Admissions to selective UK law schools

Project: Other projectResearch collaboration

Project Details


In this study, we explore the admissions criteria and processes employed by a number of the most selective law schools in the United Kingdom and analyse their possible impact on widening access. We make recommendations about how to improve admissions arrangements.

Key findings

Our interviews with admissions personnel highlighted a widespread commitment to equality and broadening access to law schools, as well as very substantial efforts to achieve that. However, our interviews also revealed that some aspects of admissions requirements and processes were likely to present more barriers for applicants from less advantaged backgrounds than for their more advantaged peers. There were also significant differences in admissions requirements and processes, with many lacking an evidence base or clear rationale. Our review of law schools’ websites indicated that the quality, availability and accessibility of information specifically about applying to law varies. More positively, applicants from both types of backgrounds were equally likely to apply to the top law schools, providing they had predicted grades of at least AAB.
Our analysis of UCAS data revealed differences in the rates at which applicants from more advantaged or less advantaged backgrounds respectively progress through the stages of the admissions process, with the latter generally less likely to progress. Our data confirms that some of these differences are due to differences in predicted grades and in type of qualifications. Applicants from the less advantaged group are less likely to receive an offer, with qualifications other than A level being the biggest barrier. The biggest barrier to being accepted is predicted low grades and this is the case across both groups. However, our analysis shows that if accepted applicants are from the less advantaged group, then they are significantly more likely to have the grade profile AAB+ than their more advantaged peers. This means that law schools require applicants from less advantaged backgrounds to have higher grades than their more advantaged peers. This is contrary to the intended commitment to access. Our data is not sufficiently detailed to confirm the reasons for this difference.
We recommend that law schools examine their own admissions data to investigate any disproportions in progression and unintended barriers. Since there is wide variation across law schools in the relative likelihood of the two applicant groups progressing, we also recommend that law schools share successful practice to collate evidence of which measures lead to greater success for applicants from less advantaged backgrounds.
Effective start/end date1/08/1713/07/20


  • K Law (General)
  • Legal Education
  • Access to Legal Profession