The Solicitors Regulation Authority has refused to reveal the pass rates of law schools after finding huge discrepancies in performance, telling the Gazette that disclosure ‘could create pressures on providers which might impact standards’.
For the academic year to 31 August 2018, the proportion of students who passed the Legal Practice Course (LPC) ranged from 29% to 100% at 25 postgraduate institutions. The SRA said it is ‘unclear what the reasons are for such a wide disparity’ but cited ‘variable teaching quality’, the size of cohorts and the academic ability of students.
Pass rates for the law conversion course ranged from 35% to 100% in 2018, according to the same quality assurance report. The SRA said: ‘Once again, it is difficult to draw firm conclusions about the reasons for this.’ The proportion of students successfully completing the LPC has fallen from 66% (2016/17) to 56% (2017/18) and the percentage of students passing the law conversion course has dropped from 64% to 60%.
No training establishments disclosed their pass rates when approached by the Gazette.
Asked why the report’s data is anonymised, Julie Brannan, director of education and training at the SRA, said: ‘It is not appropriate to publish the names of institutions. Institutions set and mark their own assessments so publishing names alongside specific data could create pressures on providers which might impact standards.’ She said this will no longer be the case under the upcoming Solicitors Qualifying Examination, where all candidates will sit the same centrally marked assessments.
In the past, law schools were inspected by the regulator and ranked from unsatisfactory to excellent. However, this system was discontinued over a decade ago. The Office for Students, the independent regulator of higher education in England, said it assesses pass rates on a regular basis and ‘intervenes if it has concerns’. It is unclear whether any interventions have been made.
Charlotte Parkinson, chair of the Junior Lawyers Division, urged the SRA to release the data ‘before the next intake of students part with their money’. She said: 'The JLD understands that the huge variance in results for the LPC was just one of the reasons the SRA wanted to introduce a centralised qualifying assessment. Accordingly, it is worrying that the SRA claim to be unable to reveal the pass rates for individual organisations.
’The cost of the LPC is significant, around £16,690 in central London in 2020, and many students will take a commercial loan to fund the course. Whilst we understand the regulator does not regulate LPC providers, they have a responsibility to ensure that students are able to make an informed choice on an LPC provider, before handing over such a large amount of money for a course that is, currently, a mandatory step to becoming a qualified solicitor.'