for that thus flooding the next year with extra students (if that makes sense).

I do want to do a placement, it will be excellent work experience, creating contacts and links that will help with securing a training contract upon graduation and actually would be a welcome break from being up at 3am studying for the year. I would like to make this work and find a way to do so, but everyone I've gone to for advice including the placement coordinator has been quite dismissive. FWIW I've not gone to them whining or moaning, just wanting to ascertain the situation and find out what was available, went into it very positively and fully thinking something would come up yet I've been a bit disappointed!

RavenLG Tue 15-Oct-19 00:23:52

Does your university begin with B?
If so I think that they have advertised everything fairly, unfortunately for you.

On the my career hub page they have an “unpaid placements disclaimer” which will allow them to advertise unpaid placements. It also uses the word “generally” which allows for deviation. The university’s placements page does state that placements can be unpaid, which should also be in your course information you received when you applied.

I think the problem for you is because the pathway for the course is dependent on the placement, you won’t be able to progress without it as they are issuing the qualification. I’m not 100% as my area was arts, design and humanities but I know they university I worked for had started implementing mandatory placements too in the law and business department and have faced a few issues like this.

I can’t advise any further but on reflection (if this is your university) I think everything is correct. I’d still look to meet with your student union, they are there to advocate for you and will help you in meetings etc to see if an outcome can be reached.

You can definitely approach law firms in your town without going through the placement team, and your placement coordinators are still there to assist with cv / application advise etc. Lots of our students found their placements this way, and the placement teams will find placements this way too. Half of ours were advertised as we had found online etc.

Good luck with it!

Ljsj Tue 15-Oct-19 00:29:49

@MummytoCSJH just tried to reply so sorry if this is a copy of my last comment, not sure if it sent or not!
You're not derailing the thread, we're in similar situations so it's relevant! Hopefully we can sort this out together with the MN hive mind. Go and see your placement coordinator and push for info on the availability of paid placements to get the lay of the land. I spoke to my academic advisor toward the end of first year about it and was assured there'd be lots to choose from and to not worry... Wish I'd pushed a bit harder!

@ChazsBrilliantAttitude I hate feeling like an entitled parent causing a fuss because 'I'm a mum and I deserve special treatment' (I obviously don't think that I do deserve any special treatment but my circumstances are a bit different to other students and I'm not the only parent on my course, but don't speak to them to know what they're doing perhaps I should try to reach out), but it does feel that they're excluding me from something based on my circumstances. I have a friend who works in HR and knows a fair bit about employment law and said being a parent isn't a protected characteristic but you make a good point re:women there.

What I haven't done is email my head of department, I've gone through all the lower channels for advice so that may be my next port of call

Ljsj Tue 15-Oct-19 00:33:06

@RavenLG maybe grin

I'll be emailing my HoD and contacting local firms, I'm not shy about asking for things like that as it really doesn't hurt to enquire, especially when the alternative of having to leave the uni is not very appealing to me

H0tP00lthism0rning Tue 15-Oct-19 02:19:13

What did the students do that are in the year above you ?
Why doesn't the uni have a list of local placements ?
Just curious are you the student allowed to take a placement abroad during this time ?
How do the uni check what placement you have done & if it was a successful placement ?
What about a food bank/ homeless shelter ?
Unsure what sort of placement you are expected to complete ?

BanningTheWordNaice Tue 15-Oct-19 02:33:38

Weird, I went to Surrey and if you stayed on the 4 year course you HAD to do a placement but they had a 3 year option in case of problems like this. Really odd that there’s no choice, drop out rates aren’t great for them either I don’t think.

notmytea Tue 15-Oct-19 02:48:02

So you've just started year 2? IME with the uni you've linked to, the official line is 'find a placement' and they won't want to even hint anything else is possible because they'll get a whole cohort wanting to skip placement if word gets out, but you'll probably find later in the year that they are more flexible and are willing to discuss continuation without placement.

