How to get an Inns of Court BPTC Scholarship

How to get an Inns of Court BPTC Scholarship

Those law graduates looking to pursue the Bar, please see this for some useful tips

Warwick Law Careers Blog

Fees for the BPTC are a terrifying £16,500. It makes sense to try to land an Inns of Court Scholarship. I asked Alicia Jones currently studying with the benefit of two major scholarships for her advice on how to secure that prized scholarship. Here’s what she said.

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Costs Keep Soaring

Costs Keep Soaring

In today’s Guardian, there was an article concerning the spiralling costs of qualifying as a Barrister. Admittedly, the eye-popping figure of £127,000, that was quoted from the new Chair of the Bar Council, is based on the most circuitous route to the Bar: 1) non-law degree in London; 2) GDL in London and 3) BPTC in London, plus living expenses during that time. Apparently, a similar path followed outside of London will set students back 111,000 GBP.

Astronomical sums, but for a Bangladeshi/Commonwealth lawyer, perhaps the most noteworthy figure is that of “£19,000” for the BPTC. (At least for the BPTC, UK, EU and non-EU students are on equal footing, as they have to pay the same fees. However, UK & EU students get to pursue the course part-time while non-EU students don’t, as a result of strict immigration rules.)

To elaborate a little on this, I did a quick search through the established BPTC institutions – that I have provided links to on the left sidebar – and found that for the 2016-2017 year, the full time BPTC tuition fees are £19,070/£15,680 at BPP (London/Rest of England and Wales), £16,060 at Cardiff,  £18,000 at City Law School,  £14,480 at Manchester Metropolitan University, £13,050 at Northumbria University, £14,100 at Nottingham Trent University, £19,040/£15,480 at the University of Law (London/Rest of England and Wales)and £13,795 at UWE-Bristol.

Looking at these figures, it seems that fees have gone up by roughly 30% since I did the BPTC in 2011-2012. This means a Bangladeshi student will have to pay somewhere between 14.5 lac BDT and 21.1 lac BDT  as tuition and between 10 lac and 13 lac BDT as living expenses through the academic year (according to UK Visa & Immigration minimum requirements).

Many in England perceive the Bar to be an ‘elite’ profession, dominated by a moneyed Old Boys Network, but through Inn scholarships, institutional bursaries, pupillage top-up schemes and an increased percentage of women joining the Bar and being appointed QCs, the reality is gradually changing. (Though challenges do remain) But this shift is only happening in the UK.

For non-EU Bar aspirants, the financial barriers to entry are overwhelming. Only a privileged few can hope to study at one of the aforementioned institutions by paying full fees or benefiting from a partial fee reduction. Some might say – “So what? If they can’t afford it, they should study at their own Law Schools and get qualified there”.

The problem is, in countries like Bangladesh, the number of quality Law Schools can be counted on one hand. For a country of 162 million people, there simply aren’t enough seats to accommodate all deserving candidates. As a result, many choose alternate careers. At the same time, I believe there is a nascent demand for legal services that is not met, as there are disproportionately few lawyers compared to the size of the general population. How do we remedy this? How do we ensure a bright future for the next generation of lawyers?

Well, the ‘invisible hand’ has pointed to two options already. On the one hand we have affiliate, associate and registered centres of the University of London, BPP and Northumbria University in Bangladesh, which allows students to pursue UK LLB (Hons.) degrees at a fraction of the usual cost, without leaving their home town. However, it is widely assumed that students graduating from these programmes will eventually go on to pursue the BPTC in England. Thus, we come back to the aforementioned cost problem and its deterrent effect. Some meritorious students may try to become Advocates or in-house counsel, while others will leave the profession altogether.

On the other hand, a number of private universities have opened new law departments. While this is a positive development, as I feel that we should develop high-class, local law schools like India, but the problem is quality-management and regulatory oversight. In this case, I am not referring to academic output per se but rather to the variable standards of teaching at some of these institutions. Many law departments are understaffed, overly reliant on part-time lecturers and lack the quality controls and feedback loops needed to ensure high teaching performance.Thus, questions may arise as to the extent to which these LLB degrees are compliant with the requirements of the Advocateship examinations and the broader demands of a legal career. (See here for an example of a recent tussle between certain private university students and the UGC-Bar Council regarding the recognition of LLB degrees). Given that the tuition fees of private universities are not exactly cheap by Bangladeshi standards, students may legitimately question whether they should pursue such qualifications at all.

Till these issues are comprehensively addressed, aspiring Bangladeshi law students will have to choose between the spiralling costs of English law degrees and local law degrees that may not be recognised!  A truly precarious position to be in.

