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A new law school is being built in a bunker under Lincoln’s Inn to deliver a not-for-profit BPTC

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Exclusive: Inns of Court fight back against private law schools

inn

A revolutionary state-of-the-art bar school is being planned for London as the Inns of Court aim to re-enter a market they left seven years ago, Legal Cheek has learnt.

The school is set to be built in a bunker under Lincoln’s Inn, which will be further excavated and fitted with a glass roof. It would offer a revised model of the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) that would significantly undercut established powerhouse commercial rivals on fees.

In a move that would profoundly shake-up the bar school market, the four inns are understood to be co-ordinating a launch for as early as September next year of a combined online and face-to-face lecture course.

Legal Cheek understands that the online side of the course would include all knowledge-based elements — in other words, everything except advocacy and negotiation training. Only students passing the online section’s exam would be allowed to progress to the second part of the course.

It is anticipated that the total length of the course would be significantly shorter than the current BPTC, with sources at the inns suggesting it would run to less than an academic year.

The course would require Bar Standards Board approval and accreditation, but proponents have told Legal Cheek that with a fair wind, the course could be off the ground in a little more than a year. Regardless, it is anticipated that the inns’ new BPTC would be up and running no later than September 2017.

Plans to take head on giant commercial providers such as the University of Law, BPP Law School and London’s City University law school fall against the backdrop of ongoing development plans at Lincoln’s Inn.

Yesterday, officials unveiled what they described as an “advocacy suite” at the inn. The development includes a 150-seat lecture theatre with breakout room, all of which will be housed underneath Lincoln Inn’s east terrace complete with glass ceiling to allow in natural light.

Photography was forbidden at yesterday’s brief public viewing of the architects’ plans, but above is a recreation of how it would look. Indicated below is a mark where the law school is set to be located.

Lin

Legal Cheek’s sources would not speculate on student numbers for the proposed course or on the fees that would be charged. However, they were clear that the inns are keen to revamp the heavily criticised current BPTC and offer a new breed at a considerably lower cost.

The inns currently dispense some £5 million worth of scholarships annually, and it is understood that officials are increasingly irritated that the money effectively swells the coffers of private and other BPTC providers.

It is understood that inns would rather reallocate a large chunk of that cash to running their own not-for-profit BPTC, which would be offered for as little as half the cost to students as currently charged by the big commercial providers.

Doing so would cause upheaval in the market. The inns have not been involved in the legal education field since they off-loaded the Inns of Court School of Law to City University in 2008.

Indeed, historically the Inns of Court were the core providers of barrister education and training. Lincoln’s was founded in the early 13th-century and its medieval hall and gateway are still architectural highlights, along with the late 17th-century New Square in the centre, and the Victorian gothic Great Hall.

Currently, eight providers offer the BPTC with about 1,500 students enrolled annually.

52 Comments

Anonymous

Poor BPP having their golden goose undercut

(27)(0)

Lucas

Bit late for an April fools isn’t it?

(11)(7)

Anonymous

This is remarkably good news. Did anyone see this coming? Obviously, however, its efficacy as a method of destroying the providers depends on its cost, quality, and, above all, entrance criteria. Almost all of those 1,500 students will presumably want to do this BPTC so how will they be chosen? In the same way that scholarships are currently handed out? That would essentially make the current providers pointless as almost every pupillage would presumably go to the kids from Lincoln’s.

(15)(1)

Anonymous

It seems that the Inns Bar School will be relying more heavily on distance learning. The article says that only advocacy and negotiation will be taught in person. Presumably that means they can take on more students?

(7)(0)

Non-Oxbridge pleb

Hopefully so. If they can take 400-500 per year, then that accounts for all the pupillages and the private providers can be left to squabble over the foreign students.

(14)(3)

Not Amused

“This is remarkably good news. Did anyone see this coming?”

It’s taken about a decade of lobbying, but that aside the benchers have finally agreed to do the right thing.

