Barrister hopefuls had been told that the new Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) would cost £67 when it comes in next month. So when they received an email yesterday afternoon informing them that the test will actually set them back a whopping £150, they were, understandably, rather annoyed...
Significantly, the consultation last year on the potential adverse effects of the BCAT was conducted on the basis that the test would be priced at the £67 figure.
The relevant section of the consultation reads:
"There is, of course, a cost implication associated with the Aptitude Test, which may cause some adverse impact to those who cannot afford the cost. Judging from the fact that the current fees for the course range from £16,095 to £10,300 and that the cost of the BCAT is £67 which represents approximately 0.6% of the cost of the very cheapest course (and an even smaller proportion where fees are higher than this)...The Bar Standards Board considers that an increase in costs by this low percentage is justified by the necessity for the additional requirement."
Last night Lancaster University law student James Liptrot told Legal Cheek that "a different conclusion on the effect of the BCAT on less wealthy students might surely have been arrived at if the working group knew it would end up being priced at £150 rather than £67."
He added: "In view of the substantial price rise, shouldn't there now be a further consultation?"
Another gripe is that the test can be sat an unlimited number of times – with each sitting costing £150 a pop. As Shannon Revel memorably put it on Twitter:
It was also pointed out that on top of the £150 test fee, students will still have to pay the £40 it costs to apply for the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) – taking their pre-BPTC costs up to a total of £190.
The BSB hasn't yet responded to the students who tweeted them complaining about the cost of the test. We'll publish a response from them when we get it.
UPDATE 10:17am – BSB response:
"When we were asked to provide a suggested fee, we were at a much earlier stage in the planning process. The published fee compares very well with other professional aptitude courses.
"A combination of factors affect the price: not least ensuring it is available globally, and minimising the risk of fraud.
"It is important that we recover costs and thus avoid placing a cost burden on others. We will evaluate the test carefully and ensure that the fee reflects no more than cost recovery."