Aptitude test to get on BVC, report recommends

The Bar Vocational Course (BVC) should be renamed the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), with potential students having to take an aptitude test to get on the programme, a new report recommends.

The chair of the BVC working party, Derek Wood QC of Falcon Chambers, presented the committee’s proposals last night (16 July) in a bid to make the course more “fit for purpose.”

Wood said that in any given year, the number of people in search of pupillage greatly exceeds the number of pupillages available.

“No one who has looked at the gap between the numbers of students undertaking the BVC and the numbers of pupillages can be indifferent to it,” said Wood.

“We have addressed the main criticisms of the BVC, namely: that there are too many students; that admission standards are too low; that students do not realise how hard it is to get a pupillage; that the quality of teaching needs to be improved; that grading between course providers is inconsistent; and that the course is too expensive.”

On introducing the aptitude test, Wood said that it would be a more fair way to reduce number of students than a straight out reduction of places on the course.

“It is not fair on the weaker students that they should waste their money on the course, nor is it fair on the more able that their progress should be hindered by the less able, which we believe it is,” said Wood. “By raising the admission standards, we suspect that the numbers on the course would fall”.

The proposals will put professional ethics, advocacy and dispute resolution at the centre of the BPTC training. The report, which took into account the Bar Council’s Neuberger report, also suggests that members of the public be involved to develop client handling skills.