Figures revealed in the first Pathways to Law annual report show that the groundbreaking widening participation scheme is actively helping young people from disadvantaged backgrounds to gain places at leading universities.
The newly-published 2010/2011 report shows that 47 per cent of the first cohort of Pathways to Law participants were admitted to a Russell Group or 1994 Group university, compared with 41 per cent of a comparator group comprised of students with similar social and academic profiles.
Students celebrate becoming the first cohort to complete the two-year Pathways to Law programme at a graduation ceremony held at The Law Society in 2009
A third of Pathways students gained a place at a Russell Group university, compared to a quarter of the comparator group, while 17 per cent were admitted to one of the five leading universities taking part in the Pathways scheme, compared with seven per cent of the comparator group.
The £3m Pathways to Law scheme was established in September 2007 by The College of Law and The Sutton Trust, a charity which aims to promote social mobility through education. Pathways aims to help A-level students from under-represented backgrounds enter the legal profession by providing a range of guidance and learning opportunities. It targets academically able students from state schools in England who are interested in a career in law and will usually be the first generation of their family to attend university.
The annual report also reveals that the Pathways scheme substantially raises participants’ academic ambitions with 85 per cent applying to Russell Group universities, compared with just 61 per cent of the comparator group.
In line with the objectives of the programme a high proportion of the first cohort (54%) went on to study law at degree level with a further quarter studying subjects with traditionally high rates of postgraduate conversion to law.
The statistical analysis is based on a sample of 125 students from Pathway to Law’s first cohort and tracks them through the university applications and admissions process. It reveals that two thirds of Pathways students come from families with no history of higher education study, compared with a fifth of Russell Group entrants. More than a quarter were resident in neighbourhoods with very low levels of progression to university, compared with 14 per cent of Russell Group students.
Richard de Friend, Chair of the Academic Board at The College of Law, said: “Although proving a definite effect for any given educational intervention is notoriously difficult, there are indications that Pathways to Law is having a positive impact. The scheme is generally reaching the right students and there appears to be a clear benefit in terms of increasing the likelihood of admission to a top university.
“The difficulty of shifting participation figures, particularly in the current highly competitive admissions environment, should not be underestimated. However we are confident that these results will improve still further with subsequent student cohorts to reflect the continual improvement of the Pathways programme."
Richard de Friend, Chair of the Academic Board at The College of Law
Since its inception nearly 1,250 students have been involved in Pathways, which runs throughout their A-level years (Years 12 and 13). Students attend lectures, seminars and advice and guidance sessions held by partner universities located across the country and at regional centres of The College of Law.
The students also have a three- to five-day placement in a law firm, giving them valuable insights and contacts with the legal profession that they may otherwise not have had, they attend a three-day national conference at the University of Warwick and are assigned a current university law student as a mentor.
Pathway’s success has led to its growth and in 2010 the University of Bristol and UCL joined the existing five universities, Leeds, LSE, Manchester, Southampton and Warwick, to deliver the programme. Now 400 places are available per year compared with 250 at the start.
The scheme is also supported by The Law Society and nine leading law firms, who make substantial financial contributions each year to enable Pathways to develop further. The firms also provide a large proportion of the student placements and are: Allen & Overy; Clifford Chance; DLA Piper UK; Eversheds; Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer; Hogan Lovells International; Linklaters; Mayer Brown International and Simmons & Simmons.
Michelle-Louise Yembra was one of the first cohort of students to attend the Pathways programme at LSE and has just completed the second year of a Law and Sociology degree at the University of Warwick. She was so impressed with Pathways that she has become a mentor herself and hopes to practise commercial law at an international firm.
She said: “Pathways helped me realise that law was the right path for me both academically and as a career. It opened my eyes to the different ways to get into law. The opportunity to have a work placement at a Magic Circle firm was invaluable. I knew it was an amazing opportunity at the time but since starting university I’ve realised truly how invaluable the opportunity was."
The latest cohort to complete the Pathways two-year programme will attend a graduation ceremony to celebrate their achievements on Saturday, July 9 at The Law Society in London.
Pathways to Law is now recruiting students for Cohort Five, which begins in September. Anyone wanting to find out how to apply should visit www.pathwaystolaw.org
Download the Pathways to Law 2010/2011 annual report
Further information from Lucy Wray, Press Officer, The College of Law on 01483 216072 (firstname.lastname@example.org)