Complain About The BSB At Your Peril, Bar Students – ‘Independent’ Complaints Body Is Chaired By BSB Member

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A recent article, ‘EXCLUSIVE: BPTC Students Point Finger At Bar Standards Board Following ‘Disastrous’ And ‘Unfair’ Exams’, elicited over 40 comments from Bar students.

A BPTC student looking to make a complaint against the BSB considers his options.

Many of them were highly critical of the Bar Standards Board (BSB), which is responsible for appointing the members of the central examination board that set the aforementioned ‘disastrous’ and ‘unfair’ exams.

Where can these students go to make a complaint against the BSB?

Well, there’s the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (OIA), the statutory body set up in 2004 under the Higher Education Act to run an independent student complaints scheme.

There’s just one hitch…

The current Independent Adjudicator is Robert Behrens. That’s the same Robert Behrens who sits on the BSB.

Prior to Behrens, the Independent Adjudicator was none other than Baroness Ruth Deech, chair of the BSB.

So tread carefully when making those complaints about the BSB, Bar students.

A big thanks to Legal Cheek poster ‘Vincent’ for flagging up the close ties between the BSB and the OIA.



I don’t think any BPTC Student can go to the OIA to complain about the BSB. From the way their website is worded and the list of Qualifying and Non-Qualifying Institutions it appears that they cannot investigate the BSB exams but can only consider complaints about the individual institutions (excluding BPP which doesn’t look like it has signed itself up as an Institution).

I don’t think its actually possible to go higher than the BSB in this matter. The Inns are seemingly subject to it and the Legal Services Board makes no provision for regulating the educational aspects of the SRA and BSB. The Providers can only huff and puff about things at best….at the end of the academic year they’ll all be in the same boat regarding the BPTC marks and then its next years students paying the bills. Is anyone else any clearer on this?



P. 95 of ‘THE BLUE BOOK’ states:

“5.1.7 Where a case is referred to an Inn, the Inn will not attempt to go behind the findings of the Provider or the Office of the Independent Adjudicator [see].”

P. 100 of ‘THE BLUE BOOK’ states:

“8.2.4 Advice can be provided by the BSB, who may also be notified by the student if a cause for complaint against a Provider arises. Such students are normally advised to follow the complaints procedure of the Institution. The highest authority is the Office of the Independent Adjudicator (”

THE BLUE BOOK = Bar Professional Training Course: Course specification requirements and guidance – August 2011



The OIA is paid for by HEI subscriptions. This ought to be a first caution about its ability to handling cases with objectivity. The rather surprising amount of difficulty one encounters in trying to find this fact on its website, should perhaps be a second alert.

HEI’s, however, pay their subscriptions using public funding. This might give hope once again that one could perhaps engage (e.g.,) the Minister of State for Universities & Science in taking steps to re-examine the OIA’s funding paradigm and remit, and to insure that there are no fundamental conflicts of interest therein which might undermine the integrity of its work.

Unfortunately, to date BIS office has – bizarrely – flatly denied that said Minister has anything to do with regulating HEIs, because HEIs are “independent and autonomous bodies” (although his actual, day-to-day work would seem to contradict that assertion rather notably — see, e.g.: ) So, unfortunately, one shouldn’t count on much leadership from our Leadership anytime soon, towards securing that a fully fair and independent adjudicating body is in place as a recourse for individuals enrolled in degree programmes in the UK and who encounter disputes with or experience misconduct, of any sort, from, their HEIs.

Meanwhile, I, too, can confirm from experience that the OIA’s behaviour continues to be anything but independent — something which the annual statistics themselves already maky abundantly clear. And indeed we find Mr Behrens’ smiling face popping up on all sorts of handy Committees and Boards — like the BSB. Or even HEFCE, where he is a member of the “Regulatory Partnership Group” (RPG), too.

But good luck, and thanks for sharing information and continuing to bring these things out into the light. Change begins by merely building awareness.


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