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Sophie Cameron

Features and Opinion Editor, Solicitors Journal

SRA details factors influencing outcomes for Black, Asian and minority ethnic candidates

SRA details factors influencing outcomes for Black, Asian and minority ethnic candidates


The literature review by the University of Exeter was commissioned by the SRA

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) has published the findings from the first phase of a systematic literature review on 2 June, into the factors causing differences in outcomes for ethnic groups in professional assessments. The SRA’s summary of the findings, from the research carried out by the University of Exeter, explains that the review has confirmed the complexity of the factors that might explain the differing outcomes in professional assessments.

The SRA states that strong evidence has been found that the following factors influence exam outcomes positively and/or negatively to varying degrees: education journeys; the availability of support in education and work for minority groups; students' beliefs in how they might succeed in a profession, which includes whether they think that a profession is elitist and affected by the privileges that some characteristics are more likely to offer some people; the experience of being part of one or more minority groups, which can include being rejected or discriminated against because of those characteristics; and life circumstances, such as families' socioeconomic status and neighbourhood.

The first stage of the review also found that: there were varying definitions of the attainment gap, ethnicity and other characteristics, which makes it difficult to compare findings and draw conclusions from different studies; there have been several interventions in academia, and across different sectors, to address the differing outcomes, from which others might learn, although not all were evaluated to find out whether they were effective; and there was limited literature on the lived experiences of Black, Asian and minority ethnic candidates of legal professional assessments in England and Wales, how the different factors that might explain the differing outcomes interact with each other, and the causes of the differing outcomes in legal professional assessments.

The first phase of the research, commissioned by the SRA, involved the review of over 250 UK and international academic, government and professional reports and articles. In addition to this, 25 experts, including academics, regulators and members of the profession, were consulted. The next phase of the research, which will continue throughout 2023, will see researchers use data analysis, interviews and surveys to test whether and how the various potential factors explain the issue and to understand people’s lived experiences. The final report is expected to be published in spring 2024.

Commenting on the findings so far, Paul Philip, SRA Chief Executive, said: “We know that there is a longstanding and worrying pattern of different outcomes for candidates from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds in many professional qualifications, including those in law. We want to know why this is happening in law and develop a plan to address this, where we can. This independent research is the first step in better understanding what reasons lie behind the picture we are seeing. The literature review is the starting point for that research. What is clear, even at this early stage, is that the factors influencing the outcomes for candidates are complex and beyond the control of the individuals themselves. Getting a greater understanding of the specific situation in the legal sector is an important next step in the research, so that we can help to consider what can be done by us and others, to make the difference we all want to see.”