Bountiful financial aid is on offer at UK law schools, but options for students from outside the European Union are limited. Even for EU students, it is unclear how Brexit will impact their ability to secure scholarships in the near future.
And yet, many law schools are ramping up the amount of money they award in scholarships, to both attract students from under-represented backgrounds, and star scholars who can help the schools to improve their ranking and reputation.
Anne Davies, dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Oxford, says scholarship funding has “significantly increased” in recent years.
Some Oxford scholarships even give graduate students a full ride. And this is not just a means to study: it can give people the financial freedom to take more risks in their career.
“It’s possible that an all-inclusive scholarship may give a candidate freedom to make some more unusual career choices after completing the degree,” says Davies, such as humanitarian law or to seek social justice. But Oxford’s scholarships are primarily about widening access, she adds.
Most scholarships are reserved for EU students
The problem is that, across the UK, most scholarship funding is reserved for EU students rather than internationals who also typically pay much higher tuition fees. But EU students may be considered internationals after the Brexit transition period ends by 2021 — and they might have to pay higher fees and perhaps miss out on scholarship funding too.
Though, at the School of Law at the University of Sheffield, in northern England, there are merit scholarships for overseas graduate students that knock 25 percent off the tuition fee.
The nearby School of Law at the University of Leeds offers scholarships that are worth £5,000 for international students, which reflects their higher fees, while EU students can get £3,000 awards.
Often, scholarships attract people from specific backgrounds and are used to broaden diversity in the program, in terms of nationality, ethnicity and gender. For example, the Myers Scholarship at Oxford awards up to £13,750 to Australian lawyers.
“Our scholarships attract strong students from all around the world,” says Sam Lewis, associate professor at Leeds. A diverse background enriches learning through the case method of teaching in law schools, with group discussion a key feature of this method.
“Scholarships also facilitate widening participation, by supporting students who might otherwise not be able to undertake postgraduate study,” adds Lewis.
At Sheffield, awards are bountiful, and have increased year-over-year, thanks to generous alumni donations. The school offers more than 100 scholarships worth £10,000 each for UK postgraduate students each year. There are also extra awards for LL.M. students worth £4,000 apiece.
Money also flows to candidates who can demonstrate academic merit, such as a first-class undergraduate degree. Those interested have to submit an application form and write a 2,000 word essay.
Catherine McKeown, head of financial support at Sheffield, says: “Demonstrate a passion for your chosen subject, future ambitions and how the qualification will help you achieve them. We want to find out more about you and how you got to where you are today.”
James Lee, vice dean for education at King’s College London’s Dickson Poon School of Law, sits on the team deciding who gets scholarships and who does not.
King’s graduate scholarships, worth up to £24,000, are awarded based on financial need — but candidates write a personal statement stating their case. They answer a question in 500 words, and in doing so either explain their financial situation or how they might otherwise fund their studies.
“Generic statements are less likely to stand out than those which are tailored,” Lee says. “Think about what you want to do with your degree, and why. Is it for the intellectual challenge, is it for career advancement, a career change, or something else?”
Strong candidates also reflect on what their strengths are, both in terms of natural ability and how they have developed further skills at university and in a job, he adds.
For merit-based awards, “what stands out are candidates with very strong academic records and potential”, says Davies at Oxford.
At her institution, LL.M. students are automatically considered for most scholarships if they are eligible, but other awards require separate applications.
To secure a scholarship, LL.M. students may need to put in some hard graft, but many will consider it worthwhile — if they are successful.