ALT 2013 - Enhancing Numerical Literacy to Promote Graduate Employability
Enhancing numerical literacy to promote graduate employability
Louise Taylor, Nottingham Trent University
1. The challenging graduate market.
As a result of the global economic crisis the
legal graduate employment market has been
in a state of decline (Law Society, 2003-11).
In such a competitive market employers are
able to be more discerning than ever in their
choice of graduates for the diminishing
number of training contracts available. This
has placed an increased expectation on the
Qualifying Law Degree (QLD) to deliver
commercially savvy graduates who possess
key transferable and employability skills. In a
host of recent surveys conducted with
graduate employers numeracy has been
highlighted as one such expected skill.
The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher
Education (QAA) (QAA, 2007) and the
Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) (SRA,
2001, p.1) require that the QLD includes a
taught element of numeracy. As law
teachers we must ask ourselves whether we
meet this minimum requirement, and even if
we do, whether we could do more to
enhance the numerical literacy of our
students in order to promote their
employability and future-proof their careers.
“Mathematical literacy is an individual’s
capacity to identify and understand the
role that mathematics plays in the
world, to make well-founded
judgements and to use and engage
with mathematics in ways that meet
the needs of that individual’s life as a
constructive, concerned and reflective
The graph on the
an overall decline in
registered with the
Law Society since
the start of the
economic crisis in
No. of traineeships by year
In such a challenging market it is clear that we must
move with the times and deliver modules and extracurricular activities that develop skill-rich graduates
who are both employable and well equipped to
become the lawyers of tomorrow (Susskind 2012,
p.5). Key to this is the recognition that numerical
literacy is a core skill which ought to be interwoven
throughout the activities offered within our law
The findings from a content analysis of module
specifications for all modules offered on the full-time
year -long QLD at Nottingham Law School (NLS)
are displayed in the pie chart below. This shows that
one module (Law of Contract and Problem Solving)
includes an element of numeracy skills teaching.
Assuming that this approach is representative of
that adopted in other law schools it can be
concluded that the minimum regulatory
requirements are being met. That said, there clearly
remains scope to further
enhance the numerical
literacy of our students
by offering additional
numeracy skills teaching
NLS QLD modules
2. Expectations of the QLD.
4. Enhancing numerical literacy.
“A student should demonstrate a
basic ability where relevant and as
the basis for an argument, to use,
present and evaluate information
provided in numerical or statistical
(QAA 2007, p. 4)
(National Numeracy 2012)
3. Do we meet expectations?
Law Society, 2003-11.
QAA, 2007. Benchmark Statement for Law.
SRA, 2001. Joint Statement on Qualifying Law Degrees.
Susskind, R. LETR Briefing Paper 3/2012: Provocations and Perspectives.
National Numeracy, 2012.
Final year credit
Year 1 noncredit bearing
“Employability skills are the most
important attributes that
businesses look for in new recruits,
but graduates are currently falling
short of employers’ expectations...”
It is contended that the model outlined above
would be relatively simple to introduce, would
provide an optimum yield of numerically literate
graduates, and would cause minimal disruption to
the substantive content delivered on the existing
NLS QLD curriculum.
Special thanks go to Sinead Moynihan-Case for
her technical assistance and to Jenny Holloway,
Rebecca Huxley-Binns and Martin Millward for
their critical advice.
As law teachers it is our job to facilitate our
students in gaining the knowledge and
skills necessary to secure employment
upon leaving university and then to survive
the challenges they may face once in that
Presently we are providing students with
the minimum opportunities to enhance their
numerical literacy during their time with us.
While this does meet the regulatory
requirements for a QLD this may add little
in significant value to the numerical literacy
of the students that we teach. Worse still,
in some cases we may actually be
providing students with an educational
landscape so largely absent of numbers
that they are allowed to forget some of the
numerical literacy which they had
developed as part of their secondary
education. To this extent we are doing our
students and their eventual employers a
If we want to promote graduate
employability and future-proof our students’
careers then we should place numerical
literacy alongside skills such as language
literacy at the core of the QLD. This could
be achieved through the implementation of
a fairly simple model without detracting
from the substantive content of the QLD.
All that is needed is the will (and numerical
literacy) of the law faculty to facilitate it.
For further information
Nottingham Law School
Nottingham Trent University
Nottingham, NG1 4BU.
Direct dial: (0115) 848 6054