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LPC pass rates nosedive as report reveals one law school where just 29% of students made the grade

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While achievement gap between white and ethnic minority students remains large

Pass rates on the Legal Practice Course (LPC) have dropped sharply, new research shows.

The Solicitors Regulation Authority’s (SRA) annual report on quality assurance in education and training for the year 2018 reveals pass rates for the year-long vocational course fell from 66% in 2017 to 56% in 2018. Meanwhile, the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) success rate dipped four percentage points in the same period — from 64% to 60%.

While these figures show some insight into students’ performance for that year it’s worth bearing in mind that those that did not successfully complete the course may have the option to resit or may have been referred or deferred in one or more subjects. This means they could go on to pass in following years.

The report goes on to show stark differences between LPC provider pass rates. Only one of the 25 anonymised law schools listed in the report managed a 100% pass rate. The worst performing law school (again, unnamed to save from any blushes) scraped a 29% pass rate. Five providers scored pass rates higher than 90%, and three fell below the 50% mark.

The 2019 Legal Cheek LPC Most List

There were also significant variations between providers in the proportion of students who achieve pass, commendation or distinction grades. The SRA said the reasons for such disparity were “unclear” but stated a number of factors influencing pass rates, including the size of different providers: from a group of 16 students to several thousands spread across different locations (BPP University and The University of Law make up 80% of the market alone), candidate ability, teaching quality and assessment arrangements.

Elsewhere, the report shows the achievement gap between white and ethnic minority students remains large. Two-thirds (66%) of white students successfully completed the LPC, compared with 48% of Asian students and 35% of black students. Last year, the figures were 80%, 55% and 45%, respectively. The report further found white students were significantly more likely to receive distinctions.

These findings come as the LPC and GDL are to be replaced by the Solicitors Qualification Exam (SQE) from autumn 2021.

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50 Comments

Anonymous

Why do we care about the gap in outcomes by ethnic group in a professional test? The test is there to find out if a candidate is good enough. You are or you are not.

(62)(46)

Really?

Do you think the only reason asian and blacks do worse is because they are less intelligent?

Is this 1890?

(85)(82)

Anon

There’s one barrister posting on here who definitely thinks so based on the claim that BAME candidates get lower BPTC marks.

Sadly, that racist line of thought is something I’ve heard privately from other barristers too.

(25)(26)

Little Green Man

So, since you know everything and can apparently read minds, how do you explain the persistent difference in exam outcomes among different ethnic groups? We would love to hear your penetrating analysis so all the problems can be solved once and for all. You must use your mind-reading skills for good.

(19)(14)

Anon

You got any peer-reviewed papers from scientific journals that BAME people are less intelligent than White ones?

Thought not.

Anonymous

First strawman, that was not the point that was being asked was it? No-one has made such a point on this thread, anywhere. Second there is some 21st century science indicating racial or genetic differentiation in IQ bell curve. Uncomfortable as those findings may be, there is no conclusive view either way on the issue at the moment. But whatever differences there may be, they would not explain a gap as big as the exam gap mentioned on this story.

Over it

Why are you so upset? Would you just like everyone to conclude that BAME students are less intelligent?

We all know that’s BS, the best performing people on my LLB were BAME so whats your point? Clearly other factors are at play

Anonymous

@12:56 Inequality of opportunity. Blonde haired girls called Lottie and Harriet are taught French, mindfulness and how to play the violin in their Hampstead nests from an early age. Their parents already speak English effortlessly and hold down intellectually stimulating jobs, the fruits of which they are able to pour into their children.

Genes certainly play a part, but are clearly not entirely determinative of the phenomena. Anyone that insists that it is clearly harbours hostility distrust or an unsubstantiated sense of superiority over foreigners, and is therefore a dickhead.

Spod

Although 9:56, science is reporting consistently higher and higher links between genetics and IQ now that polygenetic influences can be identified. 50% used to be the norm of heritability of intelligence, but the most recent papers are positing figures above 70%, and in some cases well above that figure. The trend is upwards in the last decade. They may not be entirely determinative, but they are more influential than we would ordinarily think.

