Barrister finance

If you’re thinking of becoming a solicitor, take a look at our specific "Solicitor finances" page.

The cost of qualifying as a barrister is expensive. Future advocates should investigate potential sources of funding at each stage of the process.

Undergraduate degree

Firstly, there are your undergraduate degree tuition fees to consider. Universities are able to charge fees of up to £9,250 per year, so you should check the cost of with individual institutions. However, be aware that the majority of universities charge the maximum tuition fee of £9,250 per year.

There are two types of student loan available for your undergraduate degree:

  • A student loan for fees (commonly called the ‘tuition fee loan’) covers the full amount of your fees - the full amount available being set at £9,250 for the academic year 2019-20.
  • A student loan for maintenance (usually called the ‘living costs loan’) will depend on where you are studying and whether you live independently or with family. For example, in the academic year 2019-20, the loan if living independently and studying in London is up to £11,354.

Most students have to use both types loan, but the loans are repayable only after you have graduated and even then you pay only 9% on any earnings over the repayment threshold of £25,000 a year, £2,083 a month or £480 a week. If you earn less than that, you don’t repay the loan.

Some grants are also available from your university or indirectly when you’ve gone through the normal loans application process (the money actually comes from your local education authority). Government maintenance grants were scrapped by the government in September 2016.

Visit the government’s student finance website for more details of how financial support is administered.

In addition, education charity Brightside has a free online budget calculator – www.studentcalculator.org.uk – which is a useful tool for helping you manage your money once you’re at university. 

The government has bewilderingly scrapped maintenance grants for less-privileged students, meaning that low-income students wanting to attend university are now saddled with even more debt – a move which the National Union of Students called “disgraceful”.

Postgraduate courses

GDL fees

If you did a non-law degree, you have to study the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). Fees range up to £11,650 (for a full-time course in London in 2019-20), but can be significantly less outside London. Added to these fees are your own living costs.

BPTC fees

Course fees for the 2019-20 Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) were as much as £19,400. Again, courses in London are the most expensive, and of course you still have to pay living expenses.

Student Loans Company postgraduate funding

Postgraduate loans from the government are only available for master’s courses, not diplomas or professional certificates, meaning that postgraduate loans are not available for the GDL or standalone BPTC.

However, many law schools and universities now offer BPTCs that include a master’s qualification, meaning that you can get a postgraduate loan if you choose to study a BPTC LLM.

Postgraduate loans go up to a maximum of £10,609. It is up to the student to decide how they want to divide the loan between paying course fees and living costs. 

Future finance loans

The biggest private student loan provider in the UK is Future Finance. Loans range from £2,000 - £40,000, covering both tuition fees and living costs.

These loans are also available to EU and international students, as well as those from the UK.

To secure a Future Finance loan, you need to apply six months before you start your postgraduate course. To find out more about the loan and see if you are eligible, go to the Future Finance website.

Graduate bank loans

Loans for postgraduate study are also available from many high street banks. A graduate loans is a viable way to fund the GDL, but you should exhaust all your other options first.

Loans range from £1,000 to £15,000 and are subject to a suitability assessment. Contact your bank to find out what support it may be able to provide.

Inns of Court scholarships

For information about the scholarships available at each of the four Inns of Court, go to the Inns of Court Scholarships section. 

Between them, the four Inns of Court offer millions of pounds in awards every year. They umbrella term 'award' is used to describe all scholarships, bursaries and grants.

Each Inn is a completely separate entity and so the rules governing scholarships differ. Amounts vary from £100 up to £22,000 and all are awarded on merit, although some Inns have awards for certain achievements. Most awards are given to students on the BPTC, but the Inns also have funds available for those on the GDL.

It’s advisable to apply in the final year of your degree or in the year before starting the GDL or BPTC. The Inns’ websites have application forms which ask for character details, legal experience, income/funds and references. You can apply for scholarships only at one Inn. If the scholarships committee likes your application, it will invite you to an interview.

For a summary, read our guide to joining an Inn of Court. Contact the Inns direct for more detailed info:  www.lincolnsinn.org.ukwww.innertemple.org.ukwww.middletemple.org.uk and www.graysinn.org.uk.

Charities

Some grant-making trusts and charities may offer financial assistance to those seeking to qualify as a barrister. You can find information about grants, loans and other funds from your local education authority awards officer.

Pupillage

In September 2019 the minimum pupillage award will increase from £12,000 to £15,728 a year outside London and £18,436 in London. Prestigious chambers may award pupils more than this.

The minimum pupillage pay level will also increase year on year in line with the recommendations of the Living Wage Foundation.

Reality check

It is important to be aware that around two thirds of BPTC students and graduates never go on to secure a pupillage, so the path to becoming a barrister is a highly expensive one with no guarantee of a career at the end of it. Reflect on whether you have the skills and CV to beat the odds before you enrol on the BPTC.