The Bar Standards Board has today published the sixth annual edition of its statistical information relating to student performance on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC). As the report has shown in previous years, training for the Bar remains highly competitive.
The report includes information about students who enrolled in the 2018-19 academic year, in total and by provider, as well as those who enrolled on the BPTC in the preceding two academic years. The regulator introduced new Bar Qualification Rules in April 2019, and as a result, new vocational Bar training courses begin in September 2020 which will replace the BPTC.
It also features statistics on students enrolled on the BPTC between 2014-15 and 2018-19 who began pupillage following graduation from the course. This provides a wider timeframe in which to see the proportion of graduates who began pupillage within five years of completing the course. While the BSB is very conscious of the effect that the current public health emergency is having on the Bar and may have upon the availability of pupillages in future, the data contained within this report predates its impact.
Key findings from the report are:
- 1,753 students enrolled on the BPTC in 2018-19, an increase of 134 students compared to 2017-18. This is the highest figure for enrolments since the BPTC began in 2011;
- almost half of students (47%) who enrolled on the BPTC in 2018-19 were overseas (non-UK/EU) domiciled, the same proportion as in 2017-18;
- the percentage of female BPTC students has increased from 52 per cent in 2011-12 to 56.5 per cent in 2018-19;
- of the 94 per cent who provided information on their ethnicity, the percentage of UK/EU domiciled Black Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) students has risen to 40 per cent, around ten percentage points higher than in 2012-13;
- around seven in ten full-time UK/EU domiciled students who enrolled in 2018-19 had passed the BPTC as of January 2020, with the remaining mostly yet to complete the course. Around 9 per cent received an “Outstanding” overall grade, around 50 per cent received a “Very Competent” grade, and around 10 per cent received a “Competent” grade;
- of the UK/EU domiciled BPTC graduates, around 43 per cent of those who enrolled on the course from 2014 to 2018 had started pupillage by March 2019. This figure increases to around 47 per cent when looking at those enrolled from 2014 to 2017 only, as it can take time for more recent graduates to gain pupillage;
- of UK/EU-domiciled BPTC graduates who enrolled from 2014 to 2018 and went on to secure pupillage, 53 per cent were female; and
- when controlling for first degree class and BPTC grade, UK/EU BPTC graduates from BAME backgrounds who enrolled on the course from 2014 to 2018 were less likely to have commenced pupillage than those from white backgrounds. For example, of UK/EU domiciled BPTC graduates with an upper-second class degree and “Very Competent” overall BPTC grade, 45 per cent of those from white backgrounds had commenced pupillage, compared to around 25 per cent of the BAME cohort with the same degree class and BPTC grade. For the first time in this report we have also published a table showing that a disparity remains even when the ranking of the first university attended is also taken into account, although the disparities are less, and for all potential pupils the chances of pupillage are greater, for higher performing BPTC graduates and for higher performing students from higher ranked universities.
BSB Director of Strategy and Policy, Ewen MacLeod, said: “Record numbers of BPTC graduates are now seeking pupillage at a time when the number of pupillages available is under pressure. We are working hard to support the number of pupillages that will be available this autumn. We have, for example, issued a waiver which will allow this year’s cohort of students to begin their pupillages even if they have not yet received their vocational training results.
But we are not only focussing on supporting the number of pupillages which can be offered, we also want to ensure that they are fairly allocated. We remain concerned by the continuing disparity between the chances of white and BAME students in securing pupillage. We need to investigate further why this disparity exists but, to address any possible unfairness in selection, our programme of reforms to Bar training includes a requirement for those seeking to offer pupillage to demonstrate an organisational commitment to equality and diversity. We are working with the Bar Council to strengthen the guidance provided in their Fair Recruitment Guide. Meanwhile we are also reviewing the Equality Rules in our Handbook, which include rules about recruitment, and we are working with vocational training providers to embed good practice.”
You can view the full report here.