A report from the Bar Standards Board (BSB) shows an unexpected rise in the number of students enrolled on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) following a downward trend over the last four years. The figures show that 1,624 students are enrolled on the course over 2017/18, whereas there were 1,423 during 2016/17.

While the report is unsure as to the cause of the rise, it is possible that the expansion of the course offered by Cardiff University could be a contributing factor. The BPP Law School has also opened a new site in Bristol. Another factor could be the planned changes to the system in the form of the Future Bar Training Programme. Some students may wish to complete their training before this comes into force. It is also worth noting that the pass mark for the aptitude test that all students have to take went up in 2016. The figures are positive, however, there are still strong concerns regarding the financial cost of getting to the Bar.

Another report released by the BSB shows that black and minority ethnic (BME) graduates are half as likely to secure a pupillage as their white contemporaries. The BSB found that the Bar is still considered to be “an elite, white, male-dominated profession.”

The report also revealed that BME students had a higher failure rate on the BPTC than those from white ethnic backgrounds and that there was a “far lower rate” of BME students achieving the top grades.

Director-general of the BSB, Dr Vanessa Davies, said that although the report shows a difference between the grades of BME and white students and those that obtain pupillages, it is important not to “jump to any conclusions”. She added that “the Bar is trying very hard to encourage equal opportunity and accessibility for anyone with the talent and desire to become a barrister. Today’s research suggests that the Bar and providers are having some success in this regard in relation to gender and disability but that more research is needed to understand why the differences in attainment in relation to ethnicity and socio-economic background seem to persist.”

 

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