26 September 2017

BSB announces decision on the future of Bar training

24 March 2017

At its Board meeting last night, the Bar Standards Board (BSB) decided that it will authorise a limited number of future training routes for prospective students to qualify as barristers. One of these 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. The Board also agreed a Policy Statement setting out its vision for the future of Bar training.

Following its recent Future Bar Training consultation the Board decided:

  • to allow a limited number of alternative training routes for the Bar;
  • that the Bar should remain a graduate profession normally requiring at least a 2:2 classification;
  • that the BSB should continue to specify the seven foundation subjects which make up a qualifying law degree;
  • that there is no need at present to change the need for a barrister to be called to the Bar by one of the Inns of Court;
  • that the Bar Course Aptitude Test should be retained; and
  • that the BSB should review the way in which Ethics is taught and assessed.

The consultation generated an unprecedented level of interest and response, with over 1,100 respondents, including an open letter in support of the COIC/Bar Council model signed by over 500 barristers. A key aspect of this proposal is to split vocational training (which is currently undertaken through the Bar Professional Training Course) into two parts. The aim of this proposal is to make training for the Bar more affordable and more flexible while maintaining high standards.

The COIC/Bar Council proposal was supported by the great majority of respondents to the consultation although there was also some support for the current BPTC model and for courses which combine the current academic and vocational assessments into a single course or which might combine vocational learning and assessment with pupillage.

The BSB will prepare and publish an Authorisation Framework in consultation with stakeholders in order to assess all future training routes against the criteria of:

  • flexibility (encouraging, for example, the options of part time study, distance learning and integration with paid work);
  • accessibility (offering support to students from under-represented groups);
  • affordability (improving the value for money of the present system); and
  • sustaining high standards (so that consumers can be certain that every barrister who begins practice has met the requirements of the Professional Statement).

The rules and Authorisation Framework are expected to be formally in place from the 2018/19 academic year (i.e. early autumn 2018), but the timing of new courses being approved is reliant on providers coming forward with plans. Their proposals will all be assessed against the same criteria.

The Board believes that giving students an element of choice will be consistent with these principles, but agreed with the many consultation respondents who argued that too many training options could cause confusion for prospective barristers and training providers, damage diversity and increase regulatory cost.

The Board repeated its commitment to work with the Solicitors Regulation Authority to ensure that barrister and solicitor training routes retained compatibility. Finally, the Board agreed to continue its work to improve the oversight of pupillage and other forms of work-based learning.

Speaking about the decision, BSB Chair Sir Andrew Burns said:

"I am pleased with the level of engagement that our consultation about the future ofBar training has provoked. We received a record number of responses which the Boardand I have considered carefully before reaching our decision. In particular, it has beenencouraging to see how passionately barristers want to see the Bar as a professionwhere the most able candidates can succeed regardless of their means. 

"Our role as the regulator is not to design the courses themselves, but to set a robustframework for authorising course providers. We have clear criteria for doing so and wewill be developing our Authorisation Framework in consultation with the Bar, trainingproviders and other groups with an interest in Bar training. We look forward to moreflexible, accessible and affordable training courses in future which will maintain the highintellectual and professional standards demanded at the Bar."

The regulator will now start an engagement programme with the Bar, training providers and others to explain its decision in more detail and to encourage providers to submit applications for authorisation.

You can read the BSB's full Policy Statement here.

ENDS

 

Notes to editors

About the Bar Standards Board

Our mission is to regulate barristers and specialised legal services businesses in England and Wales in the public interest. For more information about what we do visit: http://bit.ly/1gwui8t

More about the COIC/Bar Council model

A key aspect of this model for the future or Bar training is to split vocational training (which is currently undertaken through the Bar Professional Training Course) into two parts

  • Part 1 would consist of the knowledge-based parts of the course - civil and criminal litigation and evidence, which are centrally examined by the BSB. Candidates would be able to prepare for Part 1 either independently or on a formal course. 
  • Only those who pass Part 1 would then be able to proceed to Part 2 which would consist of the remaining skills-based elements - which include advocacy, drafting, ethics, and conferencing skills.  Part 2 would require formal attendance at a course. 

Contact: For all media enquiries call: 0207 611 1452 or email press@barstandardsboard.org.uk .