Milburn report response

Milburn report fails to tackle non-graduate social mobility

21 July 2009 pr038.09

Despite delivering over 80 recommendations and urging Britain not to harbour a “closed shop mentality”, the long-awaited Alan Milburn report on fair access to the professions released today fails the very audience it is intended to support.

Mr Milburn sought to make recommendations on how the professions, the Government and others can ‘unleash the pent-up aspiration that exists in the young people of our country’, citing that professions have become open only to graduates, leaving many of those without a university degree unable to pursue a professional career. Yet the report deals almost exclusively with the issue of degrees and higher education, leaving praise for non-graduate routes to the penultimate chapter.

The report has overlooked the opportunity to promote existing initiatives which provide access to careers amongst non-graduates, and in particular the 45-year-old vocational route to qualification as a lawyer, so marginalising the career opportunities of very people the Government should be seeking to nurture, according to the Institute of Legal Executives (ILEX).

“We were delighted to see that the issue of social mobility and access to the professions is being taken seriously. But by perpetuating the myth that university is the only way to become a lawyer, it seems that it’s the Government itself who is harboring a closed-shop mentality” said ILEX President, Judith Gordon Nichols, “Or is this report really just a plank in the Government’s effort to secure university attendance by fifty percent of our young people?”

Whilst the report laments the demise of the old articled route to qualification for lawyers, it overlooks the fact that it is still possible to become a qualified lawyer vocationally via organisations such as ILEX. Over 80,000 people have chosen to study law through the vocational route and ‘earn as they learn’. Only 2% of them have lawyer parents and just 15% of them come from families where either of the parents received a university education.

“The government needed to look no further than legal executive lawyers for social mobility in action: many of the recommendations the report suggests for the legal profession are already in place through ILEX. By not recognizing such routes, this Government report has effectively reinforced the misperception that you have to be affluent, connected and go to university to be a successful lawyer. We are incredulous that Mr. Milburn’s report does not mention, let alone encourage, the established vocational routes to becoming a professional, although the Panel received evidence from ILEX and other similar vocational bodies” Ms Gordon Nichols continued.

“What is now needed is for the Government to open their own minds and fully recognise and embrace the benefits of the existing vocational routes to professional qualifications. Only then can the British youth unleash their professional aspirations and maximize their inherent potential.”


posted 21.07.09