And lo, His answer did not help the SRA.
The SRA has said it is worried about the low pass rate of minority ethnic groups taking the Solicitors Qualifying Examination.
Under the old exam regime which has been replaced by the SQE1 and SQE2 assessments, BAME candidates fared worse overall in the LPC than their white counterparts, with a pass rate of 40% for black students in 2018 compared to 80% for white students.
A 2019 pilot of the SQE found BAME candidates continuing to perform more poorly as a group than white candidates. The disparity prompted the SRA to drop the written element of SQE1 and replace it with a multiple choice model, on the basis that requiring written answers "may set an unnecessary barrier to qualification which disadvantages BAME candidates".
But when the first SQE 1 results came out last year, they showed a similar gulf, with a pass rate of 39% for black candidates compared to 66% for white candidates. That carried through to the inaugural SQE 2, with a 53% pass rate for black candidates, compared to 85% for white candidates.
The stubborn persistence of the pass rate gap has concerned the SRA, which since the SQE's conception has emphasised the diversity benefits it would bring compared to the GDL and LPC.
Lubna Shuja, the new president of the Law Society, said, "We remain concerned about this gap, particularly as one of the aims of the Solicitors Qualifying Exam was to improve diversity and inclusion in the legal profession". She encouraged the regulator to "continue to monitor closely whether the situation is worsening or improving with the move to SQE — and if so, why".
In order to tackle the problem, the regulator commissioned Exeter University to conduct research "to explore the reasons for differential performance in professional assessments by candidates from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds", with the academics' findings expected in early 2023.
The SRA noted that analysis "should be treated with caution" because candidate numbers were small for some groups. In this year's SQE1, 756 candidates were white, 115 were black, and 553 were Asian. Asian candidates achieved a 54% pass rate.
Anna Bradley, the Chair of the SRA, said, "We anticipated that we would again see the troubling difference in performance for candidates from Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups that has been a longstanding and widespread feature in examinations in the legal and other sectors".
She said, "We know the reasons will be complex and, as well as ongoing review and analysis, we have appointed Exeter University to carry out in-depth research to better understand the factors driving the attainment gap for these groups in professional assessments, so that we can do everything we can to address the issues".