If they really won't budge later in the year then I would mention Athena SWAN to them and the importance of supporting parents

WhatTiggersDoBest Tue 15-Oct-19 02:56:46

Can you switch to a uni offering a distance degree, or get your credits and transfer to the OU for the third year? Can you do your "placement" remotely e.g. working for a legal advice telephone helpline or similar where they might let you do it from home? This is really awful that they've done this to you.
One of my relatives has a law degree and used it in the NHS, so it's worth trying your local Trust if it means you'll get your student loan.
I'm sorry you're going through this and I really hope there's something you can do.

soulrunner Tue 15-Oct-19 04:32:39

I actually have no idea why they aren't offering an alternative pathway that excludes the placement year

I imagine it’s to do with employability because there are a lot more law grads than training contracts so the sandwich year probably increases the training contract %

Tippety Tue 15-Oct-19 04:51:48

That sucks OP, they were all paid placements at my uni (some extremely nicely paid). There's no harm asking around locally if that is permitted, although there's a bit of extra work for them so maybe find out what that entails so when you ask you can be open about it. Good luck, it's a shame that stuff like this is still creating uneccessary barriers, the uni may have a clause on the website saying it's possible, but most of them probably do, which closes that degree off for people who can't afford it.

DoctorAllcome Tue 15-Oct-19 04:58:59

I’d transfer to another uni. You’d get the student finance so you CAN move even with a child for the next two years and then move back after graduation or not. It’s not impossible to move with children so long as you have student loans to live on.

Somewheredreamingofcheesecake Tue 15-Oct-19 05:28:13

What do you plan to do when you finish? There aren't going to be many decent training contracts in that city (assuming I have sector and city right) and nowhere you could realistically commute to that would be any better. If you're going to end up having to move after you finish, is it worth considering a transfer anyway?

If your plan is to target the type of employees in your current city then I agree your approach of trying to get in on a placement is a good one. I don't know what the market is like there but I would have thought someone would be willing to pay minimum wage at least.

Grumpymcgrumperson Tue 15-Oct-19 05:50:18

I’d keep trying to find a paid placement which I could commute to. Is there a reason you and your child can’t move in with your parents while you do the course to help save on rent? Wouldn’t your parents help you out?

Namechangeforthiscancershit Tue 15-Oct-19 05:52:28

@Somewheredreamingofcheesecake makes a good point- you could be experiencing two years early what you would have found when applying for TC anyway, if there just aren't the employers.

How close is your nearest city?

SaskiaRembrandt Tue 15-Oct-19 06:00:33

This is so odd. I don't know which university you are studying at, but most are bending over backwards to widen participation and be inclusive of 'non-traditional' students. This completely flies in the face of that by catering to only young, relatively wealthy students whose families can afford to accommodate and support them for a year.

Definitely get in touch with the SU! This is precisely the sort of issue they should be dealing with. You won't be the only person affected, so try to find a few others to join you and reinforce your case.

SleepyKat Tue 15-Oct-19 06:19:46

I’d definitely get the Su to support you in an indirect discrimination case....either on age or sex. This is harder for older students who don’t have parental support and harder for women who are more likely to have children to support.

aurynne Tue 15-Oct-19 06:24:40

Could your exH not have your child with him while you're at placement, and you could come to see him in days off?

GreenLeafTurnip Tue 15-Oct-19 06:40:45

@Ljsj I'm sorry I haven't read the full thread but when I was doing OU they only allowed transfer of 120 credits (so basically just first year). So I would make sure that you aren't wasting your time with your current uni this year if you do intend to transfer to OU.

DisneyMadeMeDoIt Tue 15-Oct-19 06:56:14

Oh OP I’ve just graduated (mature student) and I also couldn’t have afforded to do a placement year unless it came with a decent FT salary, my uni (I had to go to as it was close to me) also insisted on ‘placement years’ for some courses and in the end I had to forgo my first choice course as I simply couldn’t take the risk.

In fairness they were very understanding, generally, of my position as a MS and would accommodate my PT work schedule as much as possible but I got told (in no uncertain terms) that if I went for a course with a placement year I would be subject to the same requirements as all the other students!

In your situation - if you really can’t do it AND can’t move (both understandable) I would put together a clear and concise summary of your situation
- single mum
- second year
- can’t work for free without maintenance loan
- can’t transfer uni due to travel

...and I would make an apt with the head of your department/school and make it clear in no uncertain terms the situation you are being put in. Tell them that IF they leave you with no other choice, having known your position and mislead you RE funding from SFE (quite a few at my uni were also led to believe they would get ML If placement was unpaid) then you will make a HUGE fuss and send the story out to every media outlet you possibly can. The uni (knowing your situation upon admittance) have a duty of care to not just take your money and then leave you stranded

SonEtLumiere Tue 15-Oct-19 07:06:13

OP. I would definitely start now trying to arrange a paid placement locally. Do not just think about law firms but also large employers that will have a site legal team.

