Thirteen City firms have committed to a summer school diversity initiative to encourage applications from students studying at non-Russell Group universities, which make up the traditional pool of City applicants.

The City Solicitors’ Educational Trust (CSET) summer school programme will offer summer schemes to 100 students every year at Imperial College.

Ashurst partner Roger Finbow, who is heavily involved in the programme, said: “There is the feeling among us that there are extremely capable people at [non-Russell Group universities]. But at the same time there are glass ceilings among these universities, which cause students to think there’s no point aspiring to doing a training contract with a leading firm. The members of CSET want to do their bit to ensure that young people are achieving the maximum they can.”

Finbow said the initiative could also help ease the shortage of law graduates available to leading firms and the shrinking of the talent pool that has caused so much consternation among UK firms.

The scheme is being supported by Allen & Overy, Ashurst, Clifford Chance, Faegre & Benson, Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, Hammonds, Herbert Smith, Linklaters, Lovells, Macfarlanes, Penningtons, Slaughter and May and Watson Farley & Williams.

These firms will fund the programme by using 50 per cent of existing subscriptions that the members pay to CSET. Firms have each paid CSET around £300 per trainee at each firm but this amount is likely to be revised to £400 next year. A firm such as Ashurst contributes around £30,000 per year.

The Russell Group includes 50 traditional ‘top’ universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, King’s College and University College London, London School of Economics and others.

The CSET programme, however, will be pitched exclusively to non-Russell Group universities and students which include ex-polytechnics and universities like Bournemouth, Keele, Kingston and Lancaster. Finbow said that he would hope and expect that the programme would be very enthusiastically received by many faculties.

The CSET summer schools programme ties into the Sutton Trust’s and the College of Law’s ‘Pathways to Law’ programme that targets upper sixth form students from underprivileged schools and received pledges of £350,000 and support from five top City firms in early November 2007.

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