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Why do wannabe barristers have to accept their BPTC place before they know if they’ve got an Inns scholarship?

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The conventional wisdom is that students are unwise to do the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) without a scholarship, writes anonymous barrister-to-be Bar Trek.

Indeed, on Legal Cheek it has been argued that the Inns of Court scholarship process functions as an unofficial Bar aptitude test. There’s some truth in this, but it ignores a rather important fact: many of us were forced to commit to paying for the BPTC before we knew if we had secured a scholarship or not…

I had my scholarship interview (with Middle Temple) on 4 April. I was told by BPP that I had to pay my deposit (£500) and contract with them to pay the rest to ensure my place…by 3 April. According to the Bar Standards Board’s website, this acceptance deadline applies to all BPTC providers.

Incidentally – and equally weirdly – my Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) also took place after I’d been required to pay my BPTC deposit (I did the BCAT on 20 April).

I was fortunate to get a scholarship and passed the BCAT fine. But the timing of it all meant that it was a case of jumping in at the deep end and hoping it all worked out for the best.

Other Inns conduct their interviews earlier – and, from what I understand, try to let candidates know the result before they accept their BPTC places. But the situation with Middle Temple – which occurs annually – means a lot of people are left contracting to pay a large sum of money before they know if they’re good enough, or can afford to pay for the BPTC with the help of the scholarship they’ll hopefully get.

Clearly, in the interests of fairness, this situation needs to be resolved.

Response from the Bar Standards Board:

“The BPTC first round offer deadline is set to ensure students, providers and the Inns can plan around a stable recruitment calendar. It would be impractical for the BSB to set the BPTC offer deadline after the various scholarships and bursaries have been awarded because we don’t regulate the scholarship process. Each Inn has its own policy and procedures for awarding scholarships and these can vary year-to-year as they are subject to other pressures such as availability of funds.

“With regards to the BCAT, in future years, students will be able to take the BCAT earlier in the programme.”

Response from Middle Temple:

“Our established practice is to run the interviews immediately after Easter. That is the one way that allows us to have enough resources to interview everybody. The drawback is that confirmation is slightly later from us than the other Inns.”

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