Back to overview

Features

Bar courses: a student’s guide to barrister training 2022-23

updated on 23 November 2021

The Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) was replaced by a range of new Bar courses as of September 2020. To become a barrister, students must pass a Bar course approved by the Bar Standards Board. All approved Bar courses lead to the same destination – being ‘called to the Bar’, which enables you to apply for a pupillage. Here is LawCareers.Net’s guide to Bar courses.

Bar courses are now provided in one or two parts, and the courses provided by different universities also vary in fees, contact time with tutors, materials provided and learning styles catered for. 

Bar courses are titled differently depending on where you study (eg, 'ICCA Bar Course’, ‘Bar Practice Course’, ‘Barrister Training Course’ and more). But all are assessed the same and lead to the same postgraduate diploma required to be ‘called to the Bar.’ Students must pass their Bar course to be eligible for a pupillage – the final stage of qualifying before being able to practise as a barrister. 

What are the requirements to qualify as a barrister?

Qualifying as a barrister is a three-stage process. You must complete three stages:

  • The academic stage: an undergraduate law degree or any non-law degree plus a graduate law conversion. The minimum undergraduate requirement is a 2.2, but you are realistically likely to need at least a 2.1. You will then need to complete the Bar Course Aptitude Test (BCAT) before studying a Bar course.
  • The vocational stage: a postgraduate Bar course (see more about the new Bar courses below).
  • The pupillage/work-based learning stage: one year practising as a pupil barrister at a barristers’ chambers or other organisation, with the first six months spent shadowing a senior barrister and the second six working on cases as a junior.

In addition, prospective barristers must join one of the four Inns of Court and complete 12 ‘qualifying sessions’ run by their Inn – this takes place during the academic and vocational stages. The Inns also administer the ‘fit and proper person’ test that prospective barristers must pass when they are called to the Bar after graduating the Bar course.

The vocational stage of training can be completed in the following ways:

  • Three-step route: this is 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 2 of the course until they have successfully completed part 1. Part 2 is the much more expensive part of the course, so this means that students who fail part 1 are not locked into paying the full fees (as they were on the BPTC). Students can also take a break after completing part 1 and return to part 2 later.
  • 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 and are considered a “viable option” to qualifying as a barrister, this route is not yet available.    

Part-time study options are available on the three-step and four-step routes.

The Bar course can be combined with a master’s (LLM) qualification, which makes it eligible for postgraduate student loan funding.

Students will have up to two attempts to pass each of the new Bar course assessments.

What are the transitional arrangements for BPTC students?

BPTC students will be able to continue on the current route and have until 2022 to complete the course.  

For students who started the BPTC in September 2019, as well as those who started the course before 2019 but have not yet graduated, the BSB provides the following information on the timings of assessments:

Civil litigation assessments

  • Spring 2022

Professional ethics assessments

  • All dates passed

Assessments set by course providers

  • Spring 2022

BPTC students with assessments still to pass after Spring 2022 will be affected in several ways, including that they will need to take the new centralised assessments for civil litigation and professional ethics. Full details are on the BSB website.

Bar courses

Here are the institutions and Bar courses that enable students to complete the vocational stage of barrister training. To secure a place on one of the below courses, students must apply directly to the particular university or law school. This information applies to the 2022/23 academic year.

University/law school Name of Bar course Locations Routes offered Annual start dates Study format Fees

BPP University Law School

Barrister Training Course (BTC)

Birmingham

Bristol

Leeds

London

Manchester

Course in one part

Course in two parts

Course with LLM

September and January

Full time

Part time

Course in one part: £13,416 outside London or £14,446 in London

Course in two parts: £14,446 outside London, £15,576 in London

Part one only: £4,137 outside London, £4,652 in London

Part two only: £10,309 outside London, £10,824 in London        

Course with LLM: £14,935 outside London, £16,480 in London

City University London

Bar Vocational Studies (BVC) London

Master of Laws

Postgraduate Diploma

Postgraduate Diploma with Specialism

September

Full time

Part time

LLM: £19,500            

Postgraduate Diploma: £16,500

Postgraduate Diploma with Specialism: £18,500

The Inns of Court College of Advocacy ICCA Bar Course London Course in two parts

September

January

Full time

Online learning (part one)

