The organisations involved in Bar training and what they do
We are responsible for setting the education and training requirements for those who wish to qualify and practise as barristers in England and Wales. This involves setting, overseeing and enforcing the Bar Qualification Rules. You can read a summary and detailed explanation of these Rules and how they must be applied in our online Bar Qualification Manual. If you want to read the Rules themselves, they are contained within Part 4 of the BSB Handbook.
Anyone wishing to provide Bar training – whether that be training as part of the vocational component of training or the pupillage / work-based learning component of training – must apply, and be authorised by, us. We call these training providers Authorised Education and Training Organisations (AETOs). We publish an Authorisation Framework to set out the requirements of becoming an AETO. Once authorised, AETOs become subject to our ongoing supervision. This is our way of making sure that they stick to the Rules, meet the criteria against which they were authorised and deliver what they have told us they are going to deliver.
We are responsible for setting and marking some of the assessments undertaken by Bar students. These are known as the centralised assessments:
- For students who start a vocational Bar training course from September 2020, the centralised assessments during the vocational component are in Civil Litigation and Criminal Litigation. We are not responsible for arranging and administering the exam sittings for centralised assessments taken during the vocational component – this is the job of students’ AETOs.
- For these students, these will be followed by a centralised assessment in Professional Ethics if students go on to undertake the pupillage component. We will administer the Ethics centralised assessment taken during the pupillage component.
The BSB’s Central Examinations Board (CEB) consists of a group of senior examiners, including experienced legal practitioners and academics. They are supported by psychometric and examination experts.
The CEB’s role is to ensure fairness and consistency in how the centralised assessments undertaken during Bar training are set and marked. The CEB is responsible for overseeing both the rigour and quality of the assessments. The Chair of the CEB publishes a detailed report after each exam sitting.
The CEB also considers requests from students for clerical error checks and reviews. You can read more about these requests in Part 3D of the Bar Qualification Manual.
Other assessments during the vocational component of Bar training are set, administered and marked by AETOs and not by us. These assessments must meet the requirements of the Curriculum and Assessment Strategy.
We appoint a number of External Examiners who provide us with specialist advice on the consistency of standards of the assessments set by the vocational component AETOs. Our external examiners are responsible for confirming whether or not:
- the assessment process measures student achievement rigorously and fairly in line with our Curriculum and Assessment Strategy; and
- the standards and the achievements of students are consistent between AETOs.
We are also responsible for setting and running the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) which all students must pass before being allowed to start a vocational training course.
We refer to Bar training providers as Authorised Education and Training Organisations (AETOs).
There are two types of AETOs: those who provide vocational Bar training courses (of which there are currently nine) and those who provide pupillage or other forms of work-based learning. AETOs who provide pupillage are typically barristers’ chambers but can be other types of organisations too.
In order to become an AETO, training providers must apply to us for authorisation. Our Authorisation Framework sets out the requirements of becoming an AETO. Once authorised, AETOs become subject to our ongoing supervision. This is our way of making sure that they stick to the Rules, meet the criteria against which they were authorised and deliver what they have told us they are going to deliver.
AETOs are responsible for all aspects of the delivery of their training programmes. For vocational component AETOs, this includes making sure that all exams are delivered including those which they set and mark themselves. Vocational component AETOs are also responsible for the administration and delivery of the centralised assessments which are set and marked by us. At the end of their period of work-based learning, pupillage AETOs are responsible for signing-off their pupils as having the knowledge, skills and attributes all barristers need on their first day of practice as set out in the Professional Statement for barristers. The full set of training requirements can be found in our Curriculum and Assessment Strategy.
You can read more about the information we provide for AETOs in this section of our website.
The Inns of Court or “Inns” are professional membership associations for barristers in England and Wales. They play several important roles in the education and training of barristers, which are set out in a Memorandum of Understanding.
First, anyone starting a vocational Bar training course must become a Student Member of an Inn. The process involves the Inns conducting “fit and proper person” checks to make sure that only suitable individuals become Student Members and, ultimately, practising barristers. Visit our webpage on Joining an Inn to find out more about this.
The Inns are responsible for the conduct of Bar students. They also provide Qualifying Sessions for those undertaking the vocational component of Bar training. Along with successfully completing a vocational Bar training course, students must complete the required number of Qualifying Sessions.
Finally, it is the Inns who Call students to the Bar once the vocational component has been successfully completed. Only those Called to the Bar may call themselves “barristers” (although only those who successfully complete the pupillage component may apply to us to become practising barristers).
The Bar Council is the representative body for barristers. Its principal role in the education and training of barristers is to support those undertaking Bar training including supporting practising barristers to fulfil their Continuing Professional Development (CPD) requirements. The Bar Council also plays an important role in promoting a career at the Bar.