Morshed
the Hague

Kaplan Law School shuts down BPTC, refers students to University of Law

Kaplan Law School has decided to close down its Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC), effective from September, 2014. This decision will be especially hard to swallow for those prospective students who have already received offers to study (/read, if you’re posh) at Kaplan and have passed the BCAT.

It also comes as quite a surprise, since Kaplan is reputed to be the most rigorous of the BPTC providers. It was the first to pilot an admission test for the BPTC and in 2012, 55% of its graduates secured pupillage, substantially higher than the 25% national average. (Obviously, part of the reason why they have such a high success rate is because they only accept students who already have pupillage or are most likely to secure pupillage.)

Kaplan cites “that the economics of the course have forced this decision.” It’s hard to discern the inner workings of an institution from such a cryptic phrase but I would hazard a guess that they’ve been struggling to keep up with the other providers, which have continued to adapt year on year and ‘internationalize’. College of Law (now University of Law), City Law School, BPP,Newcastle Cardiff, Bristol and others have been able to tap into the lucrative international market, by drawing students not only to their BPTC but also to their LLB, LLM and GDL programs. For instance, just last month, BPP has begun offering an online LLB, similar to that offered by the University of London External System, in collaboration with the London College of Legal Studies (South) in Dhaka. Kaplan has not done so, with the ostensible objective of maintaining ‘high standards’ and producing graduates for the English legal profession. The financial losses may also be attributable to the fact that Kaplan froze its BPTC fees this year, while the London bases of BPP and ULaw hiked fees by 6 per cent and 5 per cent respectively.

Personally, I find it to be a sad state of affairs, symptomatic of the generally dreary outlook of England’s legal industry.

Morshed
Tashkent

A couple of weeks ago, on eBay, a woman listed an Ede & Ravenscroft barrister’s wig and gown for sale. “Condition: used,” she wrote. In the item description, she added: “After five years’ hard slog and penury, I (i.e. MasterCard) purchased this wig, gown and collar for about £650 at Ede and Rip-off. Reflecting the sorry state of my legal career, the wig was hardly worn, although a few hairs have been pulled out of place (as pictured), no doubt in frustration at the sorry state of life at the junior bar…If you… would like to try [the profession] out, the same can be achieved by running yourself about £35,000 into debt and arranging for someone to shout at you in public about cases you haven’t read because you only got about half the papers about 10 minutes ago. Cancel your social life… To get the full effect, spend copious amounts of time on trains and buses with periodic crying into laptop…I do not recommend you pursue a career at the bar unless you absolutely love the work so much that you are prepared to do it for nothing.”

Julia Llewellyn Smith in the Telegraph writes about the crises that the UK Criminal Bar is facing as a result of legal aid cuts, the empowerment of solicitor-advocates and the potential outsourcing of ‘legal aid contracts’ and criminal defence to the cheapest bidder; firms such as those set up by companies like Tesco or HGV hire firm Eddie Stobart. Such proposals, particularly outsourcing to the cheapest bidder, is deeply troubling since, as the Telegraph reports, “While until now defendants have been able to choose a lawyer, under the new proposals they will be assigned to the first available, regardless of whether they are experienced in that area of the law or not. Prosecutors, however, will be selected from a group of lawyers with expertise in the relevant area of the law, giving the prosecution an advantage from the outset. Firms will be paid the same whether they win or lose a case, meaning the pressure will be paramount to turn it around as quickly as possible, making it in their interests to persuade clients to plead guilty, whether that is in the client’s interest or not.”

One criticism, quoted in the article, echoes a sentiment that I hold about in-house counsel: “I don’t want to sound snobbish, maybe some of these people will be very good and try their best, but every barrister I know is worried that if they’re no longer self-employed, their motives will no longer be to try their best for their client, but to make a profit for their boss.

– Morshed,
Dhaka

Surviving Your First Advocacy Class: 5 tips

A blog, similar to mine, but from the perspective of a UK domestic student! Useful tips on Advocacy, the BPTC, etc. Do check it out.

– Morshed,
Dhaka

Confessions of a Bar student

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Know your case

I cannot stress enough the importance of ‘knowing your brief’. When you receive your papers for your very first advocacy class read them, and then read them again! Make sure you are familiar with the facts of the case. I would suggest making a chronology of the key dates and moments in the case to give you a clearer picture of your brief. Do not go to your advocacy session without reading the case! Nobody is expecting you to memorise the brief word for word, but you should know (1) what has happened, (2) who you are representing, (3) who are the key witnesses, (4) the evidence you have e.g. CCTV and (5) what you are asking the court for i.e. a bail application, plea in mitigation etc.

