Bar courses

updated on 04 March 2021

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The route to training as a barrister has changed. From July 2020, a range of new Bar courses replaced the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) as the mandatory vocational stage of training before pupillage. The variety of courses may appear confusing, with different fees and learning styles to consider, but all Bar courses approved by the Bar Standards Board result in the same qualification: a Postgraduate Diploma in Bar Practice. This qualification (alongside being ‘called to the Bar’ by an Inn of Court) makes a Bar course graduate eligible for pupillage, the final stage of on-the-job training to qualify as a barrister.

Transitional arrangements for BPTC students

If you started the BPTC before July 2020, you have until 2022 to complete the course and pass the assessments. For information about the timings of assessments running to 2022, see our student’s guide to the barrister training changes.

New Bar courses

The new Bar courses can be studied in one or two parts, with options to combine online and face-to-face learning in different ways. This flexibility means that there are now multiple pathways to become a barrister, rather than just one as was previously the case:

  • Three-step route: similar to the old route. The academic stage (a law degree on its own or a non-law degree plus law conversion) is followed by the vocational stage (a postgraduate Bar course). The Bar course is followed by the third and final step - pupillage.
  • Four-step route: the academic stage, followed by the Bar course divided into two parts, followed by pupillage. One part of the Bar course may be delivered through self-study (ie, no tutor contact). In this route, students do not pay fees for part two of the course until they have successfully completed part one. With part two the much more expensive part of the course, this means that students who fail part one are not locked into paying the full fees (as they were on the BPTC). Students can also take a break after completing part one and return to part two at a later date.
  • Integrated route: combined academic and vocational stages (where the Bar course is integrated into an undergraduate law degree) followed by pupillage.
  • Apprenticeship route: academic, vocational and pupillage components combined in an apprenticeship. However, while plans for barrister apprenticeships have been discussed, this route is not yet available.   

Whichever Bar course you choose, you will learn both the legal knowledge required to be barrister (such as criminal litigation, civil litigation, evidence and sentencing) and practical skills (such as advocacy, opinion writing and drafting, and conference skills).

All students must join an Inn of Court and pass the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) before enrolment on a Bar course.


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