More than 200 bar school students have urged the regulator not to postpone exams, claiming that online, open-book assessments would be a better solution.

In an open letter to Mark Neale, director general of the Bar Standards Board, 204 students said delaying exams until August or beyond would have ‘significant long-term effects on students’. They argued ‘indeterminate’ delays would mean students having to sit exams alongside pupillage – ‘an unreasonable, excessive, and avoidable burden on pupils’ – and could make re-sits impossible. International students may not be in the country in the summer, they added. 

Earlier this week, the BSB announced that centralised exams covering civil litigation, criminal litigation and professional ethics, which were due to take place in April, have been cancelled. The next scheduled opportunity to take the centralised exams will be August.

Students suggested that exams be moved online and taken at home with access to textbooks. ‘Although the assessments might be thought to be slightly “easier” than in previous years, the BSB has to remember that these are unprecedented times, and previous year-groups have not had to deal with trying to study and revise in the midst of a global pandemic,’ they said.

They added that the General Medical Council has waived the requirement for final-year medical students to sit their exams; the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has suspended some of its regulatory requirements; and the Nursing & Midwifery Council is considering similar measures. ‘If these regulators, responsible for regulating those who quite literally have people’s lives in their hands, are able to agree alternative arrangements, the BSB must be able to do so too,’ they said. 

The Solicitors Regulation Authority told law schools this week that exams cannot move online in response to coronavirus. A spokesperson said supervised assessments must be maintained to ‘to ensure integrity and security’.