While education services company Kaplan has emerged as the winner of the race to develop the Solicitor Regulation Authority’s (SRA) controversial new ‘super-exam’, rival providers BPP University and University of Law (ULaw) claim to have pulled themselves out of the running at an early stage.
Kaplan prevailed in a year-long contest between a number of organisations to develop the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE). They were appointed for a period of eight years beginning from the introduction of the SQE, which could be as early as September 2020.
As Kaplan’s appointment was announced, BPP issued a statement saying it had chosen not to participate in the tender process. Director of business development Tricia Chatterton told Legal Business: ‘We looked at the tender documentation and concluded it wasn’t for us. We are in the business of training, it’s always been in our DNA. Why would we want to be the assessment provider for something likely to be problematic?’
ULaw also withdrew itself from the bidding at an early stage. It said: ‘Following an initial expression of interest, The University of Law decided not to tender for the SQE.’
Pro vice-chancellor Peter Crisp commented: ‘The University of Law looks forward to the opportunity to work with Kaplan, to ensure the SQE delivers future legal education and training to the same high standards expected by the profession and the public. It is our hope that this appointment will now lead to the publication of a clear timetable for the assessment implementation, which will provide students, the profession, and ultimately the public with certainty and confidence in the SQE.’
Other unsuccessful bidders have not been identified, largely due to the use of non-disclosure agreements throughout the process. However, the SRA said it featured ‘high quality bids from credible organisations’ that came from ‘a range of expertise in the field, including experience in setting legal assessments’.
The SQE has received substantial criticism since it was announced. Last year a number of City lawyers expressed concern at the single, centrally-set exam. Travers Smith managing partner David Patient said he had ‘serious reservations about the scope and rigour’ of the proposed assessment.
The City of London Law Society (CLLS) also weighed in, slating the multiple-choice nature of the assessment. Its submission to the consultation read: ‘Lawyers need to be able to do more than identify, or worse, guess a correct answer swiftly.’