The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has today published a new edition of its statistical information on student performance on the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC).
The new analysis – which has been updated to include students who completed the BPTC in 2015 – shows that becoming a barrister remains very competitive. New detail in the report provides a clearer analysis than ever before.
Key findings within the statistics were:
- 4,760 students started the BPTC between 2012 and 2014. 72%have passed the course to date (although it should be noted that this percentage will increase as more recent starters successfully re-sit or complete the two-year part-time course).
- 11% of all BPTC graduates in the same period achieved the highest grade, “Outstanding”.
- 35% of all UK/EU domiciled graduates enrolled on the BPTC in the academic years commencing in 2011-2013 have gained pupillage since completing the BPTC. Following graduation, some students do not intend to gain pupillage.
- Performance in the BPTC is a better guide to future success in securing pupillage than performance in a first degree.
- The number of women securing pupillage is now similar to that of men although more women are taking the BPTC than men.
- White BPTC candidates may be more successful in securing pupillage than BME candidates, but more research is needed to determine whether and, if so, why this may be the case.
The information presents detailed analysis of the characteristics of students who progress to pupillage. The BSB has published the information at the earliest opportunity to help students considering the BPTC to make informed decisions and to promote competition between BPTC providers.
This publication aims to promote transparency in the training system, showing what chance of success lies ahead for students in the BPTC if they wish to practise at the Bar of England and Wales. It should be noted that many students take the BPTC without intending to practise in this country.
Overall, the statistics suggest that while having a high-quality first degree (First Class or Upper Second) from a well-regarded university is a strong indicator of future prospects for pupillage, obtaining an “Outstanding” or “Very Competent” grade on the BPTC is an even stronger indicator than degree classification for success in securing pupillage. Given that earlier research published by the BSB showed that the score obtained on the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) – taken before the BPTC – is a reliable indicator of the grade students are likely to obtain on the BPTC, a high BCAT score is also therefore a strong indicator of a student’s chance of success in progressing to a career at the Bar. Candidates are now provided with this information when they take the Test.
Forty-seven per cent of pupillages were awarded to women over the period of this report. This is encouraging, but more women than men enrolled on the BPTC over the same period. If men and women are seeking pupillage in the same proportion, this analysis might suggest that men have a greater chance of success. If these assumptions are correct, more work may be required to address gender bias (albeit unconscious) in the process.
In a similar way, this data analysis also suggests that white BPTC graduatesmay be obtaining first six pupillage in greater proportion than those from BME backgrounds. If true, there are many possible reasons why this might be the case. When presenting the data in today’s report, the BSB has attempted to illustrate some of the inherent complexities involved in reaching conclusions such as this by presenting the data it has available in a number of ways.
The regulator recently identified the lack of diversity in the profession as one of three strategic risk priorities on which it would focus its attention. It is giving priority to a number of regulatory work programmes to address the issue. The new evidence about BPTC student progression published today supports this approach. It will also feed into the regulator’s equality and diversity programme of work and the ongoing Future Bar Training review into qualification and training arrangements for the Bar.
Speaking generally about the new BPTC key statistics, BSB Director of Education and Training, Dr Simon Thornton-Wood, said: “We are very aware that training to become a barrister can be expensive. We hope that the publication of today’s statistics will help students considering a career at the Bar to make a fully informed decision about their chances of success. However, when considering these statistics, I urge people not to look at any one factor or chart in isolation. There are many variables in play, and we intend our report to be considered in its entirety.”