BSB aptitude test in doubt after OFT dig

The Bar Standard Board’s (BSB) plan to introduce a compulsory aptitude test for entry onto the BVC has been thrown into disarray after the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) dubbed the move anticompetitive.

The test, recommended in a July 2008 report by the BVC working party chaired by Derek Wood QC of ­Falcon Chambers, was intended to be rolled out as part of the BSB’s wider plans, which will see the BVC replaced by the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) in the autumn of 2010.

The aim of the test was to filter out students who do not have a realistic chance of passing the year-long course and thereby close the gap between the number of students undertaking the BVC and the number of pupillages.

But in its report the OFT said it favoured a voluntary aptitude test, as restricting pupils entering the BVC will ultimately lead to “decreased quality and ­availability and increased prices in the final market for advocacy services.”

The BSB said in a ­statement: “[The BSB is] currently developing the aptitude test. We have received comments from the Office of Fair Trading and will respond to the Ministry of Justice in due course. In developing the aptitude test, we are taking steps to consult extensively. The test will be piloted before it is put into use as an admission requirement for the Bar Course.”

The number of students enrolling on the BVC rose from 1,406 to 1,827 between 2003 and 2008, but the number of pupillages fell between 2004 and 2007 to fewer than 500 per year.