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City Law School latest to offer two-part bar course following regulatory shake-up

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It’s much cheaper, too

City Law School has become the latest legal education provider to offer a revamped version of its bar course at a significantly lower cost than its current offering.

The two-part Bar Vocational Studies (BVS) programme will be available from July 2020 and is priced at £14,000. This is £4,500 cheaper than City’s soon-to-be phased out Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), which comes in at £18,500.

Part one sees aspiring barristers complete two centrally-set examinations, civil litigation and dispute resolution; and criminal litigation, evidence and sentencing, and will be delivered entirely online through a range of “multi-media resources”. Meanwhile, part-two focuses on the more hands-on modules such as advocacy and conferencing, and will require students to attend City’s Northampton Square campus in north London.

The law school confirmed wannabe barristers will have the option to suspend their studies after part-one to focus on, for example, securing CV-boosting work experience or securing pupillage. The cost of part one is £2,500, while part-two will set students back £11,500.

Professor Peter Hungerford-Welch, assistant dean and head of professional programmes at City Law School, told Legal Cheek:

“City, University of London has a proud tradition of commitment to academic excellence for business and the professions, and bar training is an important part of the portfolio of the City Law School. Staff from the school designed the original Bar Vocational Course in 1989, and are proud to be designing new training programmes to equip students with the skills and knowledge they need to be barristers.”

The 2019 Legal Cheek BPTC Most List

The revamped bar course comes after the Bar Standards Board approved a series of new training rules in a bid to make the route to qualification as a barrister more flexible and affordable.

City also confirmed it will offer a number of other new bar-focused courses, including a full-time BVS postgraduate diploma, comprising the standard BVS plus two elective modules in a specialist area of practice, and a BVS LLM, which sees students again complete specialist electives as well as a dissertation/clinical legal education project. These are priced at £18,500 and £19,500, respectively.

Last week, The University of Law unveiled its new programme for would-be barristers, the Bar Practice Course (BPC), which costs £13,000 in London and £11,750 elsewhere — almost £6,000 cheaper than its current BPTC (£18,735).

Meanwhile, BPP University Law School confirmed it was replacing its BPTC with a new, two-part Barrister Training Course (BTC). The course is shorter (eight months, as opposed to 12) and comes with an option to pause studies after part-one. The cost of the course is still to be confirmed.

Finally, the Inns of Court College of Advocacy (ICCA) confirmed earlier this year it will deliver a new training course for barristers priced at £13,000 in total.

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33 Comments

Pupillage-less

The training should not be getting more flexible and affordable. This will only encourage hundreds more people without a hope of obtaining pupillage to undertake the course. And the qualification is worth fuck all in the absence of a pupillage. When will the profession understand how much damage this is doing to people?

CommChaBa

There should be barriers to entry, yes, but those barriers shouldn’t be financial.

For those who *do* have a hope of getting pupillage (or who start the course having already accepted an offer of pupillage), the decreased cost of these new courses will be welcome. Upfront cost is a serious burden on those starting out at the Bar, and a hindrance to diversity.

For those who don’t, unfortunately the cost just doesn’t seem to stop them ploughing ahead. Artificially inflating the cost wouldn’t do any good for anyone—except inflating the profits of the commercial providers.

Splitting the course in two will at least stop people who can’t pass the knowledge subjects from spending even more money on the practical subjects—and bringing the standard down when it matters (e.g. group advocacy training) in the process. Perhaps part 2 should also require an offer of pupillage. But if the cost can come down, it should.

Anonymous

I support institution blind pupillage applications. I don’t see the CVs of those from outside Oxbridge and the top half of the Russell Group.

Embittered

I don’t care what barriers are in place anymore. Any barrier that addresses the unacceptable gap between the number of people who are Called to the Bar and the number who subsequently practise is fine. Anything to stop so many people wasting a shit load of time, money and effort. The Inns’ money too, in instances where a scholarship recipient never obtains pupillage.

