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City Law School in BPTC exam row over laptop policy that ‘favours wealthy students’

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Exclusive: Computers must meet university’s specifications

There is “discontent” among students on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) at City, University of London over a new laptop policy that arguably puts poorer aspiring barristers at a disadvantage. However, the law school claims the introduction of the new policy was in direct response to student requests.

In an email seen by Legal Cheek, the law school announced this week that it would allow its current cohort of BPTC-ers use of their personal laptops in their upcoming opinion writing and drafting assessments. Students — who still have the option to use pen and paper — can type up their answers and submit them electronically, all under exam conditions.

However, City will not be providing laptops for those who don’t own one, and even those that do must make sure their laptop meets “required specifications”. As the lengthy email explains:

“You will need to provide a laptop which… has adequate battery life to survive at least 4 hours (3.5 hour examination + set up time). Access to power points will not be available during the examination.”

Legal Cheek understands that the new policy, albeit well-intentioned, hasn’t gone down well with several students. One bar hopeful, not wishing to be named, told us they are “concerned that City is not providing all students with an equal playing field”.

The 2018 BPTC Most List

A quick internet search reveals that while a large number of laptops boast more than four hours’ battery life, several cheaper options do not. By cheaper, we stress that examples of these non-specification meeting computers still cost well into the hundreds of pounds. Furthermore, even expensive laptops suffer from compromised battery life as they age.

Another wannabe barrister, again not wishing to be named, explained there is a “deep well of discontent about the policy” among students. They continued:

“I am deeply concerned that the reality of this policy is that wealthy students, who can afford expensive laptops which can run for longer, are able to gain a real advantage in their exams, over poorer students, who are forced to handwrite them… City should make provision to help those who cannot, such as booking exam rooms with plug sockets.”

That said, other students are less concerned.

One told Legal Cheek they are “elated” to have been given the opportunity to complete the assessment electronically. “While I can understand some of my fellow students’ concerns I for one am very happy to be allowed to type this assessment,” they said. However: “I can see how there are logistical issues with charging, etc, and City could perhaps have been more sensible in holding the assessment in a computer suite instead of relying on student laptops.”

Responding to the criticism, a spokesperson for City Law School told Legal Cheek that the policy’s introduction was a response to “requests from BPTC students”. They continued:

“It is not possible to guarantee that the venues for the exam will have sufficient power sockets for use by students taking the exams in this way. Hence, it was necessary to make it clear to students that they ensure that they have sufficient battery life on the laptop they will be using. We think it important to be open and transparent about such matters. Students who do not choose to use their own laptops, and who will therefore be writing their answers by hand, are not at any disadvantage (indeed our research showed that a number of students prefer writing answers by hand and so will not be opting in to the ‘bring your own laptop’ arrangement).”

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23 Comments

Anonymous

Indirect discrimination. Massively favours wealthy students. Shame on you City!

(14)(16)

Anonymous

Financial status alone is not a protected characteristic.

(25)(6)

Anonymous

whether or not it technically is doesn’t preclude them from being obstinate and assholeish through their decision though.

(14)(5)

Anonymous

Come on, everyone knows the only way to answer any social, moral, ethical or political question nowadays is to refer directly and exclusively to the legal framework. Because modern legal teaching is bereft of intellectual curiosity.

(11)(2)

Anonymous

BPP have let BPTC students use laptops since 2011/12 and provide plug points in the exam hall.

But you know, private bad, public good.

(14)(1)

Anonymous

Nah – all just shite

(5)(1)

Anonymous

BPP also cock up the exams every single year without exception

(16)(0)

Anonymous

Do they? I remember seeing a cock up on here last year but is it really every year?

(3)(1)

Anonymous

Snowflakes. Can’t these pampered millennials use a small portion of their massive Bitcoin profits on a new MacBook?

(12)(8)

Anonymous

Go XRP – buy low now, sell in 2020 as a billionaire.

(3)(0)

Anonymous

What’s next? They are going to complain about being asked to bring a working pen into the exam?

(14)(7)

Anonymous

A few hundred quid on a laptop will be the least of their concerns if they seek to join the criminal bar…

(18)(3)

Anonymous

I did the BPTC at City when we had to handwrite the opinion – tramlines and all. Considering a large chunk of the marks are for presentation, this was the most ridic thing ever. Handwriting the opinion also means you can’t go back and edit, move things around etc.

What an utterly pointless course run by failed barristers…for £19k!!!!!

(11)(2)

Anonymous

You could scrabble around the criminal courts, work all hours and perhaps make £50k net profit with the uncertainty of if and when you’ll get some money.

Or £40k to teach with a pension and holidays.

Which one is the failure I wonder?

(17)(0)

Anonymous

You’ve kinda made my point. A successful barrister (with experience) would make more than a BPTC lecturer.

Also, who would want to make money teaching a rip off course to students who recognise the course is utterly pointless?

I can’t wait until the BSB finally pull their finger out and abolish the BPTC. I will take great pleasure seeing BPTC lecturers on the dole. How will you then pay for that mortgage you were paying for using money from scamming students?

(0)(0)

Anonymous

I don’t really think that the BPTC’s biggest problem is the lecturers. Surely blame lies squarely with the universities who let mediocre home students and non-English speaking international students enrol.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

It has to be both. Poor quality teaching by failed barristers, no real admissions criteria which means any numpty can enrol on the course, and extortionate fees around £19k for a course that is completely useless.

The first thing pupil barristers get told when they start: forget everything you learnt on the BPTC.

So you are paying £19k for the privilege of trying to erase your memory.

(0)(0)

citylawyer

or you could go to the chancery or commercial bar and make £

(1)(0)

Anonymous

I had the world’s crappiest laptop when I was doing the BPTC. The battery lasted for about ten minutes, but the laptop did at least give off a lovely warm rosy glow. I am now in practice and have a Mac. I have no idea why City can’t do the exams in the many computer rooms they have at Northampton Square. Particularly so given that allowing students to complete the exam on their own laptop is an obvious security risk! It is nice to know that City have finally realised that requiring students to do their drafting exams on paper is stupid (can you imagine any solicitor being happy to receive a particulars of claim written by hand?) but this isn’t much of an improvement.

(14)(0)

Anonymous

Matter of opinion but I would prefer to hand-write. I think there is a different process that comes from writing as opposed to typing.

(5)(1)

Anonymous

Tokenism. Forget about the laptops.

No LLM from Harvard or first from Cambridge?

You ain’t getting in to the $$$

(6)(0)

Mr Cratchit

Should be quill and inkwell for all, with marks deducted for blots, IMHO.

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Provide plugs and extension leads. Problem solved. As a previous commenter points out, BPP offers the opportunity to do OW and drafting assessments on laptops without any fuss.

(3)(0)

Comments are closed.

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