Use every contact you have and try to widen your circle to get this sorted.

PedroPonyismyspiritanimal Tue 15-Oct-19 07:10:43

I'm baffled by your university's policy on placements. It discriminates against low income students, mature students and those with caring responsibilities - all groups which the government's Office for Students has identified as target groups for student retention. Can you find out who is responsible for your university's Access and Participation Plan for advice (head of Widening Participation would be a good start). The answer can't just be to transfer courses, they're letting you down.

MrsEricBana Tue 15-Oct-19 07:29:54

I must be missing something here but surely you can get paid work in a local law firm for 40 weeks that meets their criteria? If not, where are you planning to work once you graduate?

Armadillostoes Tue 15-Oct-19 07:38:21

OP-Have you tried threatening the university with legal action? Even if you wouldn't follow it through, they wouldn't need to know that. Between the repeated assurances of a place payment, and the equalities/indirect discrimination angle, you have more than enough to worry them. They are quite exposed, and if you can communicate this to someone with enough wit to realise it, you might get a more helpful response.

Ljsj Tue 15-Oct-19 07:48:06

@BanningTheWordNaice love your username grin as PP said I wonder if they'll become less rigid when it's nearing the end of the year and I've exhausted every avenue securing a paid one, which to be entirely honest I could still do its not out of the question, especially with contacting firms

@Grumpymcgrumperson they live in the middle of nowhere so it would put me in a more awkward position I think

@Somewheredreamingofcheesecake I'll need to work to save up for the LPC which I have to undertake, then it takes two years whilst working part time as SFE fund you for 4 years, that time line has always worked out well with DD finishing school. My uni offers the LPC, not every university does so as long as I transfered to a Uni that offers it I wouldn't be playing musical chairs with universities, but would need to take a year out of studying to save up to afford to move

@DoctorAllcome it isn't just about the money, I'm on a very tight budget as I have to make the loan stretch over summer and wouldn't have enough to hire removal people, the vans, a deposit etc. I'm also in an HA property so when summer does come, I get HB (pay full rent term time) and its a secure tenancy that I won't lose. If I move I lose that security, plus pulling DD out of school and making her unable to see her dad. We live close to each other so that he van pick her up weekday evenings (neither of us drive). If it were just us two, and I was already privately renting, it would be an easier decision but it's one that affects others not just me and as much as I'd like to live my life entirely for myself, I can't. Eventually I'll have to move but by that point there's time to plan for other things, and I will be able to afford a car by then (hopefully!)

JangoInTheFamilyWay Tue 15-Oct-19 07:49:58

Two other possibilities, neither ideal but.... do they have a part time option? (You could maybe do the placement part time over two years and get a job to help support you - still unlikely to be financially viable but worth a look). What other degrees do they run that you could transfer to? (Not the degree you wanted but better than dropping out with nothing).
Who have you spoken to? Have you asked the programme leader if this has happened before?

GU24Mum Tue 15-Oct-19 07:53:44

OP, it sounds like a crazy situation and, as others have said, completely flies in the face of "widening access" etc.

I have never heard of law firms taking on placement students for a year. There are vacation schemes but they tend to be for 2 weeks (and are often paid). I'm sure you're finding yourself in the position that the firms which may take you on and pay you (eg as a paralegal) are the ones which are the larger firms only in big cities.

Is your university a reasonably well-known one for law degrees? If not, unfortunately I suspect that even if you do stay, you're going to have an uphill battle getting a training contract anywhere which will pay you enough for childcare too. The big firms pay their trainees well (some crazily so) but only really in the large centres.

It might also be worth speaking to an organisation like The Sutton Trust. They wouldn't be able to pay you as their programmes are more for school-age people but the ST is all about social mobility so it might be interested in looking at this and advocating for you (and others in similar positions).

MindyStClaire Tue 15-Oct-19 07:55:10

Apologies if you've mentioned this - but the website you've quoted talks about short unpaid placements. Could you see about doing a 12 week unpaid placement over the summer and then going into final year?

