8 Mar 2023

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has today published:

The BSB’s reforms were designed to make Bar training more flexible, accessible, and affordable while maintaining high standards. In 2019, AlphaPlus Consultancy Ltd were commissioned by the BSB to evaluate the reforms. Their report looks at how the reforms are being implemented and explains that new training routes have become available since the introduction of the reforms, with four different training pathways authorised by the BSB, while maintaining the traditional three components (academic, vocational, and pupillage). The report also outlines how vocational training providers have changed their approach to delivering Bar training, including by adopting more online delivery, greater flexibility for students, and some providers offering a ‘two-step’ vocational training component.

The majority of vocational authorised education and training organisations (AETOs) believed that the reforms gave them the opportunity to offer greater flexibility and reduce costs and increase choice to students. Those training providers interviewed during the evaluation generally welcomed the introduction of the BSB’s Professional Statement, and considered the Authorisation Framework to be helpful, although some training providers did find the authorisation process itself to be time-consuming. The restrictions necessitated by the Covid-19 pandemic were found to have had a negative impact on the learning experiences of some students on the vocational component, especially the 2020 – 2021 cohort.

The evaluation work will continue over the next year, with a further report to evaluate the impact of the reforms against their key objectives of greater flexibility, improved accessibility, improved affordability, and continued high standards.

The BSB’s 2023 Bar Training Report contains statistics on enrolment, results and trends in vocational training to become a barrister, and student progression onto pupillage in England and Wales.  Since the reforms were introduced, there are now two additional providers of the course, and it is now offered at five additional sites. Vocational Bar training courses are also offered via several different pathways, increasing flexibility for students. The data from the Report also demonstrate that course fees from 2020/21 onwards have decreased quite substantially compared to the fees previously charged for the BPTC. The average cost per Bar training student (adjusted for inflation) was £14,000 in 2021/22, compared to £18,700 in 2018/19, a saving of £4,700. 

The Report also shows that the proportion of UK-domiciled students from a minority ethnic background has increased over the period from 23 per cent to 39 per cent, with the increase principally driven by those from Asian/Asian British backgrounds, and those from Mixed/Multiple ethnic backgrounds. You can read the BSB’s Bar Training 2023 Report here.

The Central Examinations Board (CEB) Chair’s Report explains how the CEB rigorously assesses the results of the centralised examinations to ensure that they are fair. It shows that the centralised assessments remain demanding examinations with an average pass rate for the December sitting of around 56% for civil litigation and around 50% for criminal litigation. The Report also shows the variation in pass rates between different providers. The Report explains some of the factors that may lead to these variations. The BSB will be examining this in our forthcoming thematic review of providers’ admissions arrangements which will also look at how they ensure that standards are maintained once a student is admitted and what systems are in place to ensure that a student develops to their full potential. You can read the full report here.

The BSB’s Director of Regulatory Operations, Oliver Hanmer said “I am delighted to see that, following our reforms, these reports demonstrate that our reforms are making Bar training more accessible, flexible and affordable, while maintaining high standards of quality. It is also encouraging to see that Bar students have become more diverse.”



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

Contact: For all media enquiries call: 07432 713 328 or email [email protected].


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