The BPTC could be chopped up into lots of little courses

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By Alex Aldridge on

Bar regulator pledges to “build flexibility” into Bar Professional Training Course in bid to reduce cost


The Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) could be split up into lots of little courses that would be taught online in a bid to cut the huge cost of barrister training.

Under pressure to update a course that comes in for consistent criticism from students — not least because of its £18,000 price tag — the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has announced plans to review the BPTC which state that it “need not be delivered in one, integrated course”.

In a pamphlet published on its website, the BSB outlines its fear that the BPTC is becoming a course for rich dilettantes, many of whom fail to obtain one of the approximately 450 pupillages available each year. Despite the lack of barrister jobs available, 1,500 candidates enrolled on the BPTC in 2014.

“We are concerned by evidence of increasing costs throughout Bar training. It is worrying because it has a significant influence on the range of people who might consider a career at the Bar,” said the body.

Identifying a “need to focus on what a barrister needs to be able to do at the point when they are authorised” rather than pointless hoop-jumping, the BSB goes on to pledge to use technology to bring down the cost of the BPTC.

“We must allow training providers to take advantage of innovations in training,” the regulator continues, “for instance in the way that information is shared with the student. Modern online delivery techniques (such as webinars and e-learning) might prove valuable … we must build flexibility into each of our training requirements.”

Elsewhere in the pamphlet the BSB outlines plans to make pupillage more flexible, with chambers to be given a wider remit to determine what pupils do and greater flexibility to send them on secondments. Details are sketchy, but the gist of the idea is conveyed in the BSB’s statement that it is not convinced that there is “only one way” to organise pupillages. Of the proposal, BSB education and training chief Simon Thornton-Wood BSB, said:

“At a time of great change across the profession who better to design and deliver the pupillage experience to aspiring barristers than professionals themselves? And if this greater flexibility means that there can be more pupillages on offer that is also a good move.”

There will be a consultation on changes to the BPTC this summer with a view to introducing the reforms from September 2017.