Mar 12, 2020

Written By David Carnes

BTC at BPP law school: How does it differ from the BPTC?

Mar 12, 2020

Written By David Carnes

Find out all you need to know about the BTC at BPP Law School. 

BTC at BPP law school: How does it differ from the BPTC?

The Bar Standards Board has announced a new pathway to becoming a barrister in England and Wales. This pathway will replace the old BPTC system, and it will take effect in September 2020. Transitional arrangements for students who are already in the process of qualifying under the BPTC system will allow these students to qualify under the old BPTC system as late as the spring of 2022.

BPP University Law School (BPP) has responded to this new state of affairs by offering its own course, the Barrister Training Course (BTC), beginning in September 2020. Other organisations have offered their own versions of this course under various names, and final enrollments for the old BPTC course have already been closed. The BTC new course enjoys several advantages over its predecessor that should render it more accessible to most students.

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Reasons for the change

The Bar Standards Board is changing the way that barristers are qualified in order to render the qualification process more affordable, flexible and practical without sacrificing academic or professional standards. The process of becoming a barrister is notoriously expensive, and the new system is designed to mitigate some of this burden. It is also designed to accommodate people who require more flexible scheduling and to better integrate theory and practice.

Transitional Arrangements

The transition from BPTC to the BTC might confuse some students who have enrolled in but not yet completed a BPTC, or who have enrolled in previous years and are exams-only students. Students who are in this position can take advantage of transitional arrangements that will not terminate until the spring of 2022. As such, you will still be allowed three attempts at each assessment as long as you do not defer these attempts beyond the spring of 2022. 

Students who are not yet currently enrolled on a BPTC but who were planning to embark on this path will need to switch to one of the new pathways, such as the BTC, starting in September 2020.

Course Content

The BTC is tailor-made to prepare you for what you can expect during your pupilage. Part I is designed to hone important professional skills, such as advocacy, through extensive practice. Part 2 allows you to choose between common law or commercial practice, and it offers the opportunity to complete internships and pro bono work.

Advantages of the BTC over the BPTC

The BTC offers a number of advantages over the BPTC, including:

- You will need only 8 months of full-time engagement to complete the course, as opposed to 12 months under the BPTC. The part-time option takes 23 months to complete.

- The BTC is considerably less expensive than the BPTC (£13,870 in London and £12,620 elsewhere vs. £19,070 for the old BPTC).

- The BTC is divided into two separate parts. Since these two parts are separate, you have the option of pausing your studies after completing the first part. This innovation is particularly important for students with employment obligations or financial need.

- There will be a heightened emphasis on face-to-face teaching.

- Knowledge-based and skills-based learning will become more tightly integrated than they were under the BPTC.

- The new system will integrate cutting-edge online educational technology that will allow students to receive comprehensive feedback more quickly than before.

- The assessment and supervision system has been rendered more flexible than it ever was before. 

Application Process

BPP University Law School has been accepting BTC applications since November 2019 (for the academic year beginning in September 2020). To apply, you must register online with BPP and submit your application through the BPP website. If you plan to pause your studies, apply only for Part 1 at this stage. Although there is no application fee, the admissions process is competitive. 

After you submit your application, you will be expected to submit a video that demonstrates your communication skills. Before you sit for the BTC, you will also be expected to complete the Academic Stage of Training for the Bar.  

Effect on Law Schools

BPP University Law School, which offers the BTC, joins the Inns of Court College of Advocacy (ICCA) in winning approval to offer courses under the new qualifying system. Other law schools are currently offering or seeking approval to offer similar Bar courses using different names, formats and funding schemes. All of these schools can be expected to adjust their curriculum to prepare their students more thoroughly for the new qualifying system.

Entry Requirements

Not everyone is qualified to sit for the BTC. For your application to be considered, you must possess the following qualifications:

- Either a law degree, or a non-law degree plus the GDL;

- A video demonstrating your communication skills;  

- Proficiency in the English language;

- A strong reference;

- A passing Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) score; and

- Membership of an Inn of Court.

Since the admissions process is competitive, simply meeting the minimum qualifications above cannot guarantee you a spot. 

Funding

Despite the more affordable nature of the BTC compared to the BPTC, many aspiring barristers still struggle with costs. Following are some of the ways in which an aspiring barrister can mitigate the financial burden of sitting for the BTC:

BPP allows you to sit for Part 1 and Part 2 separately. If you select this option, you may also pay separately. Fees for Part 1 are £5,075 in London and £4,575 elsewhere, while fees for Part 2 are £10,795 in London and £10,295 elsewhere. Note that the total cost is still more expensive than full upfront payment for both sections.

You might be eligible for a government-funded loan of up to £10,906, a private loan, a university scholarship, a BTC scholarship or an Inns of Court scholarship, based on academic merit and/or financial need. BTC scholarships are even offered for the quality of your application and video.

Although only time will tell, at present it appears that the BTC will offer the best of both worlds; a superior practical education combined with flexible scheduling and affordable pricing. 

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