Academic stage of education and training
Updated 30 July 2014
Training Regulations 2014
The SRA has a statutory duty to ensure that those who are admitted as solicitors have the knowledge and skills necessary for practice. We do this by specifying the education and training that an individual must complete. These requirements are set out in the Training Regulations 2014 - Qualification and Provider Regulations, which govern all aspects of qualifying as a solicitor. The provisions of the Training Regulations are supplemented by the Academic Stage Handbook (PDF 44 pages, 422K) and the following Information Packs:
The regulations refer to two key stages to qualifying as a solicitor:
Academic stage of education and training
There are a number of ways that an individual can complete the academic stage of education and training, but if you are studying, or intend to study, in a UK university, the usual routes to qualifying are by either first completing an undergraduate qualifying law degree (QLD) at a UK university, or a degree in a different subject at a UK university followed by the Common Professional Examination (CPE), sometimes called the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL).
This is then followed by completion of the Legal Practice Course(LPC), a postgraduate professional qualification which prepares you for work-based learning, and finally by completing a period of recognised training.
There are also exempting law degrees (ELDs), which combine the academic stage of education and training with the LPC.
As part of the vocational stage, to be eligible to commence training and to be admitted as a solicitor, you will also have to meet our requirements as to character and suitability.
Academic Stage Handbook
The Academic Stage Handbook (PDF 44 pages, 422K) sets out the basic rules and guidance for those with an interest in providing or undertaking QLDs, ELDs and the CPE.
Higher Education Providers have discretion in their choice of academic award title for QLDs, ELDs and the CPE, and so the actual award titles will vary from provider to provider.
It is the responsibility of prospective students who wish to become solicitors and barristers in England and Wales to ensure that they enrol on a programme that has been validated for this purpose.
A QLD is an undergraduate law degree that is recognised by the SRA for the purpose of permitting graduates to proceed to the vocational stage of training. There are specific requirements regarding the subjects that you must study, the number of assessment attempts that you are permitted, and also requirements relating to the amount of credits that must be allocated to the study of law on the degree.
Not all law degrees are QLDs, and you should ensure, if you wish to qualify as a solicitor, that the programme you undertake is a QLD. Your university will be able to give you details about the law degrees which they offer, and whether they meet our requirements for QLD status. Details about the QLD and its requirements can be found in Appendix 4 of the The Academic Stage Handbook (PDF 46 pages, 415K), and an up-to-date register of approved QLDs can be found on the SRA's website.
The CPE course route is for people who have an undergraduate degree, but not in law. It involves successful completion of the SRA's CPE / GDL, provided by institutions that we accredit. It is sometimes referred to as a conversion course. If you want to undertake the CPE, you need to provide evidence to the institution at which you wish to study demonstrating that you meet the minimum requirements for admission to the course.
The CPE, is an intensive course built around the core curriculum and assessment requirements of a QLD. It is specifically designed for graduates from non-QLDs, whether or not in the UK, for individuals who have acquired career experience or academic/vocational qualifications that the SRA considers to be equivalent to an undergraduate degree, and for mature applicants.
You may have graduated from a course that, while not a QLD, may have subjects which form a part of the required curriculum in a QLD. In such a case, you may be eligible for credit for this prior study, and therefore be exempt from having to be assessed in subjects you have already taken. This is called Accreditation of Prior Learning. If you think you may be eligible for credit you should formally apply to the CPE provider where you intend to study.
There are some cases where we may exempt you from all of the CPE because, for example, you are a Chartered Legal Executive. See Equivalent Means below.
Details about the CPE and its requirements can be found in Appendix 4 of the The Academic Stage Handbook (PDF 44 pages, 422K), and an up-to-date register of approved CPE providers can be found on the SRA's website.
An ELD is a law degree that is recognised by the SRA for the purpose of permitting graduates to proceed to a period of recognised training, by combining the academic stage of education and training with the LPC. A provider seeking validation of an ELD will need to demonstrate that the design of the course will meet both the outcomes of the Joint Statement and the learning outcomes for the LPC.
Details about the ELD and its requirements can be found in Appendix 4 of the The Academic Stage Handbook (PDF 44 pages, 422K), and the LPC Information Pack. An up-to-date register of approved ELDs can be found on the SRA's website.
Regulation 2.2 of the Training Regulations 2014 allows us to recognise that the knowledge and skills outcomes (and the standard at which they must be acquired) may have been achieved by an individual through other assessed learning and work based learning. Where this is the case, we may grant exemption from all or part of the academic stage.
We refer to this assessed learning and work-based experiential learning ‘equivalent Means’. It can apply to Chartered Legal Executives, graduates of CILEx, Justices’ Clerks’ Assistants, EU, EEA or Swiss nationals who are partially qualified in another EU/EEA country, and those whom the SRA may consider to be mature applicants.
Details about Equivalent Means and the requirements can be found in the Equivalent Means guidance.
Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme (QLTS)
Those who are qualified lawyers in a different jurisdiction (i.e. outside England and Wales), or who are Barristers qualified in England and Wales, are not covered by the Equivalent Means provision. They must seek admission through the Qualified Lawyers Transfer Scheme Regulations.
The QLTS ensures that such applicants have met the standard of knowledge and skill required of a newly qualified solicitor of England and Wales. This is done through two separate tests which are administered on the SRA's behalf by Kaplan QLTS.
Joint regulation of the academic stage of education and training
The SRA and the Bar Standards Board plan to make changes to their Training Regulations. These changes will have an impact on QLD and CPE courses as part of the academic stage of training. We have agreed a Common Protocol to explain the impact of the proposed changes on these courses.
The SRA and the Bar Standards Board are jointly responsible for accrediting providers and for validating programmes for those who wish to become solicitors and barristers in England and Wales. The SRA acts as the administrator on behalf of both regulators.
The fundamental point of reference for this joint validation process is the 1999 Joint Statement of the Law Society and the General Council of the Bar on the completion of the academic stage of training.
In order to have programmes validated and revalidated, Higher Education Providers are required to self-certify, complete with supporting documentation, their compliance with the Joint Statement and with QAA standards and quality assurance requirements.