Course in two parts: total £14,155

Part one only: including ICCA fee, textbooks and BSB intake fee – £2,000

Part two only: including ICCA fee and BSB intake fee – £12,155   

Northumbria University

Bar Course Postgraduate Diploma Newcastle

Course in one part

Course in two parts

Integrated MLaw (course with undergraduate law degree and LLM)

September

Full time

Part time

Course in one part: £12,300

LLM: £12,300

MLaw: £9,250 a year undergraduate fees

Nottingham Trent University Barristers Training Course (BTC) Nottingham

Course in one part

Course in one part with LLM

September

Full time

Course in one part for 2021: £12,000

Course with LLM for 2021: £14,800

The University of Law Bar Practice Course (BPC)

Birmingham

Bristol

Leeds

London Bloomsbury

Manchester

Nottingham

Course in one part

Course in one part with LLM

January, July, September

Full time

Part time

Course in one part: £12,700 outside London, £14,000 in London

Course in one part with LLM: £15,300 outside London, £16,900 in London

Cardiff University Bar Training Course Cardiff

Course in one part

Course in one part with LLM

September Full time Course fees TBC
The University of the West of England Bar Training Course Bristol

Course in one part

Course in one part with LLM

Course in two parts

Course in two parts with LLM

September

Full time

 

Course in one part: £13,500

Course in one part with LLM: £15,500

Part one only: £7,750

Part two only: £7,750

Course in two parts with LLM: £17,500

 

The BSB has said the Manchester Metropolitan University has also expressed an intention to develop Bar courses under the new system. LawCareers.Net will bring you details of other universities’ courses as and when they emerge.

Case study: The University of Law

To give students a better sense of the different learning options now on offer, LawCareers.Net spoke to Jaqueline Cheltenham, director of the Bar Practice Course (BPC) at The University of Law, about what their course involves in more detail.

The University of Law’s BPC is taught continuously in one part and involves face-to-face learning with tutors throughout the course. Like all new Bar courses, the BPC comprises the knowledge subjects of criminal and civil litigation, evidence and sentencing, and the skills subjects of advocacy, conference skills, legal research, opinion writing and drafting.

Students also have the option to combine the BPC with an additional master’s qualification, which can be gained in the following three ways:

  • Pro bono pathway: Students carry out pro bono work throughout the year, providing free legal advice to members of the public under the supervision of a supervising solicitor. At the end of the year, the students write a critical reflective review of their pro bono experiences.
  • Dissertation pathway: Students complete a dissertation in addition to their BPC studies.  
  • Optional modules pathway: A range of optional assessed modules involving contact time with tutors.

The BPC also provides the option to study knowledge and practical skills separately or together. “There are two different ways that students can undertake the course full time,” explains Jaqueline. “The first is to start the course in July and sit centralised assessments in December. In this option, students study civil and criminal litigation from July to mid-September, then practical skills and advocacy are brought in from September onwards once they have covered the basics principles of litigation. Revision sessions will then run concurrently with skills training so that students are fully prepared for the assessments.

“The second option for full-time students is to start in September, following the more traditional academic timetable. Students who take this route study litigation, advocacy and practical skills simultaneously throughout the course, and sit the centralised assessments in April.”

Jaqueline continues: “We believe in teaching the practical skills alongside the litigation, so that even in our July-start course, students will have benefited from exposure to advocacy and other skills before they sit any assessment. This puts the litigation in context and makes it much easier to understand.”

Supplementary online learning is another important resource for students: “The virtual learning environment is a valuable resource that sets out required learning and reading in an engaging way. It also includes short videos and demonstrations. We provide an app, ‘Synap’, which enables students to practise the kind of multiple-choice questions that they will face in the litigation assessments. It also has a ‘space learning’ feature which tests students on the sorts of questions that they have failed previously to help them improve.”

More flexibility, more to think about

Current Bar courses offer one immediate positive for students – generally lower fees than the old BPTC system and the vital option to divide the Bar course into two parts, which eliminates some of the financial risk of pursuing this highly competitive career path.

But with a much wider range of choices in terms of course structure and fees, prospective barristers must spend time familiarising themselves with all the options to make an informed decision about where they study.

Olivia Partridge is the content producer at LawCareers.Net.