Scrapping degree requirement will create more pupillage-less grads, Bar Council warns

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By Rhys Duncan on


Response to BSB proposals

The Bar Council has said that eliminating degree requirements for bar training will exacerbate the current bottleneck, leading to more graduates investing substantial amounts in bar training only to struggle in securing a pupillage and practicing as barristers.

Submitting a response to the Bar Standards Board’s proposed reforms to the academic requirements for bar course training, the Council has rejected the majority of the BSB’s suggestions, including the proposed removal of the minimum 2:2 degree requirement to undertake bar training.

As is stands, budding barristers must hold a minimum of a 2:2 degree in order to undertake bar training, but are not eligible to practice as a barrister until they have also completed a pupillage.

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Speaking on the proposals, Bar Council chair Sam Townend KC said:

“We have studied the proposals carefully. The Bar Council objects to the majority of the BSB’s proposed reforms because they would lower standards, make the assessment of academic standards equivalent to degrees more difficult and transfer decisions away from the BSB, the regulator formally tasked with the job, to the training providers, who are not accountable and who have a clear financial interest in maximising the number of students taking up Bar training.”

He continued: “There are already thousands taking the roughly 20 Bar training courses, but only a little over 600 pupillage places. The clear intent of the regulator’s intended reform is to increase yet further the numbers taking bar training courses, inevitably ramping up further the numbers of students who will have paid the high level of fees but be disappointed in not obtaining a pupillage. We think this is the wrong approach.”

“The BSB’s own research shows that a primary indicator of success in securing pupillage is a high degree classification.There already are existing exceptional circumstances provided for. Lowering qualification standards is not the answer to improving access to and diversity within the profession,” the Keating Chambers silk added.

The consultation was launched in January, with the proposed changes planned to come into effect from September 2025.



The BSB is now going woke. Who on God’s green earth thinks it’s a good idea to let all and sundry into the profession?

alan's mum

Oh our alan, are you upsetting yourself again. Is someone else going all woke on you. Come and sit down and I’ll make us a nice pot of tea.


After concluding the GDL/BVC I spent the better part of ten years at employment/immigration tribunals facing Barristers (who had secured pupillage to be so called) and frankly I met many who were not up to date on the law or simply attended not prepared. I believe the Bar Council should be more concerned with how on earth they secured pupillages rather than keep out the lads who do not have posh accents.


It seems to me extremely unethical that the Bar Course providers continue to offer places on the course to people with no prospect of securing pupillage. I understand a small number of people study the course here and then practise in other jurisdictions, but in the main there are great numbers of people paying fortunes to complete the course even though they will never practise. It’s a licence for the course providers to print money and I would have thought that addressing that issue would be more of a priority for the BSB.

Take That

Those courses all require 2.2. to get on to. That is what course providers use to assess whether someone has a prospect of completing the course and getting a pupillage.

The BSB proposal was to get rid of that 2.2 requirement which the BC has objected to.

How else would you suggest the 20 or so course providers decide who is worthy enough to get a place on the course? It’s surely not for them to decide at this stage who has the best prospects of becoming a barrister? Or are you suggesting universities should hold the keys to pupillages??


Obviously I don’t think universities should ‘hold the keys’ to pupillages. I’d advocate moving to a model whereby the course can only be studied once pupillage has been obtained – like securing a training contract ahead of studying the LPC/SQE.

Anon Student

As an aspiring Criminal Barrister on the BTC; it’s incredible to me that the profession is so wildly incapable of assessing its own problems. “The Bottleneck” is not an issue with hyper competitive commercial pupillage, where it makes sense to throttle newcomers relative to demand. What’s absurd is the tiny number of criminal pupillage’s available, while every week the industry beats about how “no one wants to do Criminal”; it’s frankly insulting to myself and many other students all facing 4+ years awaiting Criminal pupillage on top of the years already spent in education.

The idea of lowering the degree requirement is comically out of touch, I don’t wish to be rude – but it’s a f***ing joke. What could that possibly do to help??

Anti-intellectuals GTH

Insane suggestion.

Apart from England, Ireland and Hong Kong (the latter two emulating the English model anyway), or the 4 or 5 US states that permit ‘reading law’, there are no other jurisdictions on this planet that allow admission to the legal profession of non-university graduates, or even non-law graduates for that matter.


And yet the English legal system is one of the most accurate and widely adopted in the world — see international law and arbitration


Ever considered that there are far brighter candidates out there who didn’t bother to go to university or couldn’t afford to go to university? With the exception of the medical profession most of the UK’s professions previously did not require its entrants to be graduates. They got years of on the job experience and undertook their professional exams whilst doing so.


Admission to a profession should be about the knowledge, skills, and competence needed to practice, not the academic study of law. An academically gifted lawyer could be rubbish at practice, and an outstanding practitioner could be mediocre at the academic stage or not interested in the academic study of law.

It might have changed now, but apprenticeship candidates outperformed traditional degree/law degree candidates on the first sittings of the SQE, which, I understand, is a challenging exam. Perhaps this is because, on average, apprentices were better at practice, which is what we should be testing at the point of admission.


The SQE is so narrow and heavily criticised anyway, unquestioning, …..need I go on? The skills lawyers need are far wider, and what about the development of law, challenges etc etc and the role of lawyers generally in law reform. You do need a degree for this.

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