Students Staff

02 August 2013

Essex joins select group of universities helping disadvantaged students access legal education

A lecturer and students during a forensic science activity

One of the activities students will take part in will be a lesson on forensic science

The University of Essex is one of 12 new universities, and the only non-Russell Group institution, in the latest cohort of providers of the Sutton Trust’s Pathways to Law programme, the biggest national access initiative for the legal profession.

Pathways to Law supports bright state school students in Years 12 and 13 from non-privileged backgrounds, who are interested in pursuing a career in law. Essex is one of just 12 universities, including the Universities of Bristol, Exeter and Oxford to join the scheme.

Through a series of activities supporting university progression and developing skills and knowledge, the University will ensure that all students with potential are able to access higher education and pursue a career in law irrespective of background or ability to pay.

“Pathways to Law is an incredibly important initiative. There are many bright young students out there who have the ability to be our next generation of legal professionals but it is a profession that is still dominated by those from affluent homes, fee-paying schools and usually selective universities,” explained Professor Geoff Gilbert, Head of the School of Law at Essex.

“As a university committed to providing excellence in education, it is our duty to ensure that we make our expertise available to all who could benefit from it so we are very proud to be able to offer a programme of activities, events and support through the Pathways to Law programme.”

As a Pathways to Law university, Essex will provide a core programme of support activities. At its heart will be six sessions offered over two years covering a range of topics such as applying to university and workshops on different aspects of the law, as well as work experience placements within the legal sector. The University will also provide introductory events at target state schools, for parents, e-mentoring for those enrolled on the scheme and a residential conference.

Activities unique to the Essex partnership, which will draw on the expertise in the School of Law, will include an introduction to forensic science, giving students the chance to learn how to take fingerprints and identify fibres, as well as a session on domestic and international human rights culminating in a student debate.

Lucy Murray, Head of Outreach at Essex, added: “Our School of Law has developed a very successful pastoral support system for its students, we have excellent links with regional law firms thanks to initiatives such as our pro bono Law Clinic, and we have more than 4,700 law graduates who we are able to call on for networking sessions, work experience placements and mentoring. It is experience and connections like these that mean we can deliver a really engaging and valuable programme of activities for Pathways to Law students. Pathways to Law will be an excellent addition to our existing outreach programme”


Notes to editors

1. For further information please contact the University of Essex Communications Office, telephone: 01206 873529 or e-mail:

2. Pathways to Law was set up in 2006 by the Sutton Trust and the College of Law in response to research showing that the top echelons of the legal profession were drawn from a narrow range of social backgrounds. Pathways recruits an annual cohort of 400 students and 2,000 will have passed through the scheme when the latest cohort completes the programme. Prior to the announcement of the 12 new providers, Pathways has been delivered through seven universities across the UK. To find out more see:

3. 95 per cent of those taking part in Pathways to Law in recent years have been first generation students whose parents had not been to university. The programme is open to low and middle income state school students, but 66 per cent are from low performing schools and 29 per cent live in the poorest postcodes. Half of the Pathways students gain places at leading universities.

4. The Russell Group represents 24 leading UK universities which are committed to maintaining the very best research and an outstanding teaching and learning experience. Members include the Universities of Cambridge, Durham, Oxford and York. The University of Essex is a member of the 1994 Group, which brings together 11 world class research-intensive universities. Its members are all in the top 2 per cent of institutions worldwide with 88 per cent of academic research internationally recognised.

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