Entry to the professions and elite universities is heavily influenced by performance at school. To get into elite law schools students usually need to get at least AAA and some schools have started to demand A*s. This discriminates heavily against pupils graduating from state school who do more poorly at A-level as a group, for a variety including it appears socio-economic factors. Oxbridge colleges have come under renewed scrutiny for the social make-up of their student body: the data makes appalling reading.
Is discrimination which arises from reliance on the highest A-level scores justified by the competencies demonstrated by those three AAAs? Research by the Sutton Trust, discussed on Conor Ryan’s excellent blog, suggests not. He writes:
“The Trust, in a study originally meant to show the benefits of adopting a US-style SAT for entrance, has instead shown pretty conclusively that all other things being equal, a comprehensive school student will outperform a grammar or independent school undergraduate at an elite university. In other words, when universities award a place to a bright state pupil with just 3Bs when the same place would require AAB from an independent or grammar student, they are not ‘dumbing down’ but exercising both common sense and social inclusion.”
Bristol University was roundly criticised for ‘discriminating’ against public school pupils when it sought to broaden its criteria. I have also blogged on US research which suggests we should be wary of the idea of eliteness when choosing lawyers and look more closely at relative achievement. The Sutton Trust research is also relevant to aptitude tests, but I’ve not had a chance to look at the detail. If Ryan is right both the profession and law schools need to rethink their entry requirements.