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SRA commissions research on examination attainment gap

It said the new research, led by Professor Greta Bosch, should help to increase understanding about the factors that are driving this gap

The Solicitors Regulation Authority has commissioned the University of Exeter’s Schools of Law and Business to examine what causes different levels of attainment for ethnic groups in professional assessments.

The SRA’s annual education and training monitoring reports show a “widely-acknowledged and persistent” difference in legal qualification outcomes by ethnicity in the UK and other countries. 

It said the new research, led by Professor Greta Bosch, should help to increase understanding about the factors that are driving this gap and identify steps that could be taken to make a difference and help to close it. 

The programme, which will take until the end of 2023, will involve: Measuring the attainment gap in a range of professional services qualifications; identifying the long-lasting and intersectional causes of the gap; exploring where we lessons can be learned from other countries and sectors; understanding where changes can be made.

Paul Philip, CEO of the SRA said: “We know that there is a longstanding picture of different outcomes for candidates from different ethnicities in legal qualifications and more widely. The solicitor profession needs to reflect the diverse society that it serves so we want to know why and what the barriers are.

“This research is the first part in that process. By finding out why certain groups don’t do so well in professional assessments, we can increase understanding and look at how best to work with others to address some of the factors, helping to close the attainment gap.”

He added: “It’s not a problem that is unique to the solicitor profession. The attainment gap is found in other types of qualifications too, so the research should produce insights that are useful well beyond the legal market.”

Professor Greta Bosch added: “We look forward to our two-year collaboration with the SRA and our consultations with stakeholders to understand causes and lived experiences behind disparate performance in legal services qualifications, with the aim of informing decision-making, stimulating thinking and inspiring change.

“We believe our interdisciplinary and multi-level approach can be drawn on to change outcomes and reduce inequalities in this area. We are excited about the opportunity this project gives us to conduct evidence-based research with the potential to inform policy and practice that can make a real difference to people’s lives.”

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