University of Law tight-lipped over BPTC launch for Leeds and Manchester

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So-called northern powerhouse cities already have 285 bar course places on offer — and only 26 pupillages


University of Law officials refused to confirm that Leeds and Manchester are about to be flooded with yet more Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) places.

Media reports earlier in the day suggested that Europe’s biggest law school was set to launch the course at its local branches in those cities.

The university was said to be planning on living up to its stated promise to offer the course in what the last Chancellor of the Exchequer is keen on describing as the “northern powerhouse”. A statement on the institution’s website still says the course at those branches was “subject to validation”.


However, the Lawyer2B website today indicated that the Bar Standards Board (BSB) had given the green light. The report suggested that university officials had pegged fees for its Leeds and Manchester BPTC at the same level as its Birmingham course — £14,500.

A spokesman for the regulator said:

“The BSB can confirm that we have received an application from University of Law to provide the BPTC in centres in both Manchester and Leeds. As this is still going through our usual processes, we cannot comment further at this stage.”

The move will be controversial as it comes on the heels of BSB figures showing that last year the number of pupillage places across England and Wales had tumbled below 400 for the first time in the modern era of the bar.

Manchester already has 162 full-time and 48 part-time BPTC places available through the combined offerings of Manchester Metropolitan University and BPP Law School. BPP has also currently got 47 full-time and 28 part-time course places on offer in Leeds.

Yet the total number of pupillages currently listed on the Bar Council’s gateway for those two cities is 26 — 16 in Manchester and 10 in Leeds.


Yet another BPTC is being launched — despite chronic shortage of pupillages [Legal Cheek]



I think the current listing isn’t really a good reflection of the total number of pupillages available (although we are at the height of the season). The presumption also seems to be that BPTC students in a certain area will not migrate to other areas – this doesn’t seem well founded.

However, we already know that there is an over-supply of BPTC course places, so I’m not sure how useful yet more places will be.


St Anthony Blair

“I want all children to have a BPTC level education. Unemployment and heartache for the many, not just the few.”


Quo Vadis

Just think what the Inns would be able to achieve if they weren’t subsidising UoL etc. by millions of pounds a year. Many of my friends on the Bar course have recieved scholarships covering the fees in their entirety – that is what, £20k each? It is also worth considering that if the providers are able to set up in a new city, pay the costs of staffing, premises etc., and still make a profit, it suggests something is seriously wrong with the pricing of the course.

I think the real answer is to give BPTC graduates limited rights of audience, for the lowest courts, which they could exercise only in conjunction with an insured and registered organisation. This would be similar to what many graduates do with companies like LPC Law, but without the lingering legal uncertainty of what exactly one can do as a ‘solicitor’s agent’. Even inexperienced advocates would be manifestly better than paid McKenzie friends, or litigants-in-person!



I think the actual ‘real answer’ is to either a). Stop these providers pedalling this lie and these courses, or b). Make the risk to abundantly and potently clear to anyone considering undertaking the BPTC that should they chose to proceed anyway then caveat emptor and they’ll get no further sympathy or assistance from us.


Juan Pertayta

Or make an offer of pupillage (or declaration to practise in another jurisdiction) a requirement to undertake the BPTC. The providers could take the previous year’s numbers plus (say) 10% to allow for failures and drop-outs.

Or abolish the BPTC, extend pupillage by six months and cover the training via the Inns in the course of pupillage.



That too (much better suggestions for the profession). My point was mostly aimed at the apparent need for us to conjure up an outpouring of sorrow and grief for those who undertake the BPTC only to not secure pupilage: these are smart kids; I would suggest that the risk IS already rather well-known (but I’d like it more so known); and these providers aren’t mis-selling on the scale of PPI.

If we can’t trust these students to make sensible, reasoned, financially astute and thoroughly-considered choices in their own professional lives, why on earth do we want them representing clients in court?



I’m sure the Inns offering such generous scholarships has something to do with charity, but I suspect it’s more to do with maintaining their own charity status. I wonder how much that saves them in taxes each year.



Saves who taxes? There are no profits being doled out to anyone.


Not Amused

The BSB is an utter and complete disgrace.



They should shut down that shyster, equity house-owned, dirty cesspit once and for all. None of the good firms like it anyway.


Simon Myerson

The BSB doesn’t have much ability to say no. Regulating the number of places has been deemed anti-competitive by the LSB, prodded successive Governments. The fact that the approach is moronic does not seem to have occurred to those in positions of power – perhaps because they are morons.