Yesterday was the presentation of the updated development plans.

(21)(1)

A. Barrister

There have been whispers around the inns committees for around two years – Very glad to see this moving forward.

(10)(1)

Anonymous

Hurrah!

(7)(0)

Anonymous

Sounds great

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Sounds great. But is City University’s law school a commercial enterprise?

(1)(0)

A. Barrister

Thats a complex question. Is it profit making – not in the sense that it pays dividends to commercial investors, but it does subsidise other elements of the university.

Also, it is quite widely regarded as the least engaging in its teaching methodology. I was warned against it specifically by a number of barristers when I was choosing. the words “resting on its laurels” were used quite a lot.

No one reading the above should infer that people will look down on the BPTC from City though – its a observation of what people say in reviewing it, not what is taken into account when recruiting pupils.

(1)(3)

Anonymous

I heard quite the opposite re. City. When I applied, I was advised against College of Law (as it then was) and was told City was on par with or slightly ahead of BPP.

Kaplan was, however, slightly ahead of both. It seems it gained this edge by lacking the features which make the BPTC commercially viable. It’s fantastic to see that this course won’t need or intend to be commercially viable.

(2)(0)

A. Barrister

Funny, I was specifically advised to consider CoL rather than City, and was also told that I should only really preference BPP if I was interested in commercial law. Personally I went to CoL and other than feeling like I was being entirely ripped off, found the teaching pretty good. Nothing is worth 18k but it was not the hell-hole I had heard the BVC/BPTC to be.

Truth is, as i said, it makes no difference to pupillage panels.

Kaplan was always better for networking, because so many people already had pupillage but otherwise I don’t think it made any difference.

(0)(2)

The Ayatollah Kenobi

” established powerhouse rivals”? Alright mate. Okay. Okay then.

(2)(1)

Kuzka's Mother

Excellent move.

(1)(0)

ghetto princess

so, i wonder if candidates for the new course will be chosen in the same way as scholarships? Because we all know that the majority of scholarships go to those with privileged backgrounds and those with only Oxbridge qualifications. You’ve only got to look at the blurb of most tenant to see that. If the new course is cheaper, and allegedly aimed at those from more vulnerable and poorer backgrounds then it is a pointless move if places will only be given to those lucky ones.

(4)(17)

Anonymous

‘Oxbridge backgrounds’ and ‘privileged backgrounds’ are not one and the same. Please do not conflate them. It is offensive.

(22)(4)

Anonymous

No, they’re not the same. There is, though, a very strong correlation. That is undeniable, whether or not it’s offensive.

(19)(11)

Anonymous

A correlation caused by the fact that they are good enough to merit both Oxbridge and a scholarship, maybe?

(10)(2)

Anonymous

Er, I think the correlation is very obviously between ‘Oxbridge backgrounds’ and ‘privileged backgrounds’, the terms that the earlier comment said are offensive when conflated.

Or perhaps you mean that privileged people are naturally more able than others and that their privilege is just a curious irrelevance?

(4)(1)

VTESI

Offensive? Get a grip. Also Oxbridge is no guarantee of a good barrister.

(5)(4)

Anonymous

I wish chambers would see it that way

(10)(0)

Anonymous

Proud to say that I neither have an Oxbridge qualification or a privelidged background. However, I do have a major scholarship. Dissapointing to think of myself in the minority.

(6)(3)

Anonymous

Me two. Sea, you can do it iff you relly try.

(5)(3)

not a lawyer

if and only if?

(0)(0)

Babybarista

I also got a Major Scholarship with no Oxbridge or privileged background.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

Same here. Not in the minority it’s just those with that giant chip on their shoulder prefer to spout the same old rhetoric. Work hard, do well, get scholarship – it is that simple.

(7)(1)

Anonymous

no mention of costs at yesterday’s briefing. the more controversial issue was the under treasures house being rebuilt. ugly looking thing to be situated next door to L.inn – v sad

(0)(0)

Think before you leap...

