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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?

Theresnobslikeshowbs Fri 18-Oct-19 16:38:17

Ds is on his second year of LLB and LPC combined- it’s a 3 year degree and the only uni that offers it. They don’t have to do a placement year and he has already been offered a training contract, providing his grades are as they should be, when he graduates at the end of the 3rd year.

We looked at many universities, and said a placement year with no funding, just wasn’t possible. Thankfully he was given an unconditional offer for his first place university that’s also closet to home, so he is able to commute.

I really feel for you. I had ds less than two months before I started university as a single parent, so I am well aware of the pitfalls, the hurdles, etc. There was so much juggling when I was on placement- 6, 8, 12 weeks, mostly around childcare.

But you will find a way, when you’ve got this far, you know you’ll stop at nothing to find a solution. Worst case, could transfer and move, if you would be moving for a training placement possibly anyway? Just do it early?

WhoTellsYourStory Fri 18-Oct-19 15:54:46

Definitely try in-house. Banks and other big companies have legal teams, and often people don't think of them because they're not law firms (so there may be less competition). I've never heard of a uni with such an odd rule, though, but perhaps things have changed since I graduated from the GDL/LPC!

Londonmummy66 Fri 18-Oct-19 14:24:00

If you can work for the CAB then it may well be that you could work in a firm in an associated field - as you are interested in trust and estates perhaps an accountancy firm or a bank. You could have a look at the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners website to find your local branch You could try contacting the student officer for your local branch and explaining the position and asking if they had come across the situation before or if they knew of a firm that might take you on. If you want to do trust and estates work then STEP membership is useful (and it is a great organization to network in - I still miss it). You might also look at doing one of their certificates in your placement year to give yourself an added "edge" when it comes to job seeking.

MummytoCSJH Fri 18-Oct-19 12:34:31

I've just had a meeting with my course placement advisor regarding this so I hope this info helps you as well OP! The placement coordinator for your course can write to student finance recommending you get the entire amount, your tutor can also add in a letter supporting it. This doesn't include the childcare or parents learning grant but it does mean you'd get the normal maintenance amount including the special support part. Can you ask about this as it seems they haven't mentioned it to you - explain why you need it as they may not be totally aware of the situation - I can't imagine them not knowing they can do this but they may not want to offer it in case it encourages people to not work as hard to find a paid placement (iyswim)

SaskiaRembrandt Wed 16-Oct-19 07:02:42

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,

But it is their issue. They are going against the current push towards ending social and financial exclusion.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

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?

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

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

@Perunatop I don't see why not

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.

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!

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.

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.

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)

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

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.

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.

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

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....

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.

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