University of Law revolutionises bar course, sets minimum 2:1 entry grade

The University of Law has unveiled plans to dramatically change its Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) in a move to set it apart from its competitors.

Starting with this year’s cohort, the university will typically only take graduates in possession of a first-class or 2:1 degree. Previously, it took the stance of many other provides in allowing graduates with a 2:2 to take its course.

The university is also considering instituting a system of testing and face-to-face interviewing by tutors of candidates from 2015 onwards. Testing will cover advocacy and a written test, both designed to measure candidates’ abilities to express themselves coherently and persuasively. The three parts will be given the same weighting and balanced with academic achievements when assessing a candidate’s suitability to undertake the course.

The decision to test skills and knowledge separately will also be instituted from 2015, with course leaders reasoning that candidates will be able to better measure their abilities in this way, and so perform better in both centrally-set exams and pupillage interviews.

To support its changes, the University of Law has recruited four former bar tutors at Kaplan, including ex-head of its bar course Lynda Gibbs. The education provider shut down its bar course earlier this year, blaming its decision on the economics of the course (2 May 2014). 

Like many providers, the University of Law has come under fire in the past for the surplus of bar course graduates, many of whom are considered below the standard required to gain pupillage.

Gibbs explained that the university had acknowledged and learned from its past mistakes and was keen to change the way in which it recruited, taught and tested its bar students.

Gibbs added that the university expected its student numbers to dip once rigorous testing was instituted but said that the drop was “not bad, but inevitable”. The university is currently validated to take on 240 BPTC students. Gibbs said that it had not taught that many students for a number of years but it is understood that the current number enrolled is around 200 students.

The fees for the 2015 course are not yet known, with Gibbs stating that she was not privy to that information. BPTC fees are a classic bugbear for bar students and the bar alike. The average price of the bar course has risen by more than £1,000 in the last two years (26 March 2014).