Universities Scotland: Access All Areas

Universities Scotland has produced a comprehensive report looking at the range of widening access activity happening across Scotland’s 19 Higher Education Institutions (HEIs).  To date, this information has not been contained in one report and even at that there was not space to include every single activity.

The report can be accessed here: http://www.universities-scotland.ac.uk/uploads/ACCESS%20ALL%20AREAS%20final.pdf

The report is exciting and inspirational.  It looks at the various stages of the ‘learner journey’ and plots the activities that correspond to that stage, e.g. primary school, secondary school, senior secondary school and onto working with colleges.  It is excellent to see this report highlighting areas of good (and best) practice and allowing us to learn from each other and start a much bigger and wider conversation about just what works.

“Widening access is a complex task and requires a joined-up approach across many partners including schools, colleges, universities, parents and Government.”*

Edinburgh Law School is proud to be among those at the forefront of widening access to the legal profession.  As a school, we work across many of the projects mentioned in the report and I would particularly like to highlight the initiatives we are involved with:

Work with Primary and Secondary Schools (page 19)

Sutton Trust Summer School (The University of Edinburgh ran this in summer 2012) (page 21)

Pathways to the Professions (page 23)

Lothians Equal Access Programme for Schools (LEAPS) (page 30)

Lift Off! (page 31)

Reach Scotland (specifically Reach Edinburgh) (page 33)

The report concludes: “Hopefully the lasting impression readers will take away from this publication is that whatever the age, whatever the personal circumstances, whatever path has been taken up until now, if an individual has the will and the potential to benefit, there is an opportunity available to support them into a higher education in Scotland.” **

*(http://www.universities-scotland.ac.uk/uploads/ACCESS%20ALL%20AREAS%20final.pdf Page 1)

** (http://www.universities-scotland.ac.uk/uploads/ACCESS%20ALL%20AREAS%20final.pdf Page 77)


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So You Want to be a Lawyer?

On Friday 18 October, we held ‘So You Want to be a Lawyer?’ – our annual Pathways to the Professions career exploration event. The event was open to local s5 (and some s6) school pupils registered on the Pathways to the Professions programme.   Also attending the event were some pupils registered with Reach Edinburgh.

The aim of the day is to help the s5 and s6 (second-last and last year of high school) pupils, who have shown an interest in studying law, gain a deeper understanding of the variety of legal careers available. Pupils are also given the chance to interact with members of the profession by working with them to discuss legal scenarios and how they might be solved. Finally, pupils take part in a debate in order to gain more confidence in speaking publicly and, in turn, start to work on some of the skills needed by members of the legal profession. Teviot Debating Hall was the venue for the day. (Photos below)

We were delighted this year to have input from The Law Society of Scotland and the Faculty of Advocates, both of whom sponsor the event and are supporters of Pathways. We were honoured to be joined by Lady Wise, Scotland’s most newly-appointed female judge. Lady Wise helped us to open the event and also took part in the ‘Day in the Life’ section of the day where those in the legal profession – or who had studied law and gone in a different direction – talk about how they ended up in their current role. As the name suggests, colleagues also give insight into what a typical day for them might include.

We were also supported by colleagues from HBJ Claim Solutions, RBS Legal, Capital Defence Lawyers and Edinburgh Law School. The speakers were from a variety of different legal areas of work and covered: criminal law; family law; commercial law; intellectual property; property and trusts.

The pupils fed back that they had found the day very useful with most rating the ‘Day in the Life’ section (hearing directly from members of the profession on how they got to where they are) the most useful. The pupils  really got their teeth into the debating section and, as ever, the atmosphere was tense. This is the last time we will be able to debate Scottish Independence at this event without knowing the result of the referendum! All pupils who spoke spoke well and we saw great evidence of teamwork – another essential ‘lawyer’ skill.

So, all in all a successful event that was well-liked by the pupils. Many had not realised that not all lawyers appear in court, nor that people can move from practice into academia – and vice versa!

