Phase 1 FAQs
Is the BSB proposing to allow people without degrees to commence Bar training?
The threshold standard for beginning the vocational component of Bar training is not changing. We are instead proposing that the way that standard is defined in our documentation is changed, along with the process for determining whether an individual has met that standard. This is in keeping with our commitment to modernising and simplifying regulation.
We are also proposing that we develop clear guidance for the providers of vocational Bar training to enable them to admit only those who have achieved the threshold standard for entry and therefore have the potential to pass the course.
The vast majority of entrants to Bar training are still likely to be those with degrees but where degree-level equivalence in terms of the threshold competence can be established, eg through an alternative route such as the Solicitors Qualifying Examination, it will be possible to map that equivalence and make a case for the threshold having been met.
We will closely monitor how this guidance is applied and will take supervisory action where necessary if we find that it is not applied appropriately. We remain committed to removing unnecessary barriers to entry to the profession without compromising the principle of high standards.
Is the BSB making it easier to begin Bar training?
A wider variety of routes to becoming a barrister will potentially be made available, but there will be no change to the threshold competence that is expected before someone can start the vocational component of training. We are proposing to extend the range of qualifications that could, potentially, be regarded as meeting that threshold, but no change is proposed in the level of competence that must be met. Standards are not, therefore, being lowered, and we are not removing the need for competence in the Foundations of Legal Knowledge subjects.
If decisions about who can begin vocational Bar training are left to the course providers, won’t they just let anyone in?
No, they will not be able to do that because we will be giving very clear guidance about how they determine whether the threshold competence has been met, whether or not a potential student has a conventional degree or has taken another route. If that guidance is not followed, the BSB can and will take supervisory action. Course providers already make decisions about who can begin their vocational Bar training courses in line with requirements that we set; our new guidance will simply reflect a wider range of possible ways that competence to the appropriate level can be met.
What do you mean by equivalence of qualification?
An honours degree in the UK is at what is known as ‘Level 6’ of the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications. There are nationally recognised characteristics of the abilities that people should be able to demonstrate at this level and we will still expect those abilities to be demonstrated whatever route they have taken. A wide range of qualifications may be categorised as being Level 6, not just traditional undergraduate degrees.
Are you scrapping the Foundations of Legal Knowledge subjects?
No, we still expect this basic understanding of academic legal knowledge to be covered and for the providers of vocational training to check that it has been covered before admitting someone to the course. It is therefore highly unlikely that work experience alone would suffice to meet this requirement. The Foundations of Legal Knowledge requirement as set out in our Curriculum and Assessment Strategy will remain.
If these proposals are implemented, won’t it create confusion for prospective barristers with Authorised Education and Training Organisations (AETOs) operating significantly different admissions policies?
AETOs already have autonomy over their admissions policies within the parameters of our Authorisation Framework and Supervision regime. This will continue to be the case. Admissions policies must be sufficiently clear to manage expectations. AETOs must apply the policies in accordance with their BSB authorisation and this will be monitored by our Supervision Team. Variety does not need to equate to confusion.
By implementing these proposals is the BSB effectively washing its hands of responsibility for Bar Training course admissions?
No – admissions policies must continue to be in line with the requirements of our Authorisation Framework. Going forward, they must also be in line with the guidance we will provide in relation to the proposed new definition of Academic Legal Training. AETOs will be in breach of their authorisation with the BSB if found to be admitting candidates who do meet the proposed redefinition of Academic Legal Training.
Under these proposals, what will be the position of a prospective barrister rejected by an AETO even though the AETO accepts that the prospective barrister meets the proposed redefinition of Academic Legal Training?
AETOs, subject to compliance with authorised admissions policies, will be at liberty to reject a prospective barrister even if the prospective barrister meets the proposed redefinition of Academic Legal Training. The prospective barrister can apply elsewhere. As at present, AETOs are under no obligation to admit everyone who meets the minimum requirements for entry to a Bar training course – there is no change in that respect.