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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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