The Bar Council maintains the Pupillage Gateway website which is a portal on which all organisations offering pupillage must advertise their pupillages. It is also now one of our requirements that pupillage providers must recruit pupils in line with the mandatory timetable to ensure that pupillage recruitment is fair and consistent (although some exemptions to this rule are permitted in 2020-21 due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
Where to direct your questions or concerns
I want to know more about the different courses which are available
For information about vocational Bar training courses, please contact the providers directly. For a list of all the providers we have authorised including links to their websites, please visit this page on our website.
How can I find out who is offering pupillage?
All organisations offering pupillage must advertise their pupillages on the Pupillage Gateway website and must recruit pupils in line with the mandatory timetable in Part 4C of the Bar Qualification Manual.
I’m concerned about the timing or other arrangements for my exams
Your vocational provider is responsible for delivering all the exams on your course including those which are set and marked by us (the centralised assessments). This means the providers make all the necessary arrangements for you to sit your exams. Please contact them about this rather than us.
The only exception to this is the Professional Ethics exam taken during the pupillage component of Bar training. This is because the BSB – rather than your pupillage provider – is responsible for delivering it. This exam is first due to be sat in January 2022.
I need reasonable adjustments to study my vocational training course and/or to take my exams
Please contact your vocational component training provider about the reasonable adjustments you will need to study your course and/or to take your exams. Your provider – and not the BSB – is responsible for agreeing and providing any necessary adjustments.
I want my vocational component exams to be offered in a different format (for example by using a computer or a pen and paper) but my course provider says no
The way in which your exams on the vocational component are delivered is a matter for your course provider to decide. If they decide to offer exams by using a computer, they must apply to us for authorisation first.
If your provider has agreed that you require reasonable adjustments to enable you to take your exams, they must provide these for you even if this means you taking your exams in a different format to other candidates. Please contact your course provider if you think you will need adjustments to be made to the way in which they intend to deliver the exams.
Who sets and marks my exams?
Only “centralised assessments” are set and marked by the BSB. For courses which started in or after September 2020, these are the Civil Litigation and Criminal Litigation exams sat during the vocational component and, from 2022, Professional Ethics sat during the pupillage component. All other exams are set and marked by your course provider.
Who will let me know my exam results?
Your course provider will let you know your vocational component exam results including your results on the centralised assessments. So, please contact your provider about your results rather than the BSB.
The result of your centralised assessment in Professional Ethics sat during the pupillage component will be made available to you online via the MyBar portal.
I am a university interested in offering the Bar Course – who should I approach?
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve made a complaint to my vocational course provider but the matter hasn’t been dealt with to my satisfaction, what can I do?
If you have taken up the matter with your provider but remain dissatisfied, you may also complain to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator but you can only do this after you have followed your provider’s formal complaints procedure.
The quality of my training course/pupillage is not what I was led to expect
If you have a specific issue about the quality of your training, please take up the matter in the first instance with your provider. If the matter is not dealt with to your satisfaction and/or you have a wider concern about the quality of your training, you can report your concerns to us.
I was promised that I’d be provided with reasonable adjustments to study my vocational training course and/or take my exams but they have not been provided
Please talk to your vocational training provider in the first instance about reasonable adjustments as they are responsible for providing you with what has been agreed in your learning agreement. If they are unable to deliver what was agreed, please contact us.
I am facing bullying, discrimination or harassment at my course/pupillage provider
If you are facing bullying, discrimination or harassment whilst studying on a vocational training course, you should follow your provider’s procedures for reporting and dealing with such matters.
If you are a pupil and you have a concern about your pupil supervisor or pupillage provider, where possible, you should follow internal grievance procedures. Your AETO must provide you with a written complaints and grievances policy and a written anti-harassment policy, which set out the procedure to follow. If this does not resolve your concern, you can report it to us. There is a list of sources of help and advice available to pupils in the Bar Qualification Manual.
If you would like to report a concern about a barrister or pupil barrister who has been called to the Bar, you can do so by using our Online Reporting Form. If your concern is about a pupil who has not been called to the Bar, it should be reported to the pupil’s Inn of Court.
I was promised pupillage, but the provider has changed their mind and is no longer providing it to me.
Your AETO must provide you with an offer in writing and a written pupillage agreement that tells you the required notice period for the AETO or the pupil to withdraw during pupillage. If the AETO withdraws during pupillage, or no longer wishes to be authorised to take pupils, or is no longer authorised to take pupils, the AETO must promptly notify the BSB and use their best endeavours to identify another AETO where you can complete your training. This is set out in Part 4D of the Bar Qualification Manual.
For further information about what the BSB is doing to enable pupillage places to continue during the COVID-19 pandemic, please refer to our FAQs on this topic.