Anon

The world doesn’t work that way. Complete strangers won’t track you down and contact you to warn you not to stick your balls in a blender, stick forks in electrical sockets or not to give you student loan to the bloke who sends you an email saying he’s a Nigerian prince.

A quick google would have told you that there are about 1,500 people at Bar School each year, about 500 get pupillage and about 200 get tenancy. Either:- a) You didn’t bother to find that out before you spent 4 years of your time on £50k on a degree and Bar School. b) You did find it out and decided to do it anyway. Either way that is your choice as an adult. There are numerous articles on legal cheek alone pointing this out. You couldn’t be assed to read any of them. Barristers do post from time to time on this forum and others pointing it out. But you didn’t take any notice. Other people have their own lives and it isn’t on them to seek you out and warn you not to do it. You are an adult and it was on your to do the research before making a decision on whether you wanted to do this or not.

No barrister or anyone else held a gun to your head and made you do it.

Embittered

You’ve wrongly assumed people who are upset about this are entirely to blame for not doing their homework. Wrong. I spent a long, long time reading about the profession before I made my attempt to enter it. It was on the encouragement of barristers I knew, a good degree behind me and an endorsement by way of a full Inn scholarship that I was led to believe I had a decent shot. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have bothered.

I certainly wouldn’t have bothered if I knew how worthless the BPTC was in the job market in the absence of a pupillage, something which, contrary to your assertions, is not spoken about very much. This is therefore not just about being an adult and living with choices which, in hindsight, were poor. This is about having a backwards training process that is effectively a tightrope. No other profession in this country has such an all-or-nothing route to qualification, where it was either all worth it, or none of it was.

Anonnn

In the very long haul, two years of GDL/BPTC and failing to get pupillage isn’t as ruinous to your life as people may think.

You’ll earn back the money you spent on fees eventually. I set up a business and have travelled to 40 countries since ‘giving up’ on pupillage. Though when I see the amount of psychiatric medication and precarious mental health my friends who got pupillage have (particularly at the criminal bar), I’m not sure there was anything really to ‘give up’ on in the end. They gush about my travel, and I just hope they can find some peace amidst all the pressure.

Don’t think about the year ahead – then 10 or 15 years from now. Literally no one, not your child/partner/dog will care whether or not you are a ‘registered barrister’.

Legal Officer with a 2.ii

I always wonder how many barristers hold investments with these BPTC providers to have an endless income stream from the delusional.

Anonymous

Delusional what?

Legal Officer with a 2.ii

Delusional students from terrible universities that don’t have any realistic hope of securing pupillage against much more academic candidates?

Angry

Here we go, Mr Misogynist attacking women again. So predictable.

Anonymous

Delusional also includes the like of Angry, for whom basic English comprehension proved a barrier to entry.

Anon

None. Although as all these students can’t look at the numbers and make a rational choice I’m definitely thinking of buying shares in basic maths for entitled millennials.

Here’s a free question 1:-

I spend £50,000 and 4 years of my time on something which I know only has at best a 13% chance of my actually qualifying as a barrister. As was to be expected I didn’t qualify as a barrister. This is:-

A) On me. I am an adult and I took a chance on something I knew it would be very difficult to do and it didn’t work out.

B) Barristers fault. They should have realised I was thinking of doing this, tracked me down and stopped me writing my cheque to the course providers as I am not an adult and cannot be trusted to make decisions in relation to my own life my own money. Random barristers who do not know me and have never met me should have made those decisions for me.

Anonymous

No one blames barristers, merely exploitative course providers who can’t justify the exorbitant fees they charge.

People don’t make rational choices though. The embarrassing lack of diversity in the profession and the slogan of ‘we want the best’ would logically exclude offering pupillage to any practising barrister at the Bar now without an Oxbridge First.

Any alcoholics, binge-eaters and sexual harassers in the profession could hardly claim to be acting rationally either.