I wonder on what basis the Inns will i) select entrants (I thought that the Inns didn’t discriminate when selecting members) and ii) what test they’ll use to sift students after the knowledge side of things. Having the Inns regulated by the BSB will be interesting too. Also, the main reason for the high price tag on the current providers is that they are heavily regulated, and NOT, for example, allowed to do too much online. This model would not be validated by the BSB under the current regulations. This idea is pie in the sky until the whole area is deregulated, in which case the providers will finally be able to drop their prices. Then the need for the Inns to jump in is largely taken away. I wonder if, in the rush to push for cost cutting, if anyone is worried about quality? If you teach online for a shorter period, you will not teach to the same quality as if you teach for longer periods face to face….Does the Bar want to dumb down?

(2)(6)

Not Amused

“the main reason for the high price tag on the current providers is that they are heavily regulated, and NOT, for example, allowed to do too much online.”

No. Well, to be fair – you can believe that if you want to. But to me, the reason why the course costs so much is a thing I call ‘profiteering’. Private Equity got it’s hot little hands on at least two providers. Now I love PE, many of my clients are PE, but PE was not getting involved out of charity. They were doing it for profit.

Moreover unless something is done soon the cost, the outrageous costs, of the BPTC will keep going up.

“If you teach online for a shorter period, you will not teach to the same quality as if you teach for longer periods face to face….Does the Bar want to dumb down?”

I do not see that your argument holds. You say ‘the BPTC providers want to lower costs by going online, but the bsb have stopped them’ then you say ‘going online is dumbing down’. So either you are some sort of BPTC kid who has drunk far too much kool aid or you are actually a concerned BPTC provider desperately inventing silly counter arguments.

I can categorically state that my chambers will not see a course devised by the Inns as ‘dumbing down’. That is because we all utterly trust our colleagues to ensure that that does not happen.

The absolute disgrace that is a £17,500 fee for a course which in Scotland costs less than a third of that, which admits 4 times as many children every single year than the number actually needed, this disgrace must and now thankfully will, end.

(8)(3)

Anonymous

Face to face teaching at BPTC providers is awful. Most of the tutors are vastly overpaid, failed barristers.

Online self teaching for knowledge based subjects makes a lot of sense.

(9)(1)

Simon Myerson

The costs of the BPTC has risen from £11k to £18k in the last 10 years.

For 7 of those 10 years we’ve been in recession.

Regulation is not the reason for the rise in cost.

(9)(0)

Anonymous

There is no particularly good reason why the small group sessions need to be taught to a maximum of 12 students. There is also no reason to require people to attend every single class and to fail the course automatically if attendance drops below a certain level regardless of how well they do in the exams. I also welcome an online course for the non-advocacy elements (perhaps with the option of people paying to take private face to face courses to prepare them for the exams if they really feel they learn better that way?)

I have very little sympathy with the BPTC providers, but I think that new BSB rules have increased costs. Unless there is a major revision of the course it will be very difficult to keep it at affordable levels.

Universities now charge tuition fees of £9,000 per year (well, realistically for half a year given the vacations) for very little face to face teaching, and certainly much less than there is on the BPTC. In that context, £18,000 for the level of teacher contact that there is on the BPTC (with a maximum of 6 students in advocacy classes and 12 in small group sessions) starts to look almost reasonable. The point is, though, that it is NOT reasonable. It is extortionate given the low value placed on the BPTC by most chambers. But now students have had to get used to owing £30,000+ just for going to university at all, it is a small step to take on more debt for a postgraduate course.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Some very good providers currently charge less than £14,000 and absorb the BSB’s capitation fee and provide a host of extras – to constantly quote a fee of £18,000 is misleading. It seems to me that Kaplan led the charge (pun intended) in respect of inflated fees – the less said about them and their legacy the better.