Pupils came away knowing:

  • People in the legal profession come from many different backgrounds and there is no one ‘lawyer’ mould.
  • Law is wide and varied and there are many different roles within it.
  • Not all who have a law degree want to be a lawyer.
  • Not everyone starts out with a firm idea of exactly where they want to be. It’s important to try and find out what it is you like about a subject. Do research on courses. Look at university websites. Attend open days and ask questions.

teviot.sywtbal teviotdebatinghall

Our lovely venue, Teviot Row House (left) and the Debating Hall all set up and awaiting the arrival of our guests and speakers (right).

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Of Evidence and Measuring Success


Much has been written about what works in terms of widening participation (wp) – and its close cousins student retention and progression – into and through higher education.  Indeed, as the Scottish Funding Council’s Outcome Agreements were brought in for the academic year 2012/13, the topic has come back to the mainstream media in an almost unprecedented way.  These Outcome Agreements “set out what colleges and universities plan to deliver in return for their funding from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC). Their focus is on the contribution that the colleges and universities make towards improving life chances, supporting world-class research and creating sustainable economic growth for Scotland.”  (source: http://www.sfc.ac.uk/funding/OutcomeAgreements/OutcomeAgreementsOverview.aspx)

Gathering evidence to support the plethora of wp work we do, as an institution and in partnership with local councils, schools and other organisations such as Lothians Equal Access Programme for Schools (LEAPS: www.leapsonline.org) can be challenging.  The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) is the single measure used by the SFC to determine who is a wp student.  Universities Scotland – a representative body made up of the Principals of all 19 Scottish higher education institutions – has pointed out that Universities take a broad approach to widening access which focuses on addressing under-representation of all kinds including the participation of students with disabilities and care leavers alongside those from less advantaged socio-economic groups.  Universities will continue to approach their role in widening access on this broad understanding; an approach with is evident in universities’ intentions as laid out in their outcome agreements on access. (http://www.universities-scotland.ac.uk/index.php?mact=News,cntnt01,detail,0&cntnt01articleid=142&cntnt01returnid=23)

Indeed, we can see that the SIMD does not always accurately present a true picture of the areas of deprivation in Scotland (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Statistics/SIMD/FAQRuralIssues) so care should certainly be taken when using this as a sole measure of wp.   As universities, we are being encouraged to look at applicants as a whole yet are only measured using one factor – postcode.  That is not to suggest that we should not be using contextualised admissions but it seems odd that the two do not stack up beside each other.

The University of Edinburgh has used contextualised admissions since 2004.  This means we look at applicants not simply as a set of grades and a personal statement but in the context of their achievements e.g. how have they performed within the context of their school’s performance alongside other information contained within the UCAS form.  Rebecca Gaukroger, Head of Admissions at The University of Edinburgh, said ‘…our use of contextual data alongside other information in the UCAS application has enabled us to identify those students who best demonstrate the academic ability, resilience and commitment to succeed at Edinburgh.” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/9450533/Universities-accused-of-socially-engineering-intakes.html)

So what of the individual impact we make on thousands of pupils every year?  How do we measure that in a helpful way – or at all?  Wp is about much more than socio-economic status.  It starts with early intervention to raise aspirations and works best through partnerships between schools, colleges, local authorities and universities.  It also involves the pupils’ families.

As someone who not only increasingly works at the policy end of widening participation issues but also designs and delivers all the wp activities for Edinburgh Law School, I have quite a unique insight into these issues.  I attended a wonderful celebratory event last week to congratulate some local s2 (s1 at the time of the programme) pupils from Wester Hailes Education Centre and Liberton High School.  These pupils were part of our Early Years project and had spent a series of Friday afternoons visiting various places like the Parliament, the Museum on the Mound (the event is sponsored by Lloyds Scholars programme) and the University of Edinburgh.