Anonymous

Differences can be explained by a) self-selection of candidates and differing attitude to choosing law as a career by ethnic group and b) language skills of those for whom English may not be a first language. Neither of these need to be addressed by changing the exam. But thanks for wrongly calling people out as racists.

(35)(6)

Observer

Far too sensible a reply from Anonymous at 12:28pm.

People want to i) blame others for their own failings, and ii) play the race card. Don’t ruin their righteous anger! 😉

(22)(4)

Observer

Whoever wrote, “Do you think the only reason asian and blacks do worse is because they are less intelligent?” is hopefully not a lawyer, as they have either misunderstood or misrepresented the issue.

Reasons for poorer performance by Asian and black candidates likely include:

1. Overseas candidates with poorer English, who naturally struggle with exams in English.

2. Lower quality, i.e less realistic, career advice given to candidates from lower socio-economic groups, resulting in unrealistic aspirations. Bluntly, better-off but not academically outstanding children in good schools are warned not to bother applying to be solicitors or barristers, whereas well-intentioned but nonsensical advice given to the equivalent inner city BAME kids says ‘follow your dreams – you can do anything!’. This sounds lovely, but it is sadly untrue, and it creates issues (a) when they struggle to secure training contracts or pupillage; (b) waste money by self-funding themselves through the LPC or BPTC; (c) under-perform (see unarguable statistics above); and (d) then blame racism.

3. Lower quality candidates. The greatest predictors of personal success are parental wealth and education. This advantages upper middle class home counties candidates who are more likely to have such parents.

None of the above may be ‘fair’, but life isn’t fair. I’d be interested to hear about what’s objectively inaccurate about it, though.

(26)(3)

Anon

And what the data NEVER shows in performance by socio-economic group. As black candidates come from a more working class background, the figure we need to see is how black working class candidates with English as a first language fared compared to white working class candidates with English as a first language. You never see that sort of data as it does not suit the ends of the diversity warriors. Instead they shriek “racist” at anyone who dares to challenge their misuse of data, as can be seen above.

(9)(3)

Anon

Very good points. On the other hand, if there is a possibility that LPC providers are grading unfairly because of perceived systemic racism – it doesn’t matter whether you or I think that is the case, just that it potentially is – then the system requires some deeper analysis to see how it might be improved. Especially with the SQE coming into force, it would be good not to keep repeating mistakes.

(1)(0)

Observer

>”[…] if there is a possibility that LPC providers are grading unfairly because of perceived systemic racism – it doesn’t matter whether you or I think that is the case, just that it potentially is – then the system requires some deeper analysis […]”

I respectfully disagree. I suggest that the criteria must be words to the effect that, “If there is *evidence* to *reasonably* perceive…”. Otherwise, anyone who has hurty feelings and wants to blame others for their lack of competitiveness (in what is, let’s face it, a brutally competitive profession), will play the race card. Outwith objective evidence, we shouldn’t indulge them.

Anon, at Feb 18 2020 9:30am, puts it well. The data is currently useless, but we suspect that the gap is simply a reflection of input quality: poor quality candidates going into the system —-> poor quality results coming out.

Leslie Chow

Asian’s doing worse? I been kickin yo white mfing ass for years sunshine

(5)(5)

The voice of the people

What a stupid comment. Do you live under a rock? Much debate and criticism has focused on the lack of ethnic minority representation in law, and in particular, the upper echelons of it. If 65% of black students are failing the course, this raises the major question as to why? This can then form the basis of research that hopefully lead to improvements and adaptations that improve the success rates – in the hope it leads to greater diversity and representation in this sector. If we don’t mention it, people don’t know.

(16)(23)

XAmBod

When you say “This can then form the basis of research that hopefully lead to improvements and adaptations that improve the success rates – in the hope it leads to greater diversity and representation in this sector” you are implying there is an issue in the examination when you have no basis for that sort of assumption. The issue is far more likely to be about the quality of candidates rather than the examination. As 12:28 pointed out, that can be explained on bases that cannot be hysterically called out as “racist”.

(13)(3)

Over it

Why don’t you name the institutions with such low pass rates..

(95)(0)

Bored of racist gammons whinging

What’s the range of ethnicities of the law school teachers assessing the advocacy modules?