LizzyELane Tue 15-Oct-19 07:56:13

I too am a single parent, I started a degree course two years ago which I knew required a year's placement in the second year (vet nursing) and the Uni literature stated they would be supporting students in finding these. This never happened and we were left to arrange these ourselves which in itself was a nightmare (lots of students, not many vet surgeries). In the end I dropped out before commencing my placement as I just couldn't face a year working full-time for nothing. I've recently heard out of the five friends I had on the course only one carried on due to the others being totally messed about. Practice managers suddenly decided they didn't want a student, were 'rearranging staffing resources', giving long-arranged places to other students, etc. So that was the end of their degrees, the course tutors just shrugged and basically said tough luck, all wasted a year of the four year student loan allowance and of course now have a year of student loan debt hanging round their necks, having achieved nothing. Years ago I also started adult nursing but had to give up as all the placements were in the kids school holidays, try sorting childcare when you're on a small NHS bursary and have to report to the ward by 7am on an early or work till 10pm on a late, weekdays AND weekends!!! I'm on a course now that doesn't require a placement and would never touch one that did again, there's no understanding by the Uni's that mature students with responsibilities just can't drop everything, move house or work all hours for free!

maddening Tue 15-Oct-19 07:58:09

Can you speak to ex about moving again to a city which has a uni that doesn't do placements and that has career opportunities after uni?

Dinosauraddict Tue 15-Oct-19 07:59:58

@Ljsj this is really difficult without knowing what Uni you're at, as my advice would possible change, but key points based on my own experience of a law degree which had a compulsory work experience element:
- Most Unis fully expect the students to go and seek their own placements - particularly with law you should be building your industry contacts from year 1 and have a proactive approach to your own development
- I sent a lot of basically out of the blue letters with my CV, by post, to the firms/areas I was interested in - some didn't reply, some did
- Think about what you want to work in post qualification and target your efforts. For example, the probation or prison service could give you invaluable experience if you're interested in criminal law and you would still get full loan
- Think outside the box where you're applying - for example you can apply to courts or the civil service
- Be realistic, if you've not got amazing grades from first year, don't ask for the world
- If you need to transfer Unis, fair enough, but I would avoid transferring to OU as it doesn't look as good later
- I would never, ever recommend that someone individually pays for LPC. That should be funded by future employer once you have TC offer. General approach - if an employer doesn't want you enough to fund LPC, you're likely to pay thousands for it and then end up as a paralegal anyway as no-one will think you're good enough to fund a TC. (Not trying to be harsh - but thought someone should mention now that your current plans may not be your most desirable or cost effective route.)

Your current Uni and first year grade would change some more tailored advice I could give you though.

Ljsj Tue 15-Oct-19 08:03:51

@MrsEricBana that's what I'm going to try

@aurynne that isn't really a viable option

@PedroPonyismyspiritanimal that's what I'm trying to get at... "just transfer unis" shouldn't be the only answer to this problem, why should I have to do that. If I fail to secure a paid placement, I will contact them

@DisneyMadeMeDoIt taking comfort in others believing you recieved ML for unpaid placements, I've felt a bit stupid about it. There's also no guarantee that even if I could move for just the year, that I'd get a paid placement so having a back up 3 year option should be in place not only for people in my situation but people who can't just move back to their parents', or who don't have parents to go back to at all

TemporaryPermanent Tue 15-Oct-19 08:06:19

Does your university have a legal department? What about asking them for a placement?

I would just ask every setting you can find for a placement though: write to them and go and see them.

NurseButtercup Tue 15-Oct-19 08:23:55

I haven't read the entire thread but has anybody suggested reaching out to the alumni relations team to contact former students, to assist with placement opportunities? I think I read that you're doing a law degree? The local law society, chambers of commerce and local branch of the institute of directors are other organisations you could contact.

Good luck flowers

NurseButtercup Tue 15-Oct-19 08:32:36

@56LizzyELane

You no longer have to work nights or long days during placement on the nursing degree. My university are now encouraging nursing students to follow 9am til 5pm shift pattern.

Ljsj Tue 15-Oct-19 08:35:32

@TemporaryPermanent I shall look into that I know of some other students on another course doing internal placements

@LizzyELane that is shocking, and yes getting childcare for unsociable hours must be difficult at best

@MindyStClaire has to be a 40 week placement unfortunately or a vacation scheme would be perfect for me

@GU24Mum hehe no it's not well known grin I believe its why they push the placement year so much, because its not exactly a renowned institution. Its comfortably in the middle of the uni rankings for law so not that bad. I am kicking myself for not moving to a different city when I moved, but it made sense at the time to stay within a reasonable radius to my parents. Hindsight is a wonderful thing. I desperately wanted to go to Sussex or Exeter but thought I'd play it safe.