Their time at UoE was spent with me and we had a law workshop where we discussed law, justice and the role of the courts within that.  We then went to the High Court to look at a courtroom and sit in some of the key seats.  So how do we measure that one of the pupils who spoke at the celebratory event for parents and pupils has now decided – based on that experience – that he wants to be a Clerk of Court and that law is NOT (his emhpasis) boring?  What of the pupil from the Beath and Newbattle workshop I gave last week who came up to me at the end to tell me he wanted to do law but his Dad said law was boring and now he was going home to tell him it was not and he wanted to study it?  What about every single workshop I run for school pupils where at least one pupil comes up at the end to ask about studying law?  Suddenly, they feel it is something they can aspire to and consider doing.  This is not a study in the impact of my individual subject workshops but a glance into the kinds of immeasurable interactions we have with local pupils through our vast widening participation work.  There is no room for statistics in reporting that many pupils now see university as a viable option for them where they did not before.  How do we measure a feeling?  Or an aspiration?  There is definitely more work we can do on the wp front and perhaps we could shout more loudly about these individual impacts but in an evidence-based field, where do these interactions sit?  They are so important in these pupils’ lives and can often be life-changing.

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Commercial Contracts Advisor Vacancies (Glasgow)

Deadline extended until 01 July… Open to LLB Gradautes.

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Higher Education, the Devolution Settlement and the Referendum on Independence. (Think Tank 1)

'Tis to season to be… conferring!  Summer brings us time to reflect on the academic year past and plan for the next – while at the same time catching up with everything else.  Summer also brings conference season and your friendly Director of the Student Experience has been doing her bit on the circuit!

On Wednesday 22 May, an ESRC Fellowship Project looking at the funding of higher education in Scotland, the UK and Internationally held its first Think Tank.  This was a high-profile event looking at the potential scenarios for funding of higher education post-Referendum Vote.  

The programme was packed with interesting talks on funding in different areas, including Wales, England and Nordic states. This was an informed debate and a great chance to start to think about the issues surrouding the funding of higher education in Scotland post-referendum vote.

Coverage of the event can be found here:

Times Higher Education:

University of Edinburgh:

BBC News:

BBC iPlayer (Reporting Scotland lead story)

The papers for the event can be accessed here:

There is a follow-up event in October looking specifically at widening participation post-referendum.  It goes without saying that I'll be there!

Next week, I'm attending a Government Policy Briefing on The Future of Higher and Further Education in Scotland so I will ensure I blog about that afterwards.  In the meantime, details of next week's event here:  http://www.govknow.com/event-detail.html?id=453  


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Innovative Learning Week: Looking Back and Forward


Last week was Innovative Learning Week (ILW).  For the second year running, the University ran no formal classes and instead, Schools, Departments and Subject Areas put together a programme of events for their students.

We listened to last year’s feedback from students and staff and actively engaged with our student societies to see what they wanted from their Innovative Learning Week.  What was very clear was that students appreciated this breathing space in the year.  They appreciated having the chance to attend events aimed at expanding their career horizons and informing future choices.  Informative sessions on different careers as well as training in skills for the job market – all served with a big pinch of fun – was therefore the order of the week. As a School, we worked very hard to deliver what our students told us they wanted and with a host of outside and internal speakers and innovations, we did not disappoint.

Edinburgh Law School ran a packed programme of 35 events across four days.  Over 650 places were booked across the events and although this didn’t always translate to actual attendance, the students who did show up to their events got a lot out of them and really felt part of the Law School community.

We always want to ensure we are hitting the right note for our students and so with the week now behind us, it is the time to make room for reflection.

We ran a smaller number of events (35 in 2013 compared with over 60 in 2012) but perhaps there are just too many to choose from?  Some students who did attend their sessions sometimes expressed disappointment in their colleagues for not showing up as they thought it made Edinburgh Law Students look less committed than they actually are.  Over 90% of the students who did not show up had not cancelled their places on the sessions, meaning waiting lists could not be used.

Nevertheless, the students who did attend got some really great insights into the topics they chose to engage with.   The feedback they gave was excellent and we have had lots of comments from speakers about the enthusiasm of our students, too.

Looking to 2014, we might run far fewer events but we will speak to the students – and staff – to see what they want from their week.

ILW2013 was a great chance for students and staff to interact more and worked wonders for our community here.

Image above was created using tagxedo.com  I am naming the collage ‘Things What We Did in That Week What Just Went By…’ 🙂

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Hidden Careers Session: Bookings Open Now!

We have a brand new event running on Wednesday 27 February from 4 – 5 pm in the Moot Court Room. 

Come along and hear from some former students whose paths have been less than conventional, and whose life in the legal (and tax) profession was not in any Career Manual.  

