Pathways to Law is a programme that looks to inspire and support students to explore a range of careers in law and build essential knowledge, skills and confidence required to go on to higher education and the world of work. All Pathways to Law students are also offered real-life experience, with a work placement, and mentoring and networking opportunities.

The programme was established in 2006 by the Sutton Trust and the Legal Education Foundation, with generous support from our partner law firms and is the largest initiative of its nature. Pathways to Law was developed to widen access to the legal profession, as research by the Sutton Trust had shown that the top echelons of the professions were drawn from a narrow range of social backgrounds. The programme aims to raise students’ aspirations and allow them to make informed decision about their future career.

Applications for 2019/20 are now open!


The Trust have teamed up with 13 universities across the country to offer 12 programmes for students from areas local to those universities.
Over 3,000 students have already completed the programme, which is the largest initiative of its type.
We expect another 1350 students to graduate from the programme between now and summer 2021

Whilst each university has a unique way of delivering the programme, every Pathways to Law Student will be offered:

  • A one week work experience placement at a leading law firm

  • A programme of after-school and weekend events.

  • E-mentoring from undergraduate Law students

  • The chance to attend a four-day residential conference packed with talks, activities and networking opportunities

  • A visit to the Inner Temple, the home of one of the major professional associations of barristers


Students applying to Pathways to Law must meet the following criteria:

  • Attend, and have always attended, a state-funded, non fee-paying school/college

  • Be in Year 12 at the start of the programme (for post 16 2year programme) 

    Be in year 11 (for pre 16 activities)

  • Live within a reasonable commuting distance of the university to which they are applying

In addition, we are looking for students who:

  • Have achieved five GCSEs at grades 9-6, including English and Mathematics. A minimum of two of these qualifications should be at grades 9 – 7. This is equivalent to five GCSEs at A* – B in the old system, with two grades at A* – A

  • Would be the first generation in their family to attend university

  • Have been in receipt of Free School Meals whilst at secondary school

  • Have attended schools with a lower than average progression to higher education, or a higher than average proportion of students who qualify for Free School Meals

  • Have parent(s)/guardian(s) who qualify for means-tested benefits

  • Have been looked after or in care

*The more of these criteria you meet, the more likely it is that you will be offered a place on the programme.


Pathways to Law universities run activities and workshops for students in Year 10 and 11 at local schools and at the universities. If you are a student that is interested in getting involved please contact the universities directly to see how to get involved.

The Pathways to Law programme runs for two academic years. It starts during the first term of Year 12 and finishes in the final term of Year 13. The programme is run in conjunction with the following universities:

University of Exeter

University of Leeds

University of Leicester

University of Liverpool


University of Manchester

University of Nottingham

Nottingham Trent University

The University of Newcastle

University of Oxford

University of Roehampton

Queen Mary University

University of Warwick


Pre 16 activities – Students are unable to apply for this through the Sutton Trust, please contact the university directly to see if/how you can get involved.

Post 16 programme – Applications for Pathways to Law are now open! Please click the link at the top of the page to visit our application site.


Before the Pathways to Law programme, I had no idea what studying law would be like or what being a lawyer really meant. Two years on, I am holding an offer to study law at Oxford, with the knowledge I am going to study a subject that I will really enjoy. I also know that there would be absolutely no way this would have been possible without Pathways or the Sutton Trust.

Pathways Student

I cannot express how grateful I am for all of the support and the opportunities that were available to me – from the internship at Eversheds to the day at one of the Bar temples in London to lectures and workshops provided by the universities. The fact that Pathways to Law is paid for is great- coming from a single parent household on minimum income, it means that I am not missing out on these brilliant opportunities. Also, it is great to meet with people who are as ambitious and interested in law as you are and come from a similar background – so there is that fundamental similarity.

Pathways Student

I didn’t have any idea about commercial law and the process of obtaining vacation schemes and training contracts before the programme. Thanks to being assigned a mentor, attending residentials and networking events, I was equipped with the knowledge and support I needed to pursue work experience and a career in the legal profession. Being able to spend time in London law firms and meet barristers, judges and other professionals made application processes less daunting and the whole process more accessible. Without the Sutton Trust, I would not have had the motivation or the ‘foot in the door’ to have obtained a Training Contract at Linklaters.

Pathways Student

It was only really when I began completing my application to university that I fully appreciated just how much I have gained from this course. Not only has my knowledge of law as an academic subject grown significantly, I feel as though I have had a privileged introduction to university life as well as the wider world of law which stands me in excellent stead for my future career. Given that my parents have no qualifications above GCSE level and I am the first person in my family to attend university, I honestly don’t believe I would be where I am today, holding an offer from my first choice university, without the opportunities that Pathways to Law has provided for me.

Pathways Student


The cost associated with being on the programme (travel and accommodation) are covered by the Sutton Trust and our partner universities.

All students are offered the opportunity to take part in a work experience placement appropriate to the Pathways programme that they are on.

No, you can apply to and attend one Sutton Trust programme. This is to make sure as many students as possible benefit from the programmes. Any duplicate applications will be deleted.

Applications for Pathways to Law opened on Friday 24th August 2018. The application closure dates differ depending on the individual university. Please see here for more information.

All students are required to live within an hour’s commute from the delivery university in order to make involvement in the various sessions and activities manageable. If you are not within this proximity it might be worth considering the Sutton Trust UK Summer Schools which are national rather than regional programmes.

You can apply, but you should be aware that our Pathways programmes are often oversubscribed – If you do not meet the academic criteria your application is less likely to be successful.

If you do not meet the academic criteria but there are extenuating circumstances to explain this, please ask your teacher to provide details when they verify your application.

The Sutton Trust is not a grant / scholarship making charity. We cannot financially support our students following at Pathways Programme, though there are many other sources of financial support available, some of which may be specific to the university you go to and which your university may be able to advise on.

The Sutton Trust programmes are for highly able state school or college (non-fee-paying) students only. Applications from students studying at private/independent (fee-paying) schools will not be considered, even if you receive a scholarship or bursary in to cover the fees. Some universities will show flexibility if you are currently in or have been in care.

If you are unsure whether your school is eligible, please visit www.schoolguide.co.uk to check. If your school is listed as ‘Independent’, it is not eligible.

There is space on the UCAS form to indicate any involvement in a university access programme (which all the Sutton Trust programmes are). Some universities will give preference or reduced offers to students who have attended these, however this is not the case for all universities. We also stress that this should not be a determining factor for you to attend a Pathways programme. Your motivation for attending should be aligned to the aims and objectives of the programme.

Thank you for your interest!

Check that the programme is running in your area and then contact your closest university or Sutton Trust for more information