Manchester Bar school proposed

Concern at Manchester's failure to win the right to run a Bar training course has prompted one London college to consider opening a branch training centre there.

Manchester, which supports the second largest Bar in the country, was conspicuous by its absence from the list of regional cities which will host training courses when the London-based Bar School loses its monopoly next year.

But the College of Law, which is one of the institutions to have won the right to run a course, has already announced plans to plug the gap.

Nigel Savage, incoming chief executive, said he would look into providing a course at its centre in nearby Chester for students from Manchester and Liverpool.

The Bar Council agreed last week that the Bar Vocational course, currently only available at the Inns of Court School of Law, should be taught by seven teaching institutions across the country.

The approved bodies are London-based BPP Law School, the College of Law and the Inns of Court School of Law, plus Nottingham Law School, the University of Northumbria, the University of the West of England and Cardiff Law School. They will provide a total of 1,430 places compared with the 1,100 offered now.

Manchester Metropolitan University, which failed to win a contract, and the Bar's Northern Circuit committee are both concerned that the largest Bar centre outside London will not be training barristers.

Professor Patricia Leighton, head of the law school at Manchester Metropolitan University, said she had been given no indication as to why it had failed to get the contract but that the law school and the committee were already working together to bid for the 1998 contract.

The purpose of the course expansion was to provide a greater geographical spread of trained barristers and to ensure the profession was open to people of all backgrounds, while keeping quality high.

A Bar Council spokesman said: “No-one ever expected there would be a centre in every major city. This round is only a starting point and we will not be forced into doing anything on the back of what the College of Law has suggested. The operation is not about spotting a business opportunity.”