Barrow Inquiry Papers

The Committee of Inquiry into Equal Opportunities at the Inns of Court School of Law

Historical background

The Committee of Inquiry was established in March 1993 "to conduct a wide-ranging investigation into the policies and practices of the Council of Legal Education (CLE) and the Inns of Court School of Law (ICSL). The creation of the Committee was partly in response to a large disparity in pass rates between black and ethnic minority students and white students on the Bar Vocational Course (BVC), uncovered by ethnic monitoring of the 1991/1992 intake, and partly in response to the large body of complaints about the course which had been lodged with the General Council of the Bar, and the CLE itself." (Final Report, Apr 1994, Introduction 3.1 p.8).

Membership and terms of reference

The Inquiry was chaired by Dame Jocelyn Barrow (Deputy Chairman, Broadcasting Standards Council), from whom the short title "Barrow Inquiry" derives. Its members were Ruth Deech (Principal, St Anne's College Oxford), Jo Larbie (Director of Legal Education and Training of the Legal Resources Group), Rajeev Loomba (course leader for the Legal Practice Course, University of Northumbria) and David J Smith (Senior Fellow, Policy Studies Institute).

The Inquiry's terms of reference were to identify the reasons for disparities in the level of performance of ethnic minorities on the BVC from 1991/92, to investigate allegations of racial discrimination and to investigate and make recommendations on teaching, assessment and pastoral care of students and for the further development of an equal opportunities policy by the CLE.


The Inquiry employed a number of research methods as follows:

1. Statistical analysis, using as a starting point Dr Christopher Dewberry's 1991/1992 analysis of disparities between white and ethnic minority student pass rates; the Inquiry conducted further similar surveys and analyses.
2. Qualitative research, including:
- oral hearings of evidence such as interviews with students, staff, assessors, CLE and General Council of the Bar members;
- written submissions from interested parties;
- comments from students, followed by an analysis by Dr Robin Oakley.
3. Direct observation of teaching and assessment.
4. Collection and analysis of teaching materials relating to the BVC.
5. Following the Interim Report of September 1993, provision of a formal submission from the ICSL/CLE on teaching, assessment and pastoral care.
6. Consideration of the complaints of 29 individual students.
7. Comparison of the BVC with other jurisdictions, in the UK and abroad.

Barrow Inquiry Papers at IALS

The records listed below comprise papers transferred to the Records of Legal Education Archives at IALS by Mrs Ruth Deech, Principal of St Anne's College, Oxford, and a member of the Inquiry team. They do not comprise the official papers of the Inquiry, which are held elsewhere, and do not form a complete set. They do include the bulk of the material collected by the various methods outlined above. The class list attempts to mirror the methodology of the Inquiry as closely as possible, whilst still adhering to any existing filing and numbering systems employed during the Inquiry (document numbers allocated by the Inquiry are noted in bold type in the Handlist). Certain information, such as the oral submissions and individual questionnaire, is not extant, due to guarantees of confidentiality. One or two other documents are also missing from the archive; where this is the case it is noted in the handlist by the use of the archival term "wanting".

Most secondary source material collected during the Inquiry, such as information comparing the BVC with other jurisdictions, is not included in the papers but is listed in the Final Report. The Final Report of the Committee (Equal Opportunities at the Inns of Court School of Law: the Final Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Equal Opportunities on the Bar Vocational Course, published April 1994) will be found at A.BARR 16 in the archive, as well as in most law libraries, including the IALS Library.


Page last updated: 20th July 2020

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