I both agree that something must be done, and I’m working to make sure it is. But, there are 2 sides to every story. Students do not HAVE to enrol. Far too many of you believe that you will win the golden ticket and you won’t. Realism is a skill anyone can acquire and – as long as a fool and their money are easily parted – organisations like this will try to do just that.

Do a mini-pupillage and ask anyone who seems friendly whether you are a stand out candidate (if you ask whether you might get pupillage, the answer will almost always be yes). If you don’t get a positive response ask, “I’m about to pay £15,000. My prospects of getting pupillage are less than 1 in 5. When I fail, will I think the £15,000 was well spent, bearing in mind that it gives me no advantage whatever?”


Not-Guilty Nigel

Saying that people should know the risks and therefore not undertake the BPTC seems rather an easy get-out.

How do you know whether you are going to get pupillage or not? Plenty of perfectly capable and skilled people don’t even get interviews because of the fetish of some chambers for Oxbridge graduates to the exclusion of all others. Other chambers selection seems arbitrary at best and depends largely on whether the interviewee clicks with the particular interviewers on the day.

If you want to cut down the numbers taking the BPTC how are you going to do that? The LSB won’t allow it and you’d have to be really careful to not damage the already fragile glimmers of increasing diversity at the bar.

Those who sit and scoff from their lofty positions at their desks in chambers would do well to let a bit of humility wash over them when thinking about the hundreds of students who would make perfectly good barristers, but just don’t get the chance through no fault of their own.


Non-Oxbridge Pleb

“If you want to cut down the numbers taking the BPTC how are you going to do that?”

Restrict the BPTC to those students who have pupillage already and those who are taking it from overseas in order to return. The numbers would be slashed and chambers would simply have to adjust their recruitment practices, taking people before the BPTC like law firms do with a huge proportion of their trainees.

“Those who sit and scoff from their lofty positions at their desks in chambers would do well to let a bit of humility wash over them when thinking about the hundreds of students who would make perfectly good barristers, but just don’t get the chance through no fault of their own.”

The market can only support a certain number of barristers. Plenty of people will always fail to get there. The same is even true of City law firms, where there are literally hundreds of Training Contracts for the taking – many people simply cannot make it, even though they might be perfectly competent should they be given a chance. Some people will be more competent, and they are the ones that the recruitment market pick up.

What do you want to do? Create a load of qualified barristers who sit around twiddling their thumbs and doing no work? Somehow invent work to give them? Force people to hire barristers who don’t need them?



They would be qualified to do the work. Whether they get the work would be down to the public. The way it is set up all the work has to go to specific places. You are not allowed to make it on your own even if you could. How does it work in every other jurisdiction?
It is crazy you do the same exams etc. yet you cannot work in the profession because of pupillage. Make it unpaid then. The only people who should say someone can’t do the job is the public.



Every profession has a period of on the job training. If you really think the BPTC qualifies you to be a barrister, or that the LPC qualifies you to be a solicitor, you are deluded. You are equally deluded if you think that the exams are the hard part of qualifying.

You are effectively advocating a race to the bottom that would result in a free for all in the legal market whereby there was no real guarantee of quality for the public. The public is entitled to expect that someone with a professional title, be it barrister, solicitor, accountant, doctor etc, has undertaken all of the training required to bear that title. Pupillage is part of that training, and the filter at the pupillage (or TC) stage is an important part of the guarantee that people bearing the relevant title have achieved a sufficient level of competence.



It seems to me, that if you don’t have money to play (gamble) with then you shouldn’t be going the BPTC without having first secured a pupilage.

The opinions and attitudes of “those who sit and scoff from their lofty positions” etc are irrelevant. The sensible attitude is to reconcile yourself with the fact you are not going to secure a pupilage, then try your very best to get one anyway.

Let’s not forget, many of those people occupying BPTC places are have just graduated from university, not arranged anything else and may not be paying for the course themselves. These people are not losing out. They are akin to those undertaking a one year LLM in a similar position (yes, fees for doing so are generally lower). This groups of people benefit broadly from having studied a higher level course, not necessarily in terms of employment prosepects.

I resent all of this musing about what ifs, irresponsible institutions and the rest. The system is how it is. Don’t take a gamble you can’t afford (in the literal, monetary sense). Pursue a pupilage or training contract before enrolling on your respective course.



Apologies for the various errors there.



Why is it that BPTC graduates get to call themselves ‘barristers’ prior to pupillage and LPC graduates do not get to call themselves ‘solicitors’ prior to training contracts?

This appears to be ridiculously unfair!


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