New ‘Health Surcharge’ for Foreign Students in the UK

This article in the Times of India provides details of the new surcharge of 150 GBP imposed on foreign students for health services under the NHS.

An interesting statistic highlighted by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office: “International students cost the NHS around £430 million per year and over £700 per head”. I only visited the NHS once, for a routine examination, in my four years there and I can’t imagine many healthy-bodied 18-30 year olds darkening their door step. Where did the 700 GBP figure come from? Moreover, why they would impose a ‘nominal’, symbolic surcharge of 150 GBP if it doesn’t cover the purported cost of providing healthcare?


Kaplan Law School shuts down BPTC, refers students to University of Law

Kaplan Law School has decided to close down its Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), effective from September, 2014. This decision will be especially hard to swallow for those prospective students who have already received offers to study (/read, if you’re posh) at Kaplan and have passed the BCAT.

It also comes as quite a surprise, since Kaplan is reputed to be the most rigorous of the BPTC providers. It was the first to pilot an admission test for the BPTC and in 2012, 55% of its graduates secured pupillage, substantially higher than the 25% national average. (Obviously, part of the reason why they have such a high success rate is because they only accept students who already have pupillage or are most likely to secure pupillage.)

Kaplan cites “that the economics of the course have forced this decision.” It’s hard to discern the inner workings of an institution from such a cryptic phrase but I would hazard a guess that they’ve been struggling to keep up with the other providers, which have continued to adapt year on year and ‘internationalize’. College of Law (now University of Law), City Law School, BPP,Newcastle Cardiff, Bristol and others have been able to tap into the lucrative international market, by drawing students not only to their BPTC but also to their LLB, LLM and GDL programs. For instance, just last month, BPP has begun offering an online LLB, similar to that offered by the University of London External System, in collaboration with the London College of Legal Studies (South) in Dhaka. Kaplan has not done so, with the ostensible objective of maintaining ‘high standards’ and producing graduates for the English legal profession. The financial losses may also be attributable to the fact that Kaplan froze its BPTC fees this year, while the London bases of BPP and ULaw hiked fees by 6 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.

Personally, I find it to be a sad state of affairs, symptomatic of the generally dreary outlook of England’s legal industry.


A Hasty Departure

A Hasty Departure

This cartoon, by ‘Las May’, was in the Jamaica Gleaner on 9 September, 2013. (All rights to the photo belong to the cartoonist and the newspaper) While this cartoon particularly refers to the dire employment scenario in Jamaica, it could just as easily refer to the UK, the US…or pretty much any other country nowadays.

How to write 1000 words a day (and not go bat shit crazy)

Originally posted on The Thesis Whisperer:

Recently I Tweeted a link to an article called “How to write 1000 words a day for your blog” which I thought had some good productivity tips for thesis writers. @webnemesis wrote back: ” would like to see someone write a blog post on how to write 1000 words of substance for yr dissertation every day”. Of course I answered: “Challenge? Accepted!”

When I was nearing the end of my PhD, I added up the number of words I had to write and divided them by the number of days of study leave I had left. Then I freaked out and had to have a little lie down. According to my calculations I had to write 60,000 words in 3 months.

After a  cup of tea (with maybe just a whiff of scotch in it) I contemplated this problem and made a PLAN, which was cobbled together from all the advice books on writing I…

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Careful Pronunciation

As this video of a cross-examination from the satirical “Not The Nine O’Clock News” very ably demonstrates, a lawyer’s submissions and gravitas are quickly diminished if he/she does not learn to correctly pronounce words. The same can be said to apply in BPTC assessments, where tutors can get easily distracted and annoyed by oft-mispronounced words. It is therefore important that a BPTC student carefully practice his/her advocacy before friends and family and iron out any “phonetic discrepancies” before appearing in an assessment.



The Overseas Student Dilemma

To be honest, I’m not a big fan of the Economist, primarily for ideological reasons. However, reading some of their articles from time to time is unavoidable – like when your father reads next to you on the couch. While he was flipping through the various columns, my eye caught one short article entitled “Overseas Student: How to ruin a global brand”. This paragraph, in particular, caught my attention, even though its contents don’t come as a surprise given the UKBA’s actions against London Metropolitan University and the restrictions on student visas:

…foreign students, whether educated in British private schools or elsewhere, are decreasingly likely to go to English universities. According to the Higher Education Funding Council for England, 307,200 overseas students began their studies in the country in 2012-13, down from 312,000 two years earlier and the first drop in 29 years. Student numbers from the rest of the EU fell—probably a result of the increase in annual tuition fees in England from £6,000 ($10,000) a year to £9,000. But arrivals from India and Pakistan declined most sharply.

(Bangladeshis would have been mentioned as well but compared to Indian and Pakistani students, the number of Bangladeshi students studying in the UK is infinitesimal. Moreover, a large number of Bangladeshi students who currently pursue Higher Education in the UK, go to study the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and that number is not likely to decrease because of student visa restrictions or tuition fees but because of more rigorous entry standards and testing.)

I find it as no surprise that America, Australia and Canada are becoming more favored destinations for students, due to their less stringent post-study work requirements.

This is a blog dedicated mainly to students interested in pursuing the Bar and I’ve always maintained that the value of becoming a Barrister diminishes if you cannot obtain some relevant work experience after your studies. The new visa-regime, which gives students “four months to find a job paying upwards of GBP 20,600″, coupled with an ultra-competitive market for pupillages means that international students do not have a realistic chance of becoming active members of the English Bar. (This perhaps goes without saying as many worthy home students are not able to secure pupillage, much less one that awards more than GBP 20,600 per annum.) Instead, the cleverer and/or more ambitious international students are ‘widening the net’ and searching for jobs outside of their field of specialty – which ultimately may lead to talented individuals leaving the Bar and the legal profession altogether. Others, in search of education and experience, may simply go to the shores of other Commonwealth countries.




The Ideal Law School Graduate

The Ideal Law School Graduate

According to a study conducted by an American University, the ideal law school graduate is one who can combine inter-personal skills with an ability to conduct research, etc. Not a particularly surprising conclusion, it has to be said!




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