Unlike written university exams, the LPC assessors can clearly see what a candidate looks like.

(16)(20)

tips@legalcheek.com

Advocacy and interview modules are the easiest and shortest in the course. Never had any problems despite being non-native speaker. The actor whom I interviewed was unprepared though and forgot some of her answers (examiner had to interfere and lead her to the right ones), but that is BPP.

(14)(0)

Anonymous

Any evidence advocacy results diverge from other subjects?

(11)(4)

Londoner

“The worst performing law school (again, unnamed to save from any blushes)…”

Why are these law schools not revealed? Surely if the pass rate is barely 30% not only it calls for some action to be taken but also it would be a decent thing to inform aspiring LPC candidates of the pass rate before they make a huge financial commitment?

(105)(1)

Just a lawyer

And no doubt the 100% pass is UOL or BPP, because they are businesses and therefore likely to score more leniently.

(3)(3)

Londoner

Actually, I highly doubt it. Having done my LPC at UoL in London recently, I would say there was a fair portion of students who failed some modules – interestingly, most of them did not have a TC lined up. As far as I know it is similar at BPP London campus.

I am not sure how it works at their regional schools, but certainly the London campuses of the said schools do not have a 100% pass rate, more like 70%.

(6)(0)

HI

Open book help?

(0)(0)

The voice of the people

As somebody that was impacted by the horrendous failure rates on the BPTC a number of years ago – we were also faced by the same ridiculous notion that the providers could not be revealed. At its simplest – poor pass rates indicate either sub-standard teaching and/or low level teaching. As somebody that suffered from having international students in my group that could hardly speak a word of English (less understand it!) or weak students with 2.2 grades from poor universities that struggled with even basic principles of law – this information is invaluable.

The notion that local schools would not post their gcse data or colleges their a-level data to save them from “embarassment” would not stand up for a second.

Why we continue to allow this, save for the massive amounts of money involved, continues to aggrieve me!

(52)(1)

Anonymous

“At its simplest – poor pass rates indicate either sub-standard teaching and/or low level teaching.”

That, and an entirely irrational marking structure. Let’s not flatter the qualification either.

(16)(0)

Anon

If there is a difference between ethnicity and pass rates, as stated in the story, pass rate differences may reflect the ethnicity of attendees at different institutions.

(4)(0)

Wulfruna

I am from a financial/business studies background Any law exams and in-house courses that I have undertaken would be related to my profession.

I have taught students from all backgrounds and ethnicities on a distance learning basis. I am unsure if the exams mentioned above are taught on distance learning. If so this requires a lot of committment on the part of the student and good communications skills on the part of the tutor.

I had situations where students would take a month out to prepare for wedding celebrations which would last for a week. As a tutor you have to try to understand different cultures. I found that students from Hong Kong were very switched on, ditto NZ. India, family is very important and students sometimes forget the time difference. Caribbean students were more laid back.

I did get good results. Better than the tutors from a pure academic background.

(3)(3)

Anonymous

Pass rates have dipped because LPC providers are accepting anyone, regardless of whether they are capable of actually completing the course. They’re just after the tuition fees.

(46)(1)

Legal Cheek’s First CyberNat #SNP #ImWithNicola #IndyRef2020 #TWAW #TMAM #TransAlly #DissolveTheUnion #CND

Why have they got to bring race into it, no need for that. I’m shocked.

Anyway, clearly the teaching is not up to scratch.

(6)(4)

Wulfruna

Sometimes tutors from a purely academic background have difficulty in application of concepts etc. IMHO better to have tutors that have had practical experience.

(3)(2)

Why

Why are the law schools unnamed? Name and shame them. There is no need for any sympathy. They are businesses run for profit. If they are providing a poor quality service, then the consumers need to be made aware.

(23)(0)

Andy

This is an article written from an odd perspective.

So far as I understand it the LPC providers currently each mark their own candidates and decide whether to pass/fail them.The new SQE will put a stop to this of course.

One of the issues with self-marking is that it has led to significant escalation in pass rates from the old LSF days, when half the cohort (taken almost exclusively from Russell Group Unis) failed.

