The Bar Training Course (BTC), the Bar Practice Course (BPC), the Bar Vocational Course (BVS) and the Bar Course are the names of several new approved pathways to becoming a barrister. These pathways effectively abolish the existing Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) in favour of a more flexible approach to those entering the profession.
According to the Bar Standards Board (BSB), the changes are designed “to ensure that training to become a barrister is more accessible, affordable and flexible whilst maintaining the high standards of entry expected at the Bar”.
So how do I become a barrister?
In general terms, a barrister is a lawyer who practises as an advocate representing clients in court. As such, there are far fewer barristers than solicitors and the process of becoming one is very competitive.
The first step is to complete a law degree, or a non-law degree followed by a conversion course, such as the GDL. The next step would have been to take the BPTC (one year full-time, two years part-time), followed by a one-year pupillage, which involves shadowing a barrister before getting involved in the practical work of chambers.
However, as noted above, the BPTC has now effectively been abolished. The final new enrolments on the current BPTC took place in September 2019, and the new pathways will replace it from September 2020.
What are the new pathways?
The Bar Training Course (BTC), the Bar Practice Course (BPC), the Bar Vocational Course (BVS) and the Bar Course are the names of some of the new courses, but more will undoubtedly follow so it’s important to check on the website of each provider. You can see all the approved providers here, and the basic pathways are as follows:
- A three-step pathway: an academic component, a vocational component and a pupillage/work-based component.
- A four-step pathway: an academic component, a two-part vocational component and a pupillage/work-based component.
- An academic/vocational pathway: combined academic and vocational components, and a pupillage/work-based component;
- An apprenticeship pathway: combined academic, vocational and pupillage/work-based components.
So while the traditional BPTC is similar to the three-step pathway listed above, it’s now only one of many options. Different courses will have different features, but here are some common ones that demonstrate the flexibility of the new pathways:
- The courses may be shorter—eight months full-time instead of 12.
- There will be more face-to-face teaching throughout.
- There will be better integration of knowledge and skills.
- The courses will use more up-to-date technology, so students can receive quicker feedback and track their progress.
- There will be more flexibility in terms of when you can take the course, to allow for commitments such as work experience. For example, the BTC is split into two parts, with students given the option to pause their studies after completing the first stage.
Put simply, there is a range of courses with different names, fees and teaching styles. But, importantly, they all lead to the same qualification.
How much will it cost?
One of the objectives of the new training rules is to make the process more affordable. This means there will be a lot more competition on prices. The University of Law’s Bar Practice Course, for example, will cost £13,000 in London and £11,750 in other regions—far less than the £18,735 for the BPTC. Here are some of the confirmed courses:
Provider: BPP Law School
Course name: Bar Training Course (BTC)
Fees: £13,000 (London), £11,750 (other regions)
Provider: University of Law
Course name: Bar Practice Course (BPC)
Fees: £13,000 (London), £11,750 (other regions)
Provider: The Inns of Court College of Advocacy
Course name: Bar Course
Provider: City, University of London
Course name: Bar Vocational Studies
Where can I get funding?
Here is a summary of the main forms of funding.
Students could be eligible for a government-funded postgraduate loan of up to £10,906. This must be repaid in full, although repayments are spread out across all the academic years of your course. Your eligibility for this loan also depends on a number of criteria:
- Personal circumstances
- Nationality and residency
- Previous study
For full details, visit the UCAS website.
Private postgraduate loans are available through groups such as Future Finance, if a government-funded postgraduate loan isn’t enough to cover your expenses or you’re not eligible for government support.
Scholarships, bursaries and discounts
Most universities have a limited number of scholarships awarded on the basis of academic merit, which will fully or partly offset the cost of the course. There are also bursaries awarded on the basis of financial need, or discounts for those who’ve already completed a course at the same university or institution. Check with individual providers for more details.
Flexible payment options
Some providers split their courses in two, allowing you to pay for Part One with no obligation to pay for Part Two. The ICCA’s Bar Course, for example, costs £13,095 in total—however, Part One only costs £1,575, and there is no obligation (and no deposit required) for Part Two, which otherwise costs £11,520. Again, check with individual providers.
Please keep checking back on AllAboutLaw for more information on the new pathways as they emerge. Transitional arrangements are likely to continue until Spring 2022, so visit BSB’s website or download its Handbook for details on how it might affect you.