SCOTLAND’S legal profession is still dominated by a privileged elite, according to the latest figures on admission to university law courses.
Fewer that one in 12 entrants to law degrees at Scottish universities comes from a deprived background.
The statistics have heightened concerns that the profession is largely the reserve of the middle classes and is not accepting enough bright students from poorer backgrounds.
According to the figures from the National Union of Students Scotland, just 115 of the 1430 students accepted on to Bachelor of Law (LLB) courses in 2010/11 were from the 20% most deprived backgrounds.
That means only 8% of law students are from the poorest background – considerably lower than the 13% average for all courses at Scottish universities.
Robin Parker, president of NUS Scotland, wants universities to help widen access by taking on more law undergraduates from HND courses.
He said: “We know universities and the legal profession have a role to play in making access fairer.
“With figures showing students from Scotland’s poorest communities are significantly under-represented, it’s clear more needs to be done to ensure fair access.
“Universities need to be working with colleges to ensure that HNC and HND courses are structured to help students complete LLBs without unnecessary delays.”
Last year, a scheme costing £1.8 million was criticised for its lack of ambition to try and increase the number of students from poorer background trying to enter traditionally middle-class professions.
The scheme is designed to try to widen access to universities such as Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Dundee and St Andrews but will see only a few dozen extra students being accepted from under-represented groups.
A spokeswoman for Universities Scotland said universities accept a variety of entry qualifications, including HNDs, for undergraduate study.
She said: “There has been steady growth in the number of college students that have moved on to university, skipping the first or second year, as universities recognise prior study.
“Competition for access to medicine, law and the other professions at university is fierce. While the HND will be recognised for many of these degrees, to gain a place candidates will
also have to be able to demonstrate their enthusiasm and commitment to the subject as with any other applicant.
“The ancient universities are highly focused on widening access to the professions and work together through a successful programme which supports and encourages state school pupils from S4 onwards.”