@NurseButtercup I'll ask!

Ljsj Tue 15-Oct-19 08:38:52

@JangoInTheFamilyWay both great suggestions as you now don't need a law degree due to the SQE, I'd rather study law now of course but it's always an option! I'll enquire about part time. I've spoken to placement coordinator, academic advisor, student union advice hub and the ask service

Userzzzzz Tue 15-Oct-19 08:47:50

What does your placement have to include? Does it have to be law or could you make other jobs fit the criteria for the placement? I can’t imagine 40 week paid placements easy to find unless there is an existing admin/junior role that needs filling given the usual model of vacation schemes.

Groovee Tue 15-Oct-19 08:48:31

My Dd expected placements. And we were told on the applicants day after her offer, that for 2nd year they were expected to find their own unpaid placement that wasn't school based. It would be self funded. Some people go abroad for the 6 weeks.

I'd have expected uni to make it clear at some point in the process before now.

Brown76 Tue 15-Oct-19 09:17:46

Have you looked into scholarships or hardship funds? Would the Uni allow you to spread the placement hours over a longer period, so 35 hours * 40 weeks if spread over two years would be 16 hours a week (48 week working year) You could work part time in 'placement year' at CRB and paid work to support yourself. Then in your final year do the rest of the hours?

Brown76 Tue 15-Oct-19 09:18:17

Have you looked into scholarships or hardship funds? Would the Uni allow you to spread the placement hours over a longer period, so 35 hours * 40 weeks if spread over two years would be 16 hours a week (48 week working year) You could work part time in 'placement year' at CRB and paid work to support yourself. Then in your final year do the rest of the hours?

Brown76 Tue 15-Oct-19 09:18:23

Have you looked into scholarships or hardship funds? Would the Uni allow you to spread the placement hours over a longer period, so 35 hours * 40 weeks if spread over two years would be 16 hours a week (48 week working year) You could work part time in 'placement year' at CRB and paid work to support yourself. Then in your final year do the rest of the hours?

Brown76 Tue 15-Oct-19 09:19:57

Also maybe try contacting one of the few companies that offer flexible remote working for solicitors (many of them parents). Could you remotely paralegal or assist one of their solicitors with admin, research or case work for free.

raspberryk Tue 15-Oct-19 10:15:53

Are you not claiming universal credit alongside your student income? In the placement year the household income they use will change to the 2-3k loan amount instead if whatever you get at the moment. Plus you'll still get the grants etc.

TemporaryPermanent Tue 15-Oct-19 10:18:16

Good luck. You are setting yourself up with a spectacular answer to the perennial interview question 'tell us about a time you faced barriers/a difficult situation'. Thing is though, as a single parent having to negotiate and navigate every step of the way, you've already dealt with more barriers than most students will encounter in their first ten years of work.

I hope it works out; I hope people will support you. I think the suggestion of trying alumni associations is a good one too but ultimately theres nothing like turning up and meeting people face to face.

Binglebong Tue 15-Oct-19 10:23:58

Please make sure you screenshot the website where it talks about placements in case you do decide to go down the legal or media route.

MojoMoon Tue 15-Oct-19 10:26:58

Can I just echo a previous poster about thinking twice before paying for your own LPC?

If you get a training contract, they cover the cost plus your two years mandatory post qualification work is covered.

If no one will fund your LPC, it strongly suggests you might struggle to get the necessary job after paying for it yourself.

I am not saying it NEVER happens - but it is definitely worth bearing in mind before you drop thousands of pounds on an LPC.

If you can't get the necessary work after LPC, it is a total waste of money.

I know a lot of lawyers and not a single one paid for their own LPC....

Ljsj Tue 15-Oct-19 10:51:08

@raspberryk I'm not on UC and I'm not eligible for anything with my student loan save for child benefit, and housing benefit during the summer. SFE informed me yesterday you don't get any grants whilst on placement year either, so no dependant grant or childcare (not too much of an issue as she's in school but will have to sort wrap around care). Unsurprisingly, I can't find much info about eligibility for benefits whilst on placement, some sources are saying no as it's a full week you're working and others are saying as it's based on your income you can be eligible. I may sound silly but I didn't actually think about it because its full time work!

@MojoMoon yes, you and PP are right. I'm just a natural born worrier I think, and doubt myself a lot.

