The Bar Standards Board expects to collect almost £100,000 more in examination fees this year than in 2019, having forecast a significant rise in the number of students training to be barristers.
According to its latest business plan, the regulator expects income of £220,000 from examination fees in the 2020-21 financial year, 63% more than last year’s prediction. Meanwhile, income from the bar professional training course (BPTC) is expected to rise by £300,000 to £958,000.
The BSB said the figures incorporate an expected rise in the number of bar school students, in line with an upward trend seen over the past two years. It added that forecasts in previous years had been ‘very cautious’ and its latest financial predictions have been adjusted accordingly. However, it stressed that the budget was agreed before the impact of coronavirus could be assessed and ‘some impact on our income and on our costs will be inevitable’.
BSB figures shows that the annual number of bar school students has risen by almost 25% since a dip in 2015, to 1753 in 2018/19 (the latest data available). The City Law School has seen a 21% rise in bar school student numbers in the past three years, from 317 in 2016/17 to 385 in 2019/20.
The number of bar school graduates currently dwarfs the number of pupillages available in the UK, with roughly 2,500 people seeking 450 pupillages every year. According to BSB statistics from March 2019, just 41% of UK/EU domiciled bar school graduates who enrolled on the course between 2013-2017 have commenced a pupillage.
Students starting the bar course this autumn will pay less than in previous years.The University of Law has cut its London fees by almost a third, from £18,735 to £13,000, while students at the City Law School will pay £14,000 as opposed to £18,500. BPP will charge London students £13,870 rather than £19,000.
Fees were cut after the Inns of Court re-entered the training market offering a cheaper course. The Inns of Court College of Advocacy, which opens in September, has also imposed stringent academic requirements and a rigorous application process to stop unsuitable students wasting money on fees.