Interest on new HSBC bar loan soars by 6 per cent

HSBC has hiked the interest rate on its much-anticipated bar loan by a whopping six per cent.

The Bar Professional Training Course loan, which was reinstated following a suspension in November 2010, will now be set at a fixed rate of 7 per cent above HSBC’s base rate, which currently stands at 0.5 per cent.

The loan was originally rolled out following a recommendation in Lord Neuberger’s high-profile report on widening access to the bar, and was considered a lifeline for students struggling to raise the necessary funds to enrol. The interest rate on the original loan was a much more affordable 1 per cent above HSBC’s base rate.

HSBC said in a statement: “As HSBC’s Bar loans scheme is now offered through our retail bank, as opposed to previously being a commercial loan, it benefits from being offered through our premier managers. This enables us to provide an improved service while customers are studying and a consistent point of contact once they have completed their course. The rates have been brought into line with our unsecured personal loans, and continue to benefit from a repayment moratorium of at least 18 months.”

Following a review by the banking giant, the repayment holiday on the loan has also been reduced from three years to 18 months for full-time students, and to 30 months for part time students.

Aspiring barristers will, however, still be allowed to borrow up to a maximum of £25,000, with capital repayments scheduled over a maximum 60-month period starting immediately after the end of the moratorium.

In constrast, under the terms of the previous bar loan students only had to start paying the interest after three years while the capital repayments started five years after the draw down and were payable over a five-year period.

The news of the relaunch will be of little comfort to those hoping to accept a place on the course this year, due to the loan being finalised more than a month after the deadline for confirming places on the BPTC (6 April).