BPTC vs BTC - What's the difference?
The BPTC (Bar Professional Training Course) has previously been the one and only route by which graduates qualify towards becoming a barrister. It forms the vocational section of the pathway, consisting of a year-long postgraduate course before beginning your pupillage. This year, the course has been phased out by the Bar Standards Board (BSB) following a consultation that began in 2015 encompassing all aspects of the qualification stage, in favour of different offerings from each institution.
Previously, the BPTC had been panned as an inflexible route for prospective barristers, but as of this year new regulations have come into force to allow for providers to offer new ways of completing this stage.
What changes have been made compared to the BPTC?
This has meant that, although the subjects that are set by the BSB, institutions such as Nottingham Law School have more freedom when it comes to delivering their courses.
These are now grouped under the term AETO (Authorised Educations and Training Organisation), making up nine institutions which are licensed to deliver Bar training. There is no longer a set framework by which the design of the courses is set, instead being replaced by a new, looser regulation on the part of the BSB.
Overall, there are now four approved pathways through which the respective stages of training for the Bar can be completed. This also means that courses don’t necessarily need to start from September and follow a minimum time frame in the same vein as the BPTC, whilst the requirement of studying two elective modules has also been scrapped.
The reform has also seen a shake-up with regards to the organisation of the individual modules that make up the course. It sees the return of ‘Legal Research’ as a module, whilst ‘Disputes Out of Court’ now forms a part of ‘Civil Litigation and Evidence’, which itself becomes a 2-paper exam.
In addition, the ‘Ethics’ assessment of the vocational stage, which had until now been assessed directly by the BSB, will now be set and marked by the individual institutions.
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What will the new vocational courses look like?
The effect of this shake-up can be seen in the new courses offered by Nottingham Law School, which now include two different full-time courses under the umbrella of the LLM. One is a postgraduate diploma lasting 6 months, while the other is a nine-month LLM with its start date set in September. The postgraduate diploma is known as the Barristers Training Course, and is designed to comply with the new BSB regulations, covering the core modules.
Nevertheless, one aspect which won’t change is that prospective applicants are encouraged to research the different options offered by each AETO. In addition, those looking to join the courses should bear in mind that mooting and mini-pupillage experience will still be important.
Ian Fox, Barrister and Course Leader of the Barristers Training Courses at Nottingham Law School, Nottingham Trent University, is keen to emphasise the importance of this, stating: "Students who are considering training for the Bar should be seeking mini-pupillages and taking part in mooting and other contested advocacy opportunities, not least because AETOs will consider these with other factors (e.g. academic achievement) in deciding whether to make an offer."