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Pupillages dominated by white, male BPTC graduates, suggest new stats

BSB hopes research will inform students before making a decision about their career chances

5 May 2016

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New figures examining the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) suggest that aspiring barristers are hindered by their gender and ethnicity when seeking pupillages.

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) has published updated statistical information on BPTC student performance, highlighting the difficulties of accessing the profession.

Some 4,760 students began the BPTC between 2012 and 2014, with just under three-quarters passing the course to date. Some 11 per cent of graduates achieved an 'Outstanding' grade.

However, in the academic years commencing in 2011-2013, only 35 per cent of all UK/EU graduates gained pupillage upon completing the professional qualification.

Of the cohorts covered by the report, 528 male graduates and 477 female graduates commenced their first six pupillage between 1 October 2011 and 31 March 2016.

The statistics showed that the number of women securing pupillage - 47 per cent - is now similar to that of men. However, more women enrol on the BPTC, suggesting men have a greater chance of getting a spot in chambers - the BSB said the Bar may need to increase its efforts at addressing unconscious gender bias.

The regulator's research also suggested that white graduates are more successful in securing pupillage than black, Asian, or minority ethnic (BAME) candidates, although the BSB says more research is needed to ascertain as to why this may be the case.

An analysis of the data found that white graduates obtain first six pupillage in greater proportion than those from BAME backgrounds.

It should be noted that the percentage of BAME graduates gaining pupillage may increase as more recent starters or part-time student s complete the course. The stats show a greater number of BAME students have yet to complete the BPTC in 2014 than their white counterparts.

In 2015, the regulator identified the lack of diversity in the profession as one of three strategic risk priorities on which it would focus its attention.

Overall, the statistics suggest that performance in the BPTC - rather than the results of an undergraduate degree - was a better guide to securing pupillages by graduates.

While having a first class or upper second degree from a 'well-regarded university' was a strong indicator of obtaining a pupillage, earning an 'outstanding' or 'very competent' grade an even stronger gauge of career prospects.

Commenting on the statistics, the BSB's director of education and training, Dr Simon Thornton-Wood, said: 'We are very aware that training to become a barrister can be expensive. We hope that the publication of today's statistics will help students considering a career at the Bar to make a fully informed decision about their chances of success.

'However, when considering these statistics, I urge people not to look at any one factor or chart in isolation. There are many variables in play, and we intend our report to be considered in its entirety.'

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