Anonymous

The competition for pupillage (and therefore the calibre of candidates ultimately selected) only gets higher and higher. Simultaneously making the course easier to obtain is a bad move, even with the purported gap between parts one and two of the course. I understand that it is designed to ensure people do not spend any more money than they need to, but it’s obvious that optimism and naivety will compel many to undertake the whole thing without a pupillage in hand.

Barista

No BPTC entrance unless applicant:

1. Has secured pupillage;

2. Has secured scholarship;

3. Intends to practise overseas.

Simple.

Anon

The two part course does pretty much do this though as part 1 costs a grand and is done online whilst working. You don’t do part 2 (which costs £13k and is full time) until you do have pupillage.

Anonymous

You “don’t” do part 2, rather than “can’t” do part 2. There should be some sort of restriction at that stage.

Kanye East

It’d be helpful to understand how the completion of part one would coincide with the centralised exam dates? If the dates are not pushed forward, then I suspect candidates will have to wait a whole 9 months to complete only part one of the centralised exam. Qualifying under this route would take longer if BSB is not willing to be flexible with centralised exam dates.

P.s. this is not a criticism of the two-part model. In fact, it should be welcomed. However, the point I mentioned above should be considered by prospective bar candidates.

L

The ICCA did a breakdown of exactly this on their instagram page recently

Denzel Oklahoma

It’d be helpful to know how the part one exams will coincide with the centralised exam dates as they currently stands. If these dates are not brought forward, then candidates under this proposed system may have to wait a whole 9 months to sit the centralised exams in order to complete only the first part.

It’s something to consider.

Legal Genius

Who?

Me

Are the failed barristers who teach on these courses remaining the same?

The quality of teaching was awful when I did the BPTC a few years ago. I had an advocacy tutor who had no real advocacy experience. Many of them were in-house or awful barristers struggling to earn a living at the Bar before going into teaching on the BPTC.

Lyle Lanley

Well, sir, there’s nothing on earth
Like a genuine, bona fide
Electrified, two-part BPTC
What’d I say?

Anonymous

All I learned on my vocational course was how the tube works and that South London is a hole. The legal stuff I could have done in a month online or with the texts.

Pat

Part 1 via online studies – can be done any where? International students do not have to live and study in the UK, is that correct?

Anon

Yes

Pat

Part 1 via online studies – can be done any where? International students do not have to live and study in the UK, is that correct?

City alumni

“part-two … will require students to attend City’s Northampton Square campus“

Does this mean that City is closing the old Inns of Court School of Law campus at Gray’s Inn?

Anonycounsel

There will be a lot of students who will see this as an invitation to spend a few months half-heartedly reading the White Book and Blackstone’s and then turn up for the centrally set exams. They will get absolutely massacred. There is nothing especially difficult about the centrally set material but it is technical and does need to be taught.

If you want to reduce the cost of the BPTC, you don’t have to gut the first half of the course. Just do whatever it is that Northumbria does. They manage to deliver a fully-taught course for £12,000. I suspect the lower running costs help, but there must be other savings which are being made.

Anonycounsel

There will be a lot of students who will see this as an invitation to spend a few months half-heartedly reading the White Book and Blackstone’s and then turn up for the centrally set exams. They will get absolutely massacred. There is nothing especially difficult about the centrally set material but it is technical and does need to be taught.

If you want to reduce the cost of the BPTC, you don’t have to gut the first half of the course. Just do whatever it is that Northumbria does. They manage to deliver a fully taught course for £12,000. I suspect the lower running costs help, but there must be other savings which are being made.

Anon

£12,000 and a year of your time for a course where 90% will not get pupillage and tenancy is not better than a £1,000 course which doesn’t. Northumbria students are already being massacred. They are shelling out £12k and wasting a year of their lives for a course that does not qualify them to do anything at all in the absence of pupillage. I can see why the Course Providers do not like it. If the vocational course was restricted only to Part 2 and only needed to be undertaken by those students who actually need it as they have obtained pupillage 90% of the course providers would be out of business.

Anon

“It’s much cheaper, too”… the LLM costs over £19,000.

What world are these people living in.

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