The University of Law (ULaw) is to launch a new course to replace the existing Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).
Assuming the Bar Standards Board (BSB) approves it, the law school will run the new Bar Practice Course, or BPC, in its London Bloomsbury branch as well as its Leeds, Birmingham, Nottingham, Bristol and Manchester centres from 2020.
The new course is set to be significantly cheaper than the BPTC at £13,000 in London and £11,750 outside of London, including the BPC fee and textbooks.
ULaw currently charges £18,735 for the BPTC in London and £15,485 in Leeds and Birmingham. The high cost of the course has long attracted criticism as “exploitative“, though the providers argue the nature of the course makes it unavoidably expensive.
The university claims that the BPC will be “more tailored and flexible” than the BPTC. It says: “Online study and the use of advanced technology, as well as new exclusive access to the learning and revision app Synap, means the course is more interactive and engaging than ever before. An increased amount of face-to-face contact also allows for extra support from tutors, as well as creating a learning community and social opportunities between students.”
ULaw’s Jacqueline Cheltenham, the BPC national programme and student affairs director, said: “The new Bar Practice Course combines exciting new aspects while retaining the best of what went before, to provide a more flexible and accessible approach to qualifying as a barrister.
“Students will study in a supportive environment, with options tailored to suit their needs and fit around their life where needed.”
The move from the ULaw is a reaction to ongoing reform of the way barristers are trained. In 2015, the BSB opened a consultation on a review on potentially introducing “the most sweeping reforms to bar training in a generation”.
In 2017, it proposed three new options for qualifying as a barrister, before settling on one option, a “managed pathways approach” where there would be a range of different ways to qualify.
The BSB said at the time that one of these alternate routes “is likely to be a new training course, which has been proposed by the Council of the Inns of Court (COIC) and the Bar Council.” This would entail breaking up the BPTC into two parts, with attendance at law school not compulsory for the first part.
The Inns of Court College of Advocacy (ICCA) was an early mover on this, applying to the BSB last May to be authorised to deliver a new, split-in-two, version of the BPTC from autumn 2020.
Part One of ICCA’s course will be relatively cheap at £1,575. Students who have completed Part One will then decide whether to continue on to the more expensive Part Two, which will cost £11,520. Those who decide not to carry on will have no financial obligation beyond the £1,575 they have already paid. Students will also have the option of pausing their studies between Parts One and Two in order to take part in pupillage application rounds.
ULaw’s new BPC course will be available to study full or part-time, but will not be split into two parts.