Crafting a successful career is all about being able to identify opportunities and understand where your skills are best deployed – this could be the most useful hour you spend this week!

After the careers theme running through Innovative Learning Week, we thought you might like to strike while the iron's hot!

Booking essential to secure your space.  Places are on a first-come, first-served basis.  20 spaces available: book now at http://hiddenlegaltax.eventbrite.co.uk/

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Innovative Learning Week Bookings OPEN!

Ah, it’s February at long last.  That can mean only one thing – the uttering of those three little words…


Innovative Learning Week is running for the second year in a row and we have been working very hard to deliver a week of excellent events for you.  Last year, you told us you particularly loved the events surrounding careers and employability last year so we threaded that theme throughout this year’s programme.  We listen to you!

If you’d rather hide at home than think about careers then – well that’s a huge shame but fear not… we have many other events to grab your interest.  Simply click here to see the list of events.

You absolutely amazed us by hitting a total of 280 bookings in the first day of booking alone.  Booking opened at 9am on Monday 04 February and you were booking all day.  We could barely keep up with the demand!

Six events have now sold out as follows:

Love your CV!
SOLD OUT! To be added to the waiting list, please email Lindsay.Jack@ed.ac.uk

Mock Interviews with Baker & McKenzie
SOLD OUT! To be added to the waiting list, please email Lindsay.Jack@ed.ac.uk

Mock Interviews with Leading Firms
SOLD OUT! To be added to the waiting list, please email Lindsay.Jack@ed.ac.uk

A Legal History Tour of Edinburgh (18 February)
SOLD OUT! Spaces still available on tour being run on 21 February.  Click here to book

Communication: Improve and Inspire
SOLD OUT! Tickets still available for Communication: Improve and Inspire (for specific presentations)

Courts as Performances: Exploring Legal Process
SOLD OUT! To be added to the waiting list, please email Lindsay.Jack@ed.ac.uk


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Honours Law Essays

January brings new starts, new hopes and a new outlook for the year ahead.  Unless you're in third or fourth year and it just feels like it brings an Honours Essay deadline. Yuck!

As you work towards your 14 January deadline, try and remember a few things…

1. Regular breaks aid concentration and help you to take in more information.

2. Too much caffeine doesn't actually help and could lead to broken sleep.  Tired student plus stress multiplied by essay deadline = reduced productivity. 

3. Endless reading won't help unless you know WHY you're reading. Take a moment to ask what each new piece of information brings to your argument – or takes away from it.  Does this solidify your position or change it? Or is it irrelevant?

4. Note your sources as you go. There's nothing worse than scrabbling around for bookmarked links and the titles of books/cases/journal articles etc. at the last minute.

5. Keep thinking back to the original question as you read/write.

6. Read over your work as you go along. Yes – even when you can't stand to look at it anymore and feel it is silently mocking you.

For more tips on Honours Law Essays and how to approach them at Edinburgh Law School, look at the LawPALSHons guidance here.

Don't forget that the fact you are IN your Honours years means you already have the skills to cope with this new level of work.  🙂

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Social Media Event: Wednesday 28 November

Social Media Event: Wednesday 28 November, 2.30 – 3.30 pm, Lecture Theatre 270



As part of our commitment to ensuring your LLB experience equips you with a wide-range of skills and opportunities, we have developed a series of Careers Cafes.  These cafes are aimed at students in their last two years of LLB study and will take the form of interactive talks followed by Q&A.

The first of these is running on Wednesday 28 November and the theme is Social Media and the Legal Profession.  Our guest speaker at this event is Steven Raeburn – Editor of ‘The Firm’ magazine, social media trainer for the legal profession and broadcaster on law and legal affairs.  http://www.firmmagazine.com/

Come and find out the ‘necessity and advantages of developing a social media presence’ as you prepare to start your professional life.  It’s an increasingly competitive market out there and social media is becoming more and more widely used within the legal profession.

No need to book – just come along to the event!  It’s on Wednesday 28 November from 2.30 – 3.30 in Lecture Theatre 270.  (This event is of interest even if you don’t plan on going into the legal profession as you will pick up great social media tips anyway!)

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