A poll of Lawyer2B readers shows the majority believe that the new Bar Course Aptitude Test, which has increased in price from £76 to £150, should be free.
Over half, 57 per cent, of respondents voted that there should not be a fee at all and that sitting an expensive test multiple times until a candidate passes will not ensure high quality candidates or a diverse bar.
Just over one third, 34 per cent, believe that a test is needed to narrow down the number of Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) students but think that the doubling of the fee will discriminate against less well off candidates.
Only 8 per cent of readers think that the fee makes little difference to aspring barristers, as it is only a small percentage of the BPTC fee.
The fee rise caused uproar among students when it was revealed last week.
One Lawyer2B reader asked: “This ridiculously expensive and very basic test won’t weed out many people, just those who do not have sufficient funds to apply – the very people the Bar claims to want to attract – or those who are barely literate. What price diversity?”
Hopeful barristers were notified of the price hike by an email last week from the Bar Standards Board (BSB). One reader attacked this lack of communication, saying: “The condescending arrogance displayed by the BSB with regard to this matter is breathtaking.
“How can they possibly think it fair to allow students to apply for the BPTC, under the impression that they will have to pay £67 for the test (a rather hefty amount in itself) and then suddenly tell them that, if they wish to proceed further, they will actually have to shell out £150: more than double the suggested amount!”
The previous fee was established during the consultation on the introduction of the BPTC, which replaced the Bar Vocational Course in 2010/2011.
The BSB has defended its decision to more than double the entrance fee. A spokesperson said: “When we were asked to provide a suggested fee, we were at a much earlier stage in the planning process. The published fee compares very well with other professional aptitude courses.
“A combination of factors affect the price: not least ensuring it is available globally, and minimising the risk of fraud. It is important that we recover costs and thus avoid placing a cost burden on others. We will evaluate the test carefully and ensure that the fee reflects no more than cost recovery.”
Would-be barristers now have to pass the BCAT to be admitted onto the BPTC. Applicants can register for the BCAT from 1 March and take the test from 3 April.
Earlier this week top barrister and chairman of the Kalisher Trust Andrew Hall QC defended an event charging would-be barristers for pupillage application tips, the event is now free (25 February 2013).