Leeds scheme for aspiring lawyers helps disadvantaged students gain top university places


Figures just out show that a groundbreaking scheme to help disadvantaged students from around Yorkshire enter the legal profession is having a positive impact on their university chances.

A new report on the Pathways to Law programme, run for local A-level students by the University of Leeds and The College of Law, reveals that participants are more likely to apply to and be accepted by the country's top universities than non-participants from similar social and academic backgrounds.

The £3m widening participation scheme was established in September 2007 by The College of Law and The Sutton Trust charity and, in addition to the University of Leeds, is run by leading universities in five other areas of the country.

Its 2010/2011 annual report shows that, nationwide, 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.

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 universities taking part in the Pathways scheme, compared with seven per cent of the comparator group.

The annual report also reveals that the 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. 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 two-year Pathways to Law programme at the University of Leeds targets academically able A-level students from state schools in Yorkshire, who are interested in a career in law, from disadvantaged backgrounds and usually the first generation of their family to attend university.

Since its inception around 200 students have been involved in the Leeds scheme, which runs throughout years 12 and 13, and 50 places are available each year. Students attend lectures, seminars and advice and guidance sessions at the university as well as at The College of Law's York centre.

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.

The annual report's statistical analysis is based on a sample of 125 students from Pathways to Law's first cohort nationwide and tracks them through university applications and admissions. 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."

Hannah Metcalfe was among the first cohort of students to attend the Pathways programme at the University of Leeds while studying for her A-levels at Immanuel College in Bradford. Taking part in Pathways helped her to gain contacts in the legal profession and prepare for university life and she has just completed the second year of a LL.B law degree at the University of Cambridge.

"Pathways really helped to build my confidence when giving presentations and taking part in discussions," she said. "That's a big part of studying at uni and I was glad when I got here because I felt more prepared for it. I also got a lot of help with the university application process when I attended a workshop on writing personal statements. Plus we were offered the chance to do a work placement with a Leeds law firm, which I wouldn't have been able to get on my own."

The latest cohort to complete the University of Leeds Pathways 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 http://www.pathwaystolaw.org/

For further information:

Please contact the University of Leeds Press Office on +44 (0)113 343 4031 or email pressoffice@leeds.ac.uk

Photo Caption: Students celebrate becoming the first to complete the University of Leeds' two-year Pathways to Law programme at a graduation ceremony held at The Law Society, London in 2009.

Notes to Editors:

The Pathways to Law Annual Report 2010/11 is attached to the email accompanying the press release.

Further information from Lucy Wray, Press Officer, The College of Law on 01483 216072 (lucy.wray@lawcol.co.uk)

About the College:

The College of Law is the leading provider of professional legal education and training in Europe with centres in London, Birmingham, Bristol, Chester, Guildford, Manchester and York.
We are widely regarded as experts in legal training - all of our tutors and course designers are qualified solicitors or barristers and have practice experience.  We work closely with law firms and chambers of all sizes and exclusively deliver the Legal Practice Course (LPC) to trainees at many of the leading global law firms.

As a Royal Charter educational charity, we are proud of our record of empowering students from all backgrounds to achieve their legal career goals.

As well as being a leading provider of the LPC, we support qualified lawyers throughout the profession with a comprehensive programme of professional development courses and in 2008 we launched our Master's LL.M programme in professional legal practice.

We also provide the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) to give non-law graduates an entry route into the profession and the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) for prospective barristers. 
In 2006 the College was the first independent institution to be granted degree awarding powers. In September 2012 we will be launching a two-year undergraduate LL.B law degree.

For further information about the College please visit http://www.college-of-law.co.uk/

About Pathways to Law:

Nationwide nearly 1,250 students have been involved in Pathways to Law since its inception. Other universities running Pathways programmes are Bristol, LSE, Manchester, Southampton, UCL and Warwick and a total of 400 places are available each year.

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.

Further information from http://www.pathwaystolaw.org/