Pathways scheme helps students win places at top unis

A groundbreaking diversity initiative launched by the College of Law (CoL) and the Sutton Trust helped almost half its participants gain a place at a top university last year.

The £3m Pathways to Law annual report, published last month, revealed that 47 per cent of the first cohort of students helped by the scheme were admitted to either a Russell Group or post-1994 university. Of these one third gained a place at a Russell Group university, compared to only a quarter of the comparator group.

Chair of the academic board at the CoL Richard de Friend said: “Although proving a definite effect for any given educational intervention is notoriously difficult, there are indications that Pathways 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 scheme, launched in 2007, aims to help A-level students form under-represented backgrounds enter the legal profession by providing careers advice and mentoring.

The research also found more than 50 per cent went on to study law and a further 25 per cent studied subjects with high postgraduate conversion rates to law.

Top firms supporting the programme include magic circle firms Allen & Overy, Clifford Chance, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer and Linklaters.

As part of the programme, Linklaters, which provides placements and financial support, opened its doors to a cohort of state school pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds in April 2011 (read more).

Linklaters’ human resource manager Felix Hebblethwaite said he believes the support given by Pathways gives students a better chance of success in applications to top universities through helping to build people’s confidence and perform better in interviews by talking about the experience gained through the programme.

Hebblethwaite added: “We hope that more people get involved, and to have coverage in a lot more parts of the country; giving more focus on supporting individuals who live outside of London,”

“I would also like to see over time a focus not only on individuals getting to university, but also continuing with the mentoring support and guidance once they have reached university. We’re conscious that getting to university is only half the battle.”

Other firms involved include DLA Piper, Eversheds, Hogan Lovells, Mayor Brown and Simmons & Simmons, and around 20 other law firms and chambers offering placements and other opportunities to support the programme.