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Only 10% of new BPTC graduates found pupillage due to Covid

MacLeod: Working with profession to ensure pupillages remain available

Only 10% of students who successfully completed the Bar professional training course (BPTC) last year had started a pupillage by the end of March 2021, according to new figures from the Bar Standards Board (BSB).

They also showed once more [1] how ethnic minority BPTC graduates were less significantly likely to secure pupillages than White graduates with the same BPTC and degree grades.

The BSB said that although “it can take some time for more recent graduates to gain pupillage”, it appeared that the impact of Covid-19 “has been relatively large” on the proportion of BPTC graduates from the last two years managing to secure a pupillage.

The figures, for the final year of BPTC, showed that by the end of March 2021, only 10% of BPTC graduates based in the UK or EU had commenced a pupillage, compared to 23% of the 2018/19 cohort who had found a pupillage by the end of March 2020.

The BSB said this reflected a fall of more than a third (35%) in pupillage places offered in the 2020 calendar year.

The problems with students taking the BPTC last year are well documented [2] and as a result, far fewer completed it.

Just over half (52%) of full-time students based in the UK or EU who enrolled on the course in 2019/20 had passed the exam by May this year – around 18 points lower than the comparative figure for those enrolling in 2018/19.

The BSB said the likelihood of gaining a pupillage varied widely by “degree class and BPTC overall grade in particular, with ethnicity and first degree institution also appearing to be influencing factors”.

Looking at the progress of students enrolled between 2015 and 2019, the regulator said just under 77% of White students with an outstanding BPTC grade and first-class university degree found pupillages and 64.5% of similarly qualified ethnic minority students.

The gap between White and minority graduates widened when they were graded ‘very competent’ in the BPTC on top of an upper second-class degree − 41% found a pupillage compared to 23%.

The gap was even wider for ‘very competent’ BPTC graduates with a 2:2 – over 33% of White students had pupillage compared to 12.5% of minority graduates.

The proportion of students based in the UK and Europe who enrolled on the BPTC course in 2019/20 from ethnic minority backgrounds fell last year from 40% to 35%, but the number declaring a disability rose by seven points to 21%.

Almost six in ten of UK/EU students (59%) were female.

Nearly half of students (46%) who enrolled on the BPTC in 2019-20 were based outside the UK and EU, a similar proportion to the year before.

Ewen MacLeod, BSB director of strategy and policy, commented: “This year’s report enables us to see clearly the impact which the health emergency had on those students starting a BPTC in 2019.

“We continue to work closely with the profession to make sure pupillage places remain available as the country recovers from the effects of lockdown.”