The number of graduates competing for pupillages rose by over 1,000 this year as the impact of Covid-19 on an already over-subscribed system begins to show.
According to Bar Council figures, 3,301 candidates applied for just 246 positions via the pupillage gateway in 2021. On average, applicants submitted around six application each. In 2020, 2,142 applicants competed for 237 pupillages.
The figures do not include applications submitted outside the pupillage gateway.
When the pandemic hit, many chambers delayed recruiting pupils due to the financial uncertainty. Earlier this year, the Bar Standards Board warned that chambers may scale back recruitment in the months ahead, after last year’s pupillage freeze drove the first year-on-year decrease in the total number of people at the bar since reports began five years ago.
Despite the discrepancy between the number of applicants and the number of jobs available, the Bar Standards Board expects to collect £1.35m from bar school fees this year – 40% more than last year’s budget figure.
In its 2021-2022 budget, the regulator predicts income of £1.35m from bar training, compared with £958,000 last year. In 2019, it budgeted training income of just £657,000.
A spokesperson for the BSB said the regulator took a 'cautious' approach to forecasting last year, as it was unsure what impact the reforms on bar training would have on student numbers. However, numbers were greater than expected and income was higher than predicted. ‘Now those reforms are in effect we can have greater confidence in the numbers of students, so we are able to be less conservative in our income projections.’