The BPTC equips students with the skills they need to become pupils and then fully-fledged barristers. Find out what's involved

At a glance

  • The route to qualifying as a barrister is changing. From September 2020 the BPTC will be replaced by a number of new courses.
  • Required element for aspiring barristers, which usually takes one year to complete full time.
  • You'll need a 2:2 undergraduate law degree or to have passed the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) for entry onto a course.
  • Applications are made online through the Bar Student Application Service (BarSAS).
  • Course fees vary depending on where you study but funding is available.

What is the BPTC?

The Bar Professional Training Course is a required vocational element, taken after your law degree (or after the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL) for non-law students), that all aspiring barristers must take.

Is the BPTC changing?

As part of its programme of regulatory change the Bar Standards Board (BSB) has created several new pathways to qualifying as a barrister.

Final enrolments on the BPTC took place in September 2019, meaning that the traditional BPTC qualification will be replaced in September 2020 by a number of new courses.

But why have these changes been made? Well, the BSB say that the new qualification rules make training to become a barrister more flexible, accessible and affordable than ever before. What's more the changes will also provide the Bar with a more diverse pool of talent while giving students the power to choose between different routes to qualification.

To qualify you'll still need to complete an academic component (typically a law degree or an unrelated degree and the Graduate Diploma in Law), vocational component (postgraduate course) and a work-based learning component (usually pupillage). However, the main difference is there'll now be four routes to qualification instead of just one.

From September 2020 you'll be able to take the:

  • Three-step pathway - academic component, followed by vocational, followed by pupillage or work-based component.
  • Four-step pathway - academic component, followed by vocational component in two parts, followed by pupillage or work-based component.
  • Integrated academic and vocational pathway - combined academic component and vocational component followed by pupillage or work-based component.
  • Apprenticeship pathway - combined academic component, vocational component and pupillage or work-based component.

New courses that will replace the BPTC include the Bar Course, the Bar Training Course (BTC), the Bar Practice Course (BPC) and the Bar Vocational Course (BVC). Approved course providers include:

  • BPP University
  • Cardiff University
  • Northumbria University
  • Nottingham Trent University
  • The City Law School, City, University of London
  • The Inns of Court College of Advocacy
  • The University of Law.

To give you an example of course costs BPP University's Barrister Training Course (BTC) costs £13,870 in London and £12,620 outside London. The University of Law will charge £13,000 in London and £11,750 outside London for its Bar Practice Course (BPC), while Nottingham Trent University will charge £11,750 for its six-month Barrister Training Course (BTC).

Current BPTC students will have until 2022 to complete to complete their course.

Information is subject to change. Check this page for updates or visit Bar Standards Board Becoming a Barrister.

How long does the BPTC take?

It takes one year to complete full time, but a two-year, part-time option is available at six BPTC providers.

The amount of time you spend in the classroom will vary but on a full-time course you can expect between 10 and 16 hours a week. Many institutions will leave one day a week free for pro bono work, court visits and networking events.

What will I learn?

The emphasis is on learning through practical work, with many exercises based on briefs similar to those that barristers receive in the early stages of their career.

The course covers a number of compulsory subjects including:

  • advocacy
  • civil litigation evidence and remedies
  • conference skills
  • criminal litigation, evidence and sentencing
  • drafting
  • resolution of disputes out of court
  • opinion writing
  • professional ethics.

In advocacy classes, students have to research the law in relation to the case, as well as court procedure to enable them to make their submissions. They then present their cases in mock courtrooms where they are expected to think quickly on their feet and respond to the opposing arguments.

How will I be assessed?

Assessment varies between BPTC providers but all providers test knowledge through written exams. Advocacy and conference skills are tested through practical exercises often involving actors and both seen and unseen elements.

The BPTC is graded on three levels. You'll receive an 'Outstanding', 'Very competent' or 'Competent' mark.

Where can I study?

You can study the BPTC at the following locations in England and Wales:

BPP Law School previously offered the BPTC but its new programme, the Barrister Training Course (BTC), replaces the BPTC from September 2020.

To find a course, search BPTC courses.

What are the entry requirements?

The BSB require a minimum 2:2 law degree or for a student to have completed the GDL to convert an unrelated undergraduate degree. However, some providers set their own minimum entry requirements that are higher than the BSB standard, so check with individual institutions before submitting your application.

All students must also be fluent in English and apply to join an Inn of Court by 31 May of the year they intend to start the BPTC.

You also need to pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT), which was introduced by the BSB. The test assesses applicants' critical thinking and reasoning but not their legal knowledge. It consists of 60 multiple-choice questions and takes 55 minutes to complete. Students have until the end of July in the year in which they intend to start the BPTC to pass the BCAT. It costs £150 for UK and European Union (EU) applicants and £170 for international students. More information and a practice test is available at TalentLens - The Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT).

How do I choose a BPTC?

  • Location - You may choose to study in the area where you hope to practice once you've qualified as a barrister, particularly as law schools are likely to have good links with the Bar in their area.
  • Cost - Fees will vary between courses and if you're funding it yourself this is something you need to think about. You may also want to consider the Inn of Court scholarships available, as well as whether the provider itself offers any scholarships, to help you out.
  • Reputation - What does the legal world think of the institution? Are the academics well known in the sector?
  • Course structure - How's it taught? What opportunities are there for extra-curricular activities such as pro bono? Are the class sizes reasonable?

When do I apply?

All applications are made online at the Bar Student Application Service (BarSAS). If you plan to do the BPTC immediately after your course ends, you need to apply in the autumn of your final year on a law degree or the first term of your conversion course.

How much does the BPTC cost?

Course fees vary depending on the institution. For example, The University of Law charges £18,735 for the full-time BPTC at its London Bloomsbury campus, including the BSB registration fee of £585, course materials, and assessment fees and learning resources.

Meanwhile Nottingham Law School, at Nottingham Trent University, charges £15,200 for its full-time BPTC, inclusive of course materials, assessment fees and learning resources.

There is also a non-refundable £36 fee when applying for the BPTC through the BarSAS.

Is funding available?

Would-be barristers have the support of the Inns of Court. These barristers' clubs provide approximately £4million each year to BPTC students. A few barristers' chambers also offer money towards the cost of the BPTC.

You could also fund yourself or take advantage of the scholarships and bursaries that are offered by universities. Search for funding opportunities and find out more about funding postgraduate study.

Find out more

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