(0)(0)

Not Amused

Any fee above £5k is inflated. The rest is just splitting hairs.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I think you lack any sense of reality. Let’s leave aside the fact that a degree costs £9,000 pa and look at some simple maths, based on the BSB’s current model.
8 groups of 12 students = 96, requiring 8 tutors.
Total fees (assuming your £5,000) = £480,000.
Let’s assume the provider has a mix of new and experienced tutors and pays according to the National Framework pay scale; average salary £38,000 = £304,000.
Let’s also assume the provider absorbs the BSB capitation fee (total £52,800) and provides a number of books/manuals in respect of which it has negotiated a discount – probable spend £687.50 per student = £66,000.
We’re already at £422,800 with no allowance for employer’s pension and NI contributions, admin staff costs, library and electronic resources subscriptions, IT, printing, estate costs, lighting and heating etc.
No provider could run the course for £5,000, absent a huge subsidy.

(2)(0)

Not Amused

And yet the Scots manage

(0)(1)

Anonymous

Apples and oranges. Scottish degrees are subsidised by the Scottish Government. Even then an English student will pay £9k at St Andrews, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Strathclyde, Heriot-Watt, Dundee, Edinburgh Napier …

(1)(0)

cedric

This isn’t new. Some of the other Inns have similar thoughts and plans.

(1)(2)

Blunt realist

Good news. Now hopefully someone will do something about the LPC and help remove that cash mill from BPP et al’s evil grasps…

(0)(0)

Kuzka's Mother

Agreed. The LPC is less of a glaring example, but just as ridiculously oversubscribed, with the added problem of it being virtually useless outside of the UK, unlike the BPTC which is a qualifying law degree in most common law jurisdictions.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

The only saving grace of the LPC is that it legitimately does lead to other opportunities for people. I know a lot of people in banks and businesses working in quasi-legal roles after having done the LPC but not having got a training contract. That said, there is absolutely no reason for it to be as expensive as it is.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

Fantastic news.

Will this be a joint venture by all four Inns? Or just Lincolns?

I only wish this had been done sooner. My scholarship was swallowed up by BPTC fees. The course was largely irrelevant and poorly taught.

(7)(0)

Anonymous

There will be a lot of BPTC lecturers queueing up for the dole. They were being paid absurd salaries from our fees. As unskilled and not well educated individuals, they may struggle to find employment (the independent Bar definitely isn’t an option for most of them).

(2)(5)

Anonymous

Not sure where you studied, but all my BPTC lecturers had been practising barristers in the 12 months prior to teaching and, in fact, two taught part-time whilst still maintaining their practice at the Bar. The others remained door tenants in their Chambers.

Quite skilled and quite well educated, I would say.

(4)(1)

Balderdash Esq.

Regardless of how the BPTC is reformed, the pupillage shortfall will not be magically resolved and given that the BPTC is useless outside the bar this approach is as helpful as sudocream on an amputated leg.

(2)(1)

VTESI

Hurrah. As long as it doesn’t just choose Lincoln students and has some kind of decent entry test (which of course it will) this is welcome news.

(0)(0)

SodsLaw

This proposal had been floating around for a while, but I really thought the inns would let it slide. Good on them.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

Is this confirmed? Where to find an official report on this?

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Lincoln’s Inn on Twitter:
“The intended use of this building is not as a law school but as state of the art advocacy training rooms for our members”

(2)(0)

Lincoln's Inn

The mock up here is nothing like the spectacular designs our architects have produced, which will be available to view on our website in the next few weeks. More importantly, the intended use of the proposed building is not as a law school but state of the art space to provide advocacy training to our student, pupil and barrister members.

(11)(2)

not a lawyer

@legalcheek No mystery here. This is for training Lincoln’s Inn members, not replacing the BPTC. Sorry guys! – Lincoln’s Inn twitter please can you correct this article as it seems to be inaccurate?

(2)(1)

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