Sharp increase in women applying to study law in Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland has seen the UK’s greatest increase in women applying to study law over the last three years, according to new figures.
Over the last three years, female applications to all law courses in the UK have risen by 13 per cent. Last year, female applications reached triple figures for the first time ever, with over 100,000 applicants compared to just 50,000 male applicants.
Law courses are also proving popular among 18-20-year-olds: UCAS reports there were 15,000 more applications from this age group in the last two years. Overall, applications to study law in the UK have increased by over 17,000 in the past three years.
The data, sourced from UCAS and collated by London criminal defence solicitors Lawtons, details the number of applicants to study all law courses at UK universities. The analysis also highlighted the specific courses being applied for as well as the diversity of demographics entering the legal sector in the UK.
Northern Ireland has seen the greatest increase in female applications, with a 7.6 per cent rise compared to a five per cent drop in male applications. Female applications for UK courses from the EU, however, have dropped nearly 40 per cent in the past three years.
According to 2022 government data on diversity in the judiciary, there is still a gender gap following university. While women account for 53 per cent of solicitors and 77 per cent of chartered legal executives, they are seen less often in the more senior legal roles. The year-on-year increases in numbers of females applying to study law are promising, but it is clear that more must be done to strengthen their representation at the highest levels of the sector.
Nick Titchener, director at Lawtons Solicitors, said: “The demand for legal professionals in the UK is increasing two-fold. It is essential for prospective applicants to keep an open mind when pursuing a career in law. It is important to do your research to ensure you understand the qualifications required for the specific position you want.
“As well as this, you should identify any relevant work experience opportunities that will help you emphasise your commitment to a career in law, such as holiday schemes, mini-pupillages, marshalling or pro bono work.
“The legal industry is competitive yet rewarding and students applying to study in the UK will, in time, help the profession prosper in the years to come”.
UCAS data also reveals the changing age demographic applying to study law in the UK. Last year, there were 15,000 more applications from 18-20-year-olds, whereas applications from over-21s fell by seven per cent.
18-year-olds were responsible for the largest increase in applications, reaching over 100,000 applications in 2022, compared with just 11,000 in the 21-24 age group.
Dr Adrienne Barnett, senior lecturer in Law at Brunel University, said: “From my experience as a lecturer, there are certainly a lot more women than men studying law at Brunel Law School. The reasons for this are conjecture but I suspect it’s because fewer women study the STEM subjects.
“Comparing my experience of studying law in the late 1970s/early 1980s when there were more male students with the situation now, I think that having more female students enhances the collegiality of the students and peer support.”