Overview

1) In order to complete the academic component of training based on a conversion course, a student must:

  • hold a UK/Republic of Ireland undergraduate degree awarded at (or above) the minimum standard; or
  • have been granted a Certificate of Academic Standing (see Part 2A (A4) of the Bar Qualification Manual) by the BSB.

2) Students who complete a conversion course without holding a UK/Republic of Ireland degree of the required standard, or a Certificate of Academic issued by the BSB, will not be permitted to progress to the vocational component of Bar training.

3) A conversion course is a course which incorporates study of the foundations of legal knowledge subjects (see Part 2A (A1) of the Bar Qualification Manual) and complies with the QAA Subject Benchmark Statement for Law (Jul 2015). The most common type of conversion course is a Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). Other types of conversion course include a Common Professional Examination (CPE) or Postgraduate Diploma in Law (PGDL). 

4) Applications for full-time GDL courses are made through a central application system run by the Central Applications Board. Applications for part-time and distance learning GDL courses should be made directly to the course provider.

The minimum standard

5) The minimum standard for UK/Republic of Ireland undergraduate degrees undertaken for completion of the academic component of Bar training is lower second class honours (2:2).

6) If a student has failed to meet the minimum standard in their degree due to exceptional circumstances, they may apply to the BSB for the exercise of discretion. If discretion is granted, the student will be able to undertake the GDL for completion of the academic component and progression to the vocational component of Bar training.

7) The criteria for discretion to be exercised are:

  1. there is clear evidence that the student is academically of second class quality overall;
  2. there is clear evidence of a temporary cause which prevented the student from fulfilling their full academic potential, which has not already been considered by the course provider in the award of the third class degree;
  3. there is clear evidence that this cause will not render the student unsuitable to practise at the Bar; and
  4. there is clear evidence of a motivation to qualify and practise at the Bar.

Time limits

8) A full-time GDL should normally be completed in not less than one year and not more than three years.

9) A part-time GDL should normally be completed in not less than two years and not more than four years.

10) If a student is unable to complete their GDL within the prescribed time limits due to exceptional circumstances, they should apply directly to their course provider for an extension of time. Course providers should apply their own assessment policies and regulations when assessing these applications.

11) Students are no longer required to apply to the BSB for acceptance of a GDL completed outside of the maximum time limit.

Credit transfer

12) A course provider may allow students to transfer credit for a GDL from another course provider without needing the approval of the BSB.

Commencement of the vocational component

13) Students must commence the vocational component of Bar training within five years of completion of the academic component (including any relevant re-sits).

14) In exceptional circumstances, a student may apply to the BSB for permission to commence the vocational component before completion of the academic component. An application is unlikely to be granted unless:

  1. the offer of a vocational component course place remains open despite the outstanding results;
  2. results are outstanding in no more than one subject and the subject is being taken as a first attempt;
  3. there is clear evidence from the course provider that the final overall result of an incomplete GDL is predicted to be a pass (or above);
  4. the result of the outstanding subject will be known by 1 October of the year in which the student commences the vocational component; and
  5. the student and their vocational component course provider accept that the student must withdraw from the course if the student does not satisfactorily complete the academic component by 1 October of the year in which the student commences the vocational component.

Future requirements...

As the BSB and the SRA are taking divergent approaches to qualification as barristers and solicitors, the Joint Statement will cease to apply to either profession in the future. There is more information about these changes - and what they mean if you want to become either a barrister or a solicitor - in the Common Protocol on the Academic Component of training (see Part 2A (A7) of the Bar Qualification Manual), which we have published jointly with the SRA.

In order to become a barrister, the requirement to complete the academic component of Bar training will not change. Depending on which of the approved pathways is offered by an Authorised Education and Training Organisation (AETO), this component may be integrated with the vocational component, rather than taken sequentially.

For those wishing to qualify as barristers, the requirements set out in the BSB's 2018-19 Academic Stage Book will remain in force for QLD/GDL courses that start in (or before) the 2018/19 academic year and will last until students on those courses complete their studies. If you require a copy of the 2018-19 Academic Stage Book, please contact the Authorisations Team.

2019/20 Academic Year

  • The SRA will continue to administer the academic component of education and training for solicitors and barristers on behalf of both regulators.
  • The concept of a QLD for the purpose of Bar training will no longer apply to law degree courses starting in (or after) the 2019/20 academic year.
  • The Bar will remain a graduate-only profession, with a minimum classification of lower second class honours (2:2). Students who do not meet the minimum standard must apply to the BSB for the exercise of discretion.
  • Students will be required to obtain a UK/Republic of Ireland degree, awarded at Level 6 (or above) of the ‘Framework for Higher Education Qualifications’, by a recognised degree-awarding body. If this is a law degree, it must be compliant with the QAA Subject Benchmark Statement for Law. If the degree is in another subject, students must complete the GDL.
  • Students who do not obtain a UK/Republic of Ireland degree of the required standard must verify the equivalence of their qualifications or experience by obtaining a Certificate of Academic Standing from the BSB.
  • Acceptable UK/Republic of Ireland law degrees and GDL courses must cover the foundations of legal knowledge subjects and the skills associated with graduate legal work (eg legal research).

2020/21 Academic Year

  • The SRA will continue to administer the academic component of education and training for solicitors only.
  • The concept of a QLD for the purpose of Bar training will no longer apply to vocational component courses starting in (or after) the 2020/21 academic year.

2021/22 Academic Year

  • The SRA will cease to be involved in the approval or recognition of new QLD/CPE courses that start in or after the 2021/22 academic year, following the introduction of the Solicitors Qualifying Examination (SQE).
  • Subject to further detail from the SRA in due course, we intend to allow some equivalence for part-qualified solicitors. For example, we expect that passing the SQE Stage One (which incorporates knowledge of the foundations of legal knowledge subjects) should be sufficient as an equivalent to the academic component of Bar training. This, we think, should aid students in deciding what law programme to attend, meaning that they could postpone decisions on their eventual career intentions.