@Brown76 there's a means tested hardship fund of up to I believe just over £2K. Have checked the Turn2us grants website but none of them cover university students. The SU hub did suggest stitching together a that grant and the maintenance loan but that's still £4K for a year, but better than nothing, of course

Namechangeforthiscancershit Tue 15-Oct-19 10:51:13

@MojoMoon I'm a solicitor and I partly agree. Most High Street firms don't fund the LPC but bigger firms do, so mine was paid (thank God). I wouldn't self fund the LPC unless I had a TC offer in place, and wanted to work in the High Street of course.

trickofthetail1 Tue 15-Oct-19 11:04:20

I understand that it is now possible to qualify as a solicitor without having undertaken a Training Contract as these have become very difficult to find. After completing the LPC and working as a paralegal and gaining experience in different areas of practice it is possible to become a Legal Executive. It is then possible to complete a short course, take an exam and qualify as a solicitor. I know a family member who qualified through this route and has had no difficulty
in finding a job, paying for their own LPC has not been a barrier. I would suggest looking at the Legal Executive route to check the current requirements. I know this is not helpful for the immediate problem but it may be worth investigating further if you can overcome the placement problem.

Ljsj Tue 15-Oct-19 11:08:17

@Userzzzzz that could work I'll ask how relevant it needs to be

@Groovee they've always maintained it was 40 weeks and that we source our own placements with the local ones being posted on the careers page due to contact links etc. Its more than likely most of these positions haven't been posted yet, and whilst they're competitive, I will apply of course and see how far I get with that. They've never said 'they're 100% all paid and we won't let you undertake an unpaid placement', but put a lot of focus on some firms their students had placements with, and really would you anticipate a 40 week placement not being paid, if ML wasn't available during this time? I assumed it'd be one or the other, unpaid with ML, or paid without ML, so asked my AA who reassured me it'd all be fine. Which I'm sure it will be, I always seem to find a way to make things work. Still a bit hmm at the casual suggestion of just dropping out or transferring from the very people who are meant to encourage you to stay on at the uni. In fact they've been helpful last year with difficulties I faced and all the lecturers are really understanding and great with the varying external circumstances some of us have had so can't fault them there

Ljsj Tue 15-Oct-19 11:14:34

@trickofthetail1 there's also now the SQE although I admit I'm not too read up on that as it's only just coming in!

@Namechangeforthiscancershit thank you for the advice! Truth is I'm not entirely sure what I want to do with my degree. I'm interested in trusts and estates and family law. There's a lot more going on later in the year to help us decide pathways to take for what we want to do, so haven't thought too far ahead but had that general idea. I'd be quite content with working for a High Street firm right now, I've got a little time to think it over.

(Any advice on law in general is absolutely more than welcome right now, as I can assure everyone I shan't be dropping out and giving up regardless of what happens with placements)

Userzzzzz Tue 15-Oct-19 11:19:17

I think it would be a real shame if you were forced to drop out and really unfair. I think you have to arm yourself with the exact requirements of the placement to get the degree and try and see if there are any loop wholes that would allow you to get something that will enable you to get through the year financially. There should be regulations for your course that specify the exact requirements.

Eg I did an Erasmus year but actually the stuff I did at the foreign universities didn’t matter at all. The actual requirement was to submit a dissertation. The friends that I made abroad all had different arrangements for making the year count.

Welshrainbow Tue 15-Oct-19 12:34:46

My OH was in this situation last year and I was off with the baby, it was a crap year but basically OH worked 35 hours on placement for the small amount of maintenance loan we were entitled to and worked 30 hours evenings and weekends so we could still get tax credits etc. It was crap but we managed. Find a part time job now if you don’t already have one and save as much as you can for the placement year.

Somewheredreamingofcheesecake Tue 15-Oct-19 15:46:56

Ok now I don't have to be obtuse about it being law

You said you got funding if it was a free placement with a local authority? If that's true, try the local counsel. They'll have a legal department.

Does it have to be a certain type of work to qualify or could you (for example) go as a legal secretary into a local firm (although at my firm the legal secretaries make more than the paralegals so that won't help).

I self funded the LPC and it worked out fine but (a) I had an (unenforceable) promise of a tc; (b) was running out of time (then the GDL expired); and (c) I could afford to accept the loss if necessary. Until I had that TC locked down it was stressful as hell. I would not recommend doing the LPC without a TC in place as others have said.

