The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has published two new research reports, the first looking at Bar training providers’ approaches to equality and diversity and the second examining students’ experiences of these approaches. The reports form part of our commitment to ensuring that access to training for the Bar is open to all on an equal basis. Previous research has identified concerns that ethnicity and socio-economic status have a significant impact on students’ performance on the course and their ability to obtain pupillage.
The first research report (full report available here, research summary available here) examined the equality and diversity sections of seven vocational training providers’ websites, as well as nine vocational training providers’ applications to the BSB for authorisation to deliver the Bar training courses against the nine accessibility indicators set out in the BSB’s Authorisation Framework.
A number of key findings have emerged from this research. All vocational training providers were found to have a wide variety of initiatives and approaches in place to promote equality and diversity on their courses and each of them adopt their own individual approaches to equality and diversity. It was also found that some providers could do more to address certain areas where limited information was covered in their policies and applications, such as explicitly committing to go further beyond legal compliance in order to better mirror best practice.
The second piece of research (full report available here, research summary available here and technical report available here), on students’ experiences on the Bar training courses, was undertaken by YouGov to gain a better understanding of students’ awareness of their providers’ equality and diversity policies and initiatives, experiences or involvement with the equality and diversity issues on the course, as well as to assess the extent to which they are familiar with the BSB’s work promoting equality and diversity in training for the Bar. The research involved in-depth one-on-one interviews with 40 students undertaking the Bar training courses in the 2020/21 academic year, which were conducted virtually from July to September 2021. The research sample included a mix of students from different educational, demographic and socio-economic backgrounds undertaking Bar training courses at eight providers inside and outside of London.
The research findings show that Covid-19 had a substantial impact on students’ experiences on the Bar training courses with limited face to face interaction, delays in exams and challenges in accessing online materials. These circumstances may have contributed to lower awareness of the training providers’ initiatives and policies around equality and diversity. Overall, students said that they would welcome more information on the equality and diversity policies, events, training and support provided by vocational training providers via a range of media throughout the year and would also appreciate greater clarity on the role and responsibilities of the BSB (Please see our Bar training: who does what page for more information).
Equality and diversity policies and support initiatives are generally set centrally by universities rather than by the department/law schools running the Bar courses. The BSB sets minimum requirements for the provision of Bar course training in its Authorisation Framework and its regulatory role is limited to ensuring that those requirements have been met. Nonetheless, this research will be shared with the vocational training providers to encourage best practice and raise awareness of equality and diversity issues, to inform the development of the BSB’s Research and Evaluation Strategy and will be considered as part of our wider work on equality and diversity.