For those looking to become a Barrister or looking to work in the world of Law, the BPC is one of the most essential qualifications available in the United Kingdom today.
The BPC covers many subjects and disciplines and allows students to gain first-hand knowledge of what being a Barrister is like.
What is the BPC?
The BPC is the Bar Practice Course (sometimes known as the Bar Training Course or Bar Vocational Course). Previously, the qualification was known as the BPTC. If you want to become a barrister in England or Wales, then it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll need to sit the BPC or equivalent, like the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL).
It's a postgraduate qualification designed to build on your undergraduate law degree. The BPC is a classroom-based qualification. Most modules you will study are practical with more of a vocational focus than most other qualifications.
What will I study on the BPC?
The BPC does have a number of compulsory topics. These topics are:
- Civil litigation and evidence
- Conference skills
- Criminal litigation, evidence, and sentencing
- Dispute resolution
- Opinion writing
- Professional ethics
You can also complete two optional specialised subjects and 12 qualifying sessions with your own Inn of Court, which then leads to being called to the Bar - let’s look at this in more detail!
What is an Inn of Court?
The Inns of Court are professional associations for Barristers in England and Wales. A Barrister must belong to one of the four Inns, as they have both supervisory and disciplinary authority over members. These Inns provide you with dining facilities, libraries and professional accommodations, as well as a church or chapel.
The four Inns of Court in England and Wales are:
- The Honourable Society of Gray’s Inn
- The Honourable Society of the Inner Temple
- The Honourable Society of Lincoln’s Inn
- The Honourable Society of the Middle Temple
All of these four Inns are located close to each other in Central London. These Inns are some of the oldest institutions in the UK and have stood since the 12th and 13th centuries.
Barristers are free to choose which Inn they wish to belong to as each has its own awards, benefits and facilities, all of which will have a different impact on you and your career.
How long is the BPC?
It depends on how you want to study. If you take the course as a full-time qualification, it takes no more than a year.
Studying the course part-time will be different. If the full-time course is one year, it will likely take you around two years.
What are the entry requirements?
The BPC entry requirements depend on where you are applying. Not all institutions will have the same entry requirements, so be sure to check before you apply.
You will need one of the following:
- A qualifying Law degree at a 2:1 level or above.
- A non-Law degree at a 2:1 level or above and a Graduate Diploma in Law.
By the time the course begins, you should also be a member of one of the four Inns of Court. Though this is not essential, having extracurricular experience will greatly benefit your BPC application. You may also need to have sat the BCAT as well.
How much does the BPC cost?
The BPC course costs anywhere between £15,000 and £19,000. This depends on where you are studying the BPC and how you plan to study.
If you are required to have sat the BCAT beforehand, then you might need to pay a bit more. The BCAT costs £150, so you should factor that into costs too.
How to pay for the BPC
There are a series of scholarships that are offered to students. One of the many benefits of belonging to one of the four Inns of Court is that you can be provided with a scholarship or a Masters scholarship to help ease the financial burden. You can also find other scholarships on the Bar Council funding and scholarship page.
There will also be providers of the BPC that will offer scholarships or bursaries for students. However, these are dependent on their admissions policy and not all providers will necessarily offer them. Many students are eligible for financial aid to cover their BPC if it is combined with the LLM as the LLM is a more widely recognised course and is essential for a number of legal jobs.
How is the BPC assessed?
There are lots of different ways the BPC is assessed! The assessments change depending on what topics you are studying.
For example, civil litigation and criminal litigation are studied over two three-hour multiple-choice exams. These tests are administered by the Bar Standards Board. The other modules are assessed using written tests or through oral exams.
The test is graded either: outstanding, very competent, or competent.