Know what you are going to say

Plan your submission and know the points you are going to make…

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A Helpful Article on Mini-Pupillages

Apologies for being AWOL for a few months but I have suddenly been swamped with work. I am on holiday now and will try to be a bit more regular.

This is an article that provides five top tips on making the most of mooting. They can be summarised as thus:

  1. Show enthusiasm for a career at the Bar during your mini-pupillage

  2. Be professional during your work experience at the Bar

  3. Don’t worry if you have limited legal knowledge

  4. Ask questions, but at the right time

  5. Take notes on your mini-pupillage

For more information on these 5 sub-headings, please read more at the Target Jobs website.

Morshed

Berlin

UKBA’s decision to suspend London Metropolitan University’s (LMU) license to sponsor overseas student visas

Background

Over the past few years, the UK government has launched a series of increasingly desperate measures to stem, what some in the UK perceive to be ‘a tide’ of immigrants flooding their shores. The latest measure, seemingly to such effect, was the revocation of the Highly Trusted Status (HTS) of London Metropolitan University in late August, which thereby stripped it of the right to authorise visas.

The UK Border Agency had conducted a probe into the University and had found that there were irregularities in 61% of the files randomly sampled.  The Home Office also said that they found “that 26 students out of a sample of 101 were studying at LMU even though they did not have leave to remain in the Britain”[1]. According to their investigation, the University exhibited “serious systematic failures” demonstrated by the fact that of the sample group, a quarter did not have permission to stay in the UK, a “significant proportion” did not have a good standard of English and that in more than half of the cases, there was no proof that they were turning up to lectures.[2]  This has been loudly criticised by student representatives like Liam Burns of the National Union of Students (NUS) who pointed out the negative impression such measures were creating among international students:

“Seeing international students as an easy target, successive government reforms have made international students feel unwelcome – from huge delays for in-country visa applications, to ever-rising visa application fees, and the scrapping of the post study work visa. The impact of such rhetoric is already being keenly felt – a recent National Union of Students (NUS) survey of more than 900 international students found that 40% of students would not recommend studying in the UK to a friend.

Indeed, ONS figures of migration released on Thursday show that while immigration into the UK has fallen by 36,000 this year, student visas have fallen by 75,000 – a drop of 21%. The news surrounding London Met’s licence cannot fail to compound this.”[3]

On the other hand, this measure by the UKBA and the Home Office has been lauded in the Telegraph blog, “London Metropolitan University and student visas: the Government is doing the right thing on immigration”[4], which lauded the Government on ‘doing the right thing’.

Personal Response to the Recent Developments

“The right thing”, seems like an odious thing to say. My first impulse was one that was possibly shared by many other readers. I was shocked and angry, as I considered the alarming situation these students find themselves in; just before the start of the academic year and after having paid large tuition fees. The fact that many of them work, is not simply because they’ve gone to the UK for that purpose but often because they need to do something to cover their living costs while living in one of the most expensive cities on Earth! By considering such ‘immigrants’ simply as leeches, seeking to send remittances back home, the government and the Telegraph is callously disregarding the intent of the vast majority to obtain an academic degree from what is, till now, a country still respected for its higher education. The Telegraph article – the link to which is provided above – even claims that 1 in 7 students do not attend lectures in private colleges. Read that again, private colleges. That is really not that large a number is it, especially compared to the number of international students that arrive in total each year?

The group that actively abuses the visa process to become immigrants is still in a minority and should not provide the benchmark by which all international students are measured. Unfortunately, such UK government action and the portrayal of overseas students in the Telegraph, the Daily Mail etc perpetuates such an unfair image. I fear that the atmosphere generated from such actions will breed ill will between domestic and overseas students which will in turn jeopardize the academics of those who are earnestly pursuing higher academic qualifications. This concern seems to be shared with Guardian columnist Elspeth Jones:

“The revoking of LMU’s licence for international students will have a number of far-reaching consequences, not least financial. What looks like a political decision, or even scapegoating of LMU to satisfy right-wing immigration rage, will have unforeseen consequences across the university and for the individual students within it.

Coming just days before the start of term, the impact on incoming students will be considerable. Some will have worked hard to secure funding and support to achieve their dream of studying abroad, others will have packed and sent things ahead, some may even have arrived in the UK ready for the start of term. As for those already on courses, their search for another university will be complicated by the ease or difficulty with which existing credits are recognised by an equivalent course in a university that is still accepting applications.”[5]

She goes on to add that such measures will detrimentally impact the diversity of UK Universities as well as prevent UK domestic students from breaking out of their ‘parochial worldview’.

To deal with this crisis, the Universities Minister has set up a task force to find places for ‘legitimate students’. My immediate impression was that the