Regulator reveals law schools which offer best chance of passing bar course

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New BSB stats

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has revealed the law schools which offer aspiring barristers the best chance of passing their exams.

In order to become a practising barrister, the regulator requires candidates to complete three components: the academic study of the law (LLB or GDL), vocational study (the bar exam), and pupillage.

As of the end of December 2021, relative newcomer the Inns of Court College of Advocacy (ICCA) had the highest pass rate of 94%, with 35 of its 2021 cohort passing all all 10 modules.

The University of Law Birmingham and London branches both chalked up rates of 66% (58 and 131 passing students respectively), while it notched up an impressive 79% across its other sites (87 passing students).

City Law School narrowly missed out on silver, with a pass rate of 78% (277 students) for its 2021 cohort.

In total, 1,333 students passed the bar exam, equating to 65% of the total cohort of 2021.

Credit: BSB

BPP Manchester performed the best of the BPP sites with a 68% pass rate (94 students). BPP London scored 56% with 254 students passing.

The BSB report also separated out students by their degree classifications in their rankings, revealing a correlation between these classifications and the probability of passing the bar exams.

The average pass rates for those with first-class degrees across all law schools was 84% (367 passing students), compared to 65% for those with upper seconds (713) and 39% with lower seconds (253).

The BSB report does warn, however, that comparisons by degree class “represent a better comparative measure across providers, as provider’s student cohorts vary considerably by the proportion of students with different degree classifications”.

The BSB does not regulate the grading schemes awarded by each provider and further statistics on overall trends on a variety of issues including course fees, results, and progression to pupillage are due to be published in a separate report coming out next year.

The 2023 Legal Cheek Bar Course Providers List


Uncharitable fellow

Clear winner here is the Inns of Court’s training programme with a 94% pass rate regardless of candidates’ undergrad degree classification, but unbelievable that the University of Northumbria’s pass rate is so low – 65% for candidates who had a first!

Imagine having a first class degree and paying twelve grand only to get a 65% of passing first time



Agreed at first sight, but then not all firsts are equal. One needs to take into account the record of the degree awarding institution.


Professional Tarot Reader With A BPTC

FFS – you can have a school with a 100% pass rate, but that means nowt when there’s 300 pupillages a year and thousands of applicants



So exactly as everyone expected.

ICCA is the only proper bar school with a decent pass rate. Anyone with pupillage prospects will go to ICCA. The other bar schools are just for those with no chance of pupillage or international students.


ICCA Student

It’s worth noting that ICCA’s main difference is that they have selective (and to an extent self-selective) admissions. Their bar course students would probably perform just as well at any other provider.

The one really good thing to be said of ICCA, however, is the commitment to keeping costs down. There’s no desire to mass recruit students, inflate fees, or create expensive LLM courses that qualify for student finance (the implicit assumption being, I think, that all of their students ought to be scholarship-funded anyway). Cheapest course and best students – not a bad combo.


Old Buffer of Counsel

ICSL always was the original and best…



Agreed. I don’t think the teaching is necessarily better. It’s selective admission on the bar course that was lacking – ICCA now provide that.

So ICCA becomes the one for those with genuine pupillage prospects to attend. I assume a place at ICCA is still easier than pupillage. If you can’t get a place at ICCA then you probably ought to seriously consider your career choices.

There really is no need for more than one bar course provider (at least for domestic students).


Commander Data

Shows why there should be fewer places and that the vocational stage should perform a more effective gatekeeper role like it used to do. Vocational exams are simple and those that can’t pass them have had their time and money wasted.

What these data also show is that getting a first means nothing nowadays, at least from outside the very best unis. Unis think of students as customers and degree inflation is now so rampant that firsts are best treated as 2:1s in not-so-old money unless a candidate has very strong other evidence that they are special.



Comparisons are meaningless unless you accurately standardise the quality of the students. Someone with a first from Trinity College Cambridge is likely to pass wherever they study, and someone with a 2(1) from The University of East Scunthorpe is not.



A 1st from the old polys is always best viewed as ordinary 2:1. And even that is being charitable these days.



What happened to bpp Manchester? In previous years it was miles ahead of elsewhere



ICCA is full of toffs, BPP is full of tories.

As the largest & longest-standing vocational course provider, ULaw attracts the most diverse pool of talent and offers the best student experience.


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