In October 2013 the Faculty of Law welcomed its first cohort students taking part in the new Pathways to Law Programme. Each year we accept a new group on to the programme, which run with support from the Sutton Trust, the Legal Education Foundation and the Undergraduate Admissions office.

History of the programme

The Pathways to Law programme was developed by The Sutton Trust and The Legal Education Foundation (then the College of Law) in 2006, to raise the aspirations of young people and to give them the confidence to pursue a career in law.

The Pathways project was first initiated at Edinburgh University in 2001 with their ‘Pathways into the Professions’ programme; a project that encouraged progression into various professional courses including law, medicine, veterinary medicine and architecture. Supported by the Sutton Trust the programme proved a great success and was rolled out into the University’s widening participation programme. In 2002, the College of Law and the Sutton Trust then joined forces to run the ‘Law and Society’ winter school at the London School of Economics (LSE) and then in 2005 the college funded research undertaken by the Trust to establish ‘the Educational Backgrounds of the UK’s Top Solicitors, Barristers and Judges’.

The research showed that the high-status positions within the legal profession were drawn from a narrow range of social backgrounds and that firms were not making full use of the talents of the young people from non-privileged homes. The research found that 68% of UK-educated barristers and 75% of UK-educated judges were educated in the fee-paying sector, despite the fact that overall only 7% of young people attend schools and colleges in this sector.

A year after the research findings, the College of Law and the Sutton Trust agreed to establish the 'Pathways to Law' programme with their main aim being to increase social mobility through education. The project was initially supported by seven higher-education partners, including Leeds University, LSE, University College London, Manchester University,  Southampton University, Warwick University and Bristol University, who are all members of the Russell Group. The programme is also supported nationally by the College of Law and the Brightside Trust, as well as both national and international law firms. However, in September 2013, Oxford University, along with Nottingham University, Nottingham Trent University, Essex University and Exeter University, joined the Pathways to Law Programme. Read more

Our programme

The main aim of the Pathways to Law programme is to give support and encouragement to academically-able students, in Year 12 and Year 13, from non-privileged backgrounds who are interested in law, and to give them access to both top-tier universities and the legal profession. Each year we take on a new cohort of 35 Year 12 students from our local area and we support them through their A-Levels. Our local area covers schools in the local authority areas of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes, Swindon, and West Berkshire.

The programme delivers a full and varied programme which includes a range of sessions over the two years, on a diverse range of topics including choosing and applying to a university, CV and interview techniques, subject-specific revision sessions and workshops on different areas of the law. Specific events include:

  • an introductory event for parents and students, to learn more about the programme and the aims and objectives of the scheme;
  • an introduction to the courts, case law, what law at university entails, and the pathways into the legal professions;
  • work experience with a local firm in either the February half-term, Easter or summer holidays;
  • e-mentoring with an undergraduate law student (provided through the Brightside Trust);
  • participation in a mock moot trial;
  • a law firm visit to learn more about life as a solicitor;
  • a visit to the Inner Temple to learn more about a career as a barrister;
  • visits to other Pathways universities as well as the host university;
  • the National Conference (a three-day residentail alongside students from other Pathways to Law universities);

Each year we recruit a new cohort of year 12 students. The programme runs from the autumn term of Year 12 until the end of Year 13. Participants do not have to be set on applying to study law at university, and they do not need to be planning to apply to Oxford University, but they do need to be interested in law. Pathways to Law is entirely free to students, and includes a travel bursary.

The eligibility criteria for the programme is as follows:

  1. Have at least 5 As or A*s at GCSE
  2. Demonstrate an interest in law
  3. Attend a state school or college
  4. And meet one or more of the following criteria:
    1. Have spent over 13 weeks in care at any point in their life
    2. Have substantial responsibilities as a young carer
    3. Live in a neighbourhood where a low proportion of young people go to university (for this we use POLAR3 data and are prioritising those applicants living in quintiles 1 or 2)
    4. At any time while at secondary school, have been eligible for Free School Meals or eligible the 16-19 Bursary
    5. Be in the first generation of their family to attend university

In the case of over-subscription, preference will be given to students who meet the following additional criteria:

  • In schools with below average levels of attainment or progression to university
  • In schools with high free school meal rates

We particularly welcome applications from students currently under-represented in higher education and/or in the top echelons of the law profession, including: looked after children and care leavers; young carers; students with disabilities; and black and minority ethnic students.

The deadline for applications in 2016 has now passed. Applications for the 2017 Pathways to Law programme will open in Autumn 2017.


For further information regarding the Pathways to Law Programme, or if you are interested in providing a work placement or other sponsorship, please contact us at
For information regarding the University's other Access programmes, please see their website


The programme is only made possible by the support of the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford, Maitland Chambers, The Sutton Trust and The Legal Education Foundation.