Kaplan courts controversy with launch of first BVC admissions test

Students wishing to study the Bar Vocational Course (BVC) at Kaplan Law School will be made to sit an admissions test, the first of its kind in the country.

The radical move follows the announcement earlier this year of Kaplan’s decision to launch a programme for aspiring barristers, with an initial intake of 60 students from Autumn 2010 when the BVC will be replaced with the Bar Professional Training Course.

Kaplan’s decision is expected to cause controversy as it comes just weeks after the Bar Standards Board (BSB) scrapped its plans to introduce a compulsory nationwide aptitude test for entry onto the BVC after ­concerns were raised about its introduction by the Office of Fair Trading.

Kaplan, the London arm of ­Nottingham Law School, claimed the test is designed to filter out students who do not have a realistic chance of passing the year-long course and thereby close the gap between the number of students undertaking the BVC and pupillage vacancies.

James Wakefield, who will be heading Kaplan’s BVC, said: “We’ll only take students onto the bar course at Kaplan who we think have a fighting chance of obtaining a pupillage.”

Meanwhile, the ongoing issue of an oversupply of BVC students hit the headlines again earlier this month (October) after it emerged that BPP Law School and Northumbria Law School had both over-subscribed the number of students on their BVC programmes and are both subsequently being investigated by the BSB.

Kaplan’s strict admissions policy will centre on a selection day for all shortlisted applicants. As well as being interviewed, candidates will be required to take an oral advocacy test and complete a written exercise.

Wakefield argued that the exercises would allow the school to assess students more thoroughly than just through a written application alone.

“We’ll be testing a person’s ability to think quickly and present well-structured and cogent arguments, critically important skills for a barrister,” he said.

BVC student Chris Snell said he would welcome any move aimed at closing the gap between the number of students completing the BVC and available pupillages.

“I think it’s a brilliant idea because it will cut out those who clearly shouldn’t be on the course,” he said. “I mean, a girl on my course asked what the CPS was the other day – how can you say she should be on the course?”