15 September 2019

New research published to help inform Future Bar Training decisions

Last month we published two new pieces of research that are intended to provide a qualitative and quantitative evidence base to inform our current decision-making about the future training of barristers.  

The two reports, which are published with a covering statement, offer important insights into current issues in the education and training system for qualification as a barrister.

These reports will help us to address the issues highlighted and to design further data collection and research. 

The first report is a quantitative analysis of high level, aggregate data in relation to the performance of students on the compulsory Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) and the extent to which UK based BPTC graduates succeed in progressing to the final stage of training, known as pupillage. The research was conducted by the BSB's in-house team and has been subjected to two separate independent peer review processes.

The findings in this research indicate that BME students achieve lower average BPTC module scores, and that BME students and candidates with lower socio-economic status are less successful in obtaining pupillage than white students with similar prior educational attainment. Gender and disability, however, do not have a significant predictive effect once other variables are controlled for.

The second report is a qualitative analysis commissioned from NatCen Social Research and was designed to explore perceptions of barriers to participation and success in the BPTC, in training provided by the Inns of Court and in pupillage. The study particularly focused on women, BME students and those from lower socio-economic groups. The research was based on 25 interviews with BPTC students and 25 interviews with pupillage applicants, both successful and unsuccessful.

The study found that four broad themes underpinned participants' perceptions and experiences of the BPTC, the pupillage application process, and their interaction with the Inns of Court:

  • Participants tended to see the Bar as the preserve of a "privileged elite";
  • They felt there was a lack of access to accurate information about training for the Bar;
  • The financial costs of undertaking the training and access to funding were an important factor; and
  • There was thought to be a need for Higher Education Institutions, and other bodies such as ours, to provide better information and support.


We hope that the analysis of further data and research will help providers of education and training to work with us towards the elimination of any unfairness and to help to maintain a strong, independent and diverse profession, in the public interest.