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Over 60% of BPTC grads don’t have pupillage, new stats show

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As enrolments on the vocational course drop by 7%

The bar of England and Wales remains a highly competitive profession despite a drop in the overall number of students pursuing a career as a barrister.

New statistics published by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) show the percentage of people enrolling on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) has decreased. According to the regulator, the number of students starting the BPTC in 2015 (1,399) was down almost 7% compared to 2014 (1,502), and almost 9% compared to 2013 (1,534). However, it’s worth noting that applications to study the BPTC at one of the 12 providers actually increased by 9% (from 2,660 to 2,910) between the academic years 2014/15 to 2015/16.

The report, released yesterday, shows that the hunt to bag pupillage remains as ruthless as ever. Of the BPTC grads who completed the course between 2012 and 2015 and are UK/EU domiciled, around 39% have started or completed pupillage. The percentage drops to roughly 37% when you factor in the 2016 grads, but of course this cohort has had less time to track down an elusive training position.

Elsewhere, the research shows that the number of students obtaining an ‘Outstanding’ grade, the highest ranking on the BPTC, is on the up. Of those who started the course in 2015, 159 were awarded the highest classification compared to just 126 in the previous year. Meanwhile, the number of wannabe barristers obtaining a ‘Very competent’ classification has dropped by 17% between 2014 (621) and 2015 (510). The report states that 139 students — who can fork out as much as £19,000 to secure a place on the course — failed last year.

Commenting on the latest findings, BSB director of strategy and policy Ewen MacLeod said:

The continued annual publication of these statistics gives us the most up-to-date data, helping us to make sure that our plans to reform the system of education and training for barristers are informed by the latest evidence of students studying for the bar.

Today’s dispiriting bar data comes just weeks after Legal Cheek revealed that the Inns of Court are “seriously considering” a sensational return to the legal education market. The Inns of Court College of Advocacy (ICCA) — an education and training organisation made up of judges, lawyers and academics — confirmed that it was putting plans in place that could see it deliver “a new version of the BPTC in collaboration with another organisation or on our own.”

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22 Comments

Anonymous

Genuine question: Is there really any reason why students shouldn’t be barred from taking the BPTC until they have a pupillage in place? Sure, you’d need some transitional arrangements. But it seems bonkers to me to be allowing, nay encouraging, thousands of young people – many of whom are not well off – to spend ludicrous sums of money on a course that will furnish them with no real world skills that they like as not will never use professionally.

(34)(5)

Snowflake

Go and read some Friedman you hippy..

(9)(7)

Anonymous

it’s not just that the BPTC teaches recondite skills that cannot be deployed elsewhere, the real cruelty of the present system is that it leaves BPTC graduates in a professional limbo – no pupillage means no right to call yourself a barrister and thus you cannot even try to sell yourself in the wider job market as having certain capabilities.

(9)(2)

Anonymous

I’m not sure I’d favour changing that, though. I have more than enough difficulty as it is dealing with unqualified persons who describe themselves as barristers / solicitors / lawyers when they have not done pupillage / TCs (and therefore are not either barristers or lawyers). You learn more on pupillage / TC than you do on any academic course, and it’s those skills that the client is paying for. There’s nothing to stop you selling your skills as some form of legal consultant (although, in some cases, there really should be).

(2)(1)

Anonymous

If you weren’t able to secure a place until you had pupillage, it raises the question about how to recruit prospective pupils. Most interviews are formal application/hearing advocacy, the training (both legal and practical) comes on the BPTC itself. I didn’t get pupillage before the BVC, but did afterwards. The advocacy training I received on the course definitely contributed to that.

(15)(5)

Anonymous

I hear what you’re saying, and it’s an entirely valid point. It doesn’t surprise me at all that those who have completed the BPTC are stronger candidates for pupillage than those who have not. That was why I said you want some transitional provisions – so that no one is penalised by a change in the system. However, once a new system has been brought in, you would have found yourself competing only against people who had not done the BPTC / BVC – and therefore are in exactly the same position as you.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

But you wouldn’t all be the same. Some would have done 3 years law degree at Oxford with mooting along the way and a careers department who know what’s what and others would have a degree in another subject plus a year coversion with little assistance at all on how the bar works.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

This is a perfectly fair point. But also one that highlights the inherent lack of fairness in Bar recruitment procedures. I don’t really see how effectively demanding students cough up an extra £17.5k for the BPTC really helps that.

What’s more, those with Oxbridge mooting experience would still have a flying start on account of having far more experience when they start the BPTC – I’m not sure a year of BPTC guff is going to outweigh three years of Oxbridge moots, etc. Plus, all Russel Group institutions have moots. So participate in those. Easily as good as the BPTC. And if you don’t have a moot, do debating or speaking or student politics or theatre or SOMETHING that gives you some extra curricular experience of talking and presenting and arguing. If you haven’t / don’t want to do any of those things, can you really, hand on heart, say you want to be a barrister?

Anonymous

most of them are not looking to secure a pupillage here but so that they can go back to their home country and use the BPTC as an equivalent exam to qualify at the bar.

Malaysia for example, has a quota set for non-Malays to qualify through domestic courses. I.e. If you’re a non-Malay, it might be impossible for you to qualify in certain bumper crop years.

(7)(3)

Anonymous

Fine, then have a separate course for people who cannot practice here. Problem solved.

(1)(3)

Anonymous

I don’t think we need a separate course for people who don’t want to practice here but it would be easy enough to ask prospective students to either have a pupillage or sign a statement of intent not to practice in E&W.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

The stats referred to are for UK/EU grads, specifically excluding those who go back to their home countries. Those stats are painful.

(2)(1)

Anonymous

Just to note that these figures are overly favourable as they assume that those who aren’t domiciled in the EU don’t want or get pupillage. You can’t move for Australians at the commercial bar (have also encountered multiple people domiciled in NZ, Canada or Asia at the bar).

(4)(0)

Stats Master

Rather than read the article, please read the BSB link. It clearly states over 30% of 2012 grads are yet to complete meaning over a thousand failed. Instead this article claims only 139 fail – it’s much tougher than that!!!

(5)(4)

Anonymous

Every time I see this picture I wonder why the man is wearing a wig with a tie.

(11)(0)

Pongo Poopants

The judge should tell him that he can’t be heard!

(0)(1)

Priscilla White (Dec'd)

SURPRISE SURPRISE!!!!!!!!

(0)(0)

Anonymous

60% seems not bad. Thought it’d be more like 90%.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I do find the snowflake attitude to the bptc quite odd. Are people really so arrogant as to suggest people educated to at least degree level are really so unendingly stupid/ill informed that they can’t be left to decide how to spend their money in this regard? Why stop there? Why not prevent people from buying booze unless they can show they have set aside enough money for the rent that month? The bptc is, I would suggest, horrible value for money by near any objective measure, but so are many, many things people buy but we don’t presume to tell them how to spend their money on those things so why here? Genuinely I don’t understand.

(13)(0)

Anonymous

Hear hear.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Look at those who graduated from Northumbria and UWE from circa 2007-2010 and realise they drag the average down.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

The BVC or BPTC is a terrible waste of money. I was at the College of Law and they moved our exams to the day after a major set of assignments was due. When I enquired, I was told they did this so they could rent out the rooms to a language school!!!

(1)(0)

Comments are closed.