The two largest legal education providers in the country, The University of Law and BPP University, have been criticised for how they have run their exams during the pandemic.
ULaw has been battling with IT gremlins after it moved to remote assessments to enable it to safely assess students, who complained that the first tranche of online exams has been “an absolute shambles”.
The Wills and Probate exam in December was postponed "at the last minute", said a student, due to unforeseen maintenance work.
Despite staggered start times to relieve pressure on the system, the site then crashed repeatedly.
According to one candidate, many students experienced the screen of death mid-exam, while "some never made it on" and will need to attempt it again in late January.
On Monday, human error appears to have made an appearance when the wrong paper was uploaded for students' Legal Writing Assessment. Candidates said the error wasn’t acknowledged for almost four hours. The assessment requires students to submit their responses within 24 hours. In response to the issue, ULaw extended the deadline to seven days.
ULaw is not alone in struggling to seamlessly deliver its services in a Covid world. The Presidents of the four Inns of Court, Inner Temple, Gray’s Inn, Lincoln’s Inn and Middle Temple, wrote to BPP University in December to complain about "systemic deficiencies" in its teaching of the Bar course and GDL last term.
While ULaw has been criticised for its online performance, BPP came under fire for insisting on face-to-face exams. The Lincoln’s Inn Student Association described BPP's decision to push ahead with in-person assessments as "irresponsible and wrong", stating that it discriminated against students who were vulnerable or had vulnerable families, or who lived abroad. BPP bowed to the pressure on Monday and announced that all its exams would move online.
A spokesperson from The University of Law said, “For technical reasons we regrettably had to replace a Legal Writing paper. We immediately contacted the affected students and we put in place alternative arrangements for them. With reference to the Wills Assessment undertaken before Christmas, we take full responsibility for the issues experienced by our third party supplier and we worked closely with them to resolve this as quickly as possible. As you can appreciate we are dealing with unprecedented circumstances in delivering our assessments online but our priority is always to work through these as promptly as possible to minimise any disruption to students.”