Bar to query race gap in pass rates

August 18, 1995

An investigation has been launched into why Bar School students from ethnic minority groups continue to be out-performed by their white peers.

The Council of Legal Education has commissioned Birkbeck College and consultants from the Royal Holloway College to analyse student profiles and examine cultural factors to help explain why the gap in pass rates between ethnic minority and white students is not closing, despite measures to boost equal opportunities.

Results announced on Tuesday show that 97 out of 130 ethnic minority students passed the one-year bar vocational course this year - a pass rate of 74.6 per cent, compared with 771 out of 859, or nearly 90 per cent, of white candidates.

The ethnic minority pass rate is also lower than last year's of 80 per cent, although it is better than in 1993 when 70 per cent of students passed and 1992 when just 55 per cent got through.

Mary Phillips, dean of the Inns of Court School of Law which runs the course, said the school remained anxious to find out the causes of the discrepancy.

The school has been working hard to improve counselling and support for its students.

It has also introduced assessments in circumstances where examiners cannot identify the ethnicity of candidates. This is in response to criticism from pressure groups and reports calling for better equal opportunities policies.

The school is likely to be particularly anxious to show that ethnic minority students are not being disadvantaged because it will soon be in competition with other institutions which are to be allowed to run the course.

John Taylor, secretary of the CLE, said investigations carried out in previous years by Birkbeck College had helped to show that student financial support could be one significant factor in the performance of different groups.

"Anyone prepared to take a balanced look at the work we have done will see that we are doing everything we can to improve the performance of ethnic minority candidates," he added.

The council was encouraged that female students did better than male students for the first time this year, achieving an 88.24 per cent pass rate compared to 86.85 per cent for men.

Another outstanding achievement came from Lee Blakey, from Burnley in Lancashire, who became the first blind student to complete the course since the school was founded in 1852.

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