ULaw launches new aptitude test BPTC in Leeds

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By Thomas Connelly on

Law school goes head-to-head with rival BPP in Yorkshire


The University of Law (ULaw) has confirmed that it will launch its full-time Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) in Leeds from September next year.

The opening has been in the pipeline for a while. Back in April the Bar Standards Board (BSB) confirmed that it had received applications from ULaw to provide the BPTC in both Leeds and Manchester, but the law school has remained tight-lipped on the move until now.

With still no word on Manchester, Europe’s largest legal education provider is focusing its expansion efforts on the other side of the Pennines.

With pupillages far scarcer than BPTC places, ULaw says that only students who have a realistic chance of becoming barristers will be allowed to do the course as it seeks to position itself as the high-end provider of bar training. To that end, all those wishing to enrol on the Leeds BPTC will be subject to a “rigorous selection process”. This goes beyond the BSB-run Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT), which all wannabe barristers are required to sit. It is widely considered to be too easy.

ULaw’s bar aptitude test consists of a series of written and oral tests to select “only the brightest and most able candidates”. It was pioneered by staff at Kaplan Law School, which used to run what was considered to be the best BPTC in the market. The strict entry requirements meant Kaplan students had a pupillage success rate far higher than the national average.

When Kaplan shut its BPTC last year, ULaw hoovered up many of its staff and procedures. In addition to the aptitude test, ULaw created a syllabus that incorporates four times more advocacy training than is required by the BSB.

Nevertheless, with BPP already running a BPTC in Leeds, there will be questions about whether the city requires another provider of the course, which costs £18,500 in London and £14,500 in Birmingham. ULaw has yet to reveal the cost or the number of places up for grabs in Leeds.

At a time when the big multi-practice area sets in the north are enjoying better fortunes than London’s specialist legal aid chambers, ULaw’s Leeds centre director Tom MacDonald thinks there is a market for the new venture. He commented:

Our excellent links with local chambers mean that we are able to offer one of the most developed pro bono, careers and employability programmes of any law school, including providing students with the opportunity to represent real clients in various tribunals. The BPTC will be an excellent addition to the first-class legal education we already provide.

According to the Bar Council, there were 397 first-six pupillages places offered in England and Wales in 2013-14 — the most recent year for which statistics are available. Around 1,600 students enrol on the BPTC each year.