As a recruiter I wouldn’t think that a provider with 100% pass rate is ‘better’; I’d assume that it hands out a pass to anyone who pays its fees and that I should treat anyone from there without a Commendation or Distinction as failing.

By contrast a provider that fails two out of three students (which is pass rate more akin to surgeons trying to get a fellowship) might simply be more rigorous – and at least I know a pass from that institution means something.

As for race, I don’t really know why the article mentions that.

Racist will see it as confirming BAME people are less intelligent.

The intersectionalist woke brigade (racists of a different colour basically) will see it as confirming systemic racism in the providers.

And sensible people will realise it’s meaningless without information on a wide variety of much more relevant factors – with socio-economic background, prior academic performance and how well the candidates can express themselves in written and verbal English being a lot more important than their skin colour.

(19)(1)

Soph

Any guesses which law schools are the biggest offenders here? I will be taking the LCP at BPP Cambridge in September and I am slightly in the panic mode now.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

I’ve heard that the LCP course at BPP Cambridge is definitely the worst.

(23)(1)

Anonymous

What is LCP? If you are speaking about LPC – all of them are horrible and mostly useless, does not really matter which campus of BPP/Uni of Law you attend. So you cannot really loose / win on this one.

(1)(1)

Soph

It was a typo, sorry, obviously I meant LPC 🙂
Well, I do quite realise that that LPC is widely considered as an overpriced course that does not really prepare properly for the realities of working in the law firm, but since by future law firm finances it for me, then I should probably not complain.

(1)(0)

Wulfruna

Soph,

The fact that they are paying for your qualification is a bonus. Glean as much as you can from it and read outside of the syllabus. Good luck with your career

(3)(0)

Lena

BPP London’s standards are appalling. I am halfway through the LPC and hugely regret my decision to go to BPP almost daily. (My GDL was at UoL, but I was told BPP had a better reputation with firms.) I sincerely hope Cambridge is better. Still, if the company is paying at least you haven’t wasted upwards of £16,000 for poor teaching, inadequate facilities and substandard materials. Good luck with your course.

(0)(0)

Wulfruna

Many students fail exams not because they haven’t worked or have the knowledge but because they don’t read the question. Exam technique is really important.

I was lucky enough to have a brilliant law lecturer who taught how to approach a question.

(3)(1)

STBOy

Read the question. Answer it. If you struggle with that, then I’d suggest you might not be cut out for the legal profession.

(9)(1)

Anonymous

As someone currently undertaking the LPC, this is hardly surprising. There are some real thickos in my cohort.

(9)(0)

Realist

Alex, can Legal Cheek submit an FOI request to the SRA, asking for the unredacted details of the law schools, please. Obviously, they would refuse. Then you could refer it to the ICO, and go from there…

This would be a real opportunity for Legal Cheek to do serious journalism (which I don’t mean as a slight).

(22)(0)

Anonymous

While you’re at it, encourage some TC and pupillage applicants to make GDPR requests to firms and chambers they’ve been rejected by, so we can have a look at some mark schemes and what markers/interviewers really say about candidates.

(7)(0)

Wulfruna

From the comments there does not appear to be a standardised marking scheme across the course providers.

(3)(0)

Anon

Subject accesss requests are pretty useless if you are sensible enough to use Wickr.

(0)(0)

StatisticalNonsense

Perhaps someone at the SRA might like to learn how to use stats?

– These stats are meaningless given that there is no standard exam and Universities are free to set whatever they like. I’m willing to be some of the highest pass rates are at places where entry requirements are low and a tiny percentage of people get a TC.

– Even when the SQE comes in, pass rates simply show the performance but of course are conflated by Universities and students to be indicative of teaching quality.

As for race, some of this is to do with intake. I’m from a BAME background and regularly meet people in the community who introduce me to their child, the Solicitor or Barrister. Of course, a large proportion are not. They’ve just done the LPC/BPTC but their parents are nevertheless delighted.

(2)(0)

Ano

Incredible irresponsible for Legal Cheek not to name and shame these institutions. Students are potentially wasting their money on sub-par course tuition.

(2)(0)

Comments are closed.

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