I don't know what sort of law you want to go into but with a middle ranking university you really need to focus on ensuring your grades are top class. I know plenty of senior lawyers and partners with not particularly great degrees but for the last few years every trainee has been from a top ranked university, with strong a-levels and a large proportion with first. I don't mean to scare you but it's a tough market. I'm at a large international firm but not somewhere the magic circle would thing as competition. I'm about to move in house to a very strong team and looking at the CVS of the lawyers there it's similar.

As a positive, with one notable exception, no one has ever cared about me being older than average or a career changer or having kids. The notable exception will not be named but no one would be surprised!

Perunatop Tue 15-Oct-19 15:56:38

Could you get a paid job as a conveyancing clerk (for example) with a local firm for a year? Would that count? Or a court usher? While not actually a law placement as an usher you could learn a lot about criminal law in practice from observing in court and talking to defendants and solicitors. I think creative thinking is required here. You also need to challenge your university, perhaps hinting at pursuing a discrimination case if all else fails.

Ljsj Tue 15-Oct-19 16:16:32

@Perunatop I don't see why not

Ljsj Tue 15-Oct-19 16:31:38

@Somewheredreamingofcheesecake I am part of a voluntary team with my HA so will ask if they'd know who best to contact at the LA. I don't know how broad the definition is, the CAB position they're advertising and are encouraging us to go for is advisory so not really a legal role so I'm assuming quite broad which widens the scope nicely. Placements coordinator has told me to go away and finish drafting an up to date CV and come back and she can have a look over it so I'll ask her then.

My grades are alright, first year didn't could towards our final grade but I got a first and mostly 2:1s and a couple 2:2s, my access course grade was overall a merit and I got about 135 UCAS points IIRC, which wasn't quite enough for the RG uni, not sure of the A level equivalent. No assessments yet this year to go on, but it's mostly mooting and one exam this semester so I'm hopeful. I do put the work in. I think I'd like to go into trusts and estates, property or family. I'm intentionally being flexible with what I'm going to do after to avoid disappointment grin but something in those sorts of areas

HugoSpritz Tue 15-Oct-19 16:45:07

Where are you based that there is not another uni within 2 or 3 hours to transfer to?

Loveyou3000 Tue 15-Oct-19 18:22:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Ljsj Tue 15-Oct-19 18:35:50

@HugoSpritz down south. Closest uni is the RG uni about 2 hrs away going by Google maps public transport prediction.
If you look on the universities by area map, it's the blank space where there is one uni and a small cluster of colleges

raspberryk Tue 15-Oct-19 18:39:15

Who told you that you aren't eligible for UC? I got full loan and was still eligible as a single parent student on a full time course.

GU24Mum Tue 15-Oct-19 19:34:47

Hi OP, if your uni is middle-ish for law then I'd really be tempted to transfer if you both "upgrade" and ditch the placement at the same time.

There are always people who get in through less obvious routes but it's hard. I echo the comments about thinking really hard if you can't at least get a training contract in advance of doing the LPC even if it's not paid.

Some firms will let people start as paralegals and work up via the legal exec route but it takes much longer and will be less well paid.

From what you've said, I'd be very tempted to take the short term hit of transferring. Good luck.

HugoSpritz Tue 15-Oct-19 19:53:01

I am assuming you must be right down the bottom of Cornwall then, as there are lots of unis in the south.

18995168a Tue 15-Oct-19 19:59:53

They're not exactly expecting students to go a year unpaid, they're expecting students to go home to live with their parents who are meant to support them for the duration of the year if unpaid, or to secure a placement in London or other large cities where paid placements (with very decent salaries for a placement) are.

Surely they’re also expecting that students who are self supporting (so no parents or partners to support them) might work outside of the placement to finance it though?

My course involved ten months full time work in an unpaid placement, very few people went to be supported by parents, the ones who weren’t supported by partners worked outside of placement to stay afloat. It meant working 70-80 hours per week generally, I would work placement 9-5 then work delivering food evenings 530pm-midnight and then a couple of weekend days. It was exhausting and I couldn’t physically have done it if I’d had a child already, but it wasn’t the case that the uni were ‘expecting’ us to be subsidised by parents. Tbh it’s probably daft to say the uni is ‘expecting’ students to do anything in particular to make it work, they’ve set the expectations for the course and it’s up to you to meet them, and if you can’t then it’s not really their issue, they receive payment for your course fee anyway whether you pass or not. It’s a pretty cold system but then so is the world of work.

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