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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?

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.

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.

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.

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 09:18:17

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 09:17:46

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?

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.

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.

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

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!

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


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.

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

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.

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

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.

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?

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!

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?

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).

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?

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!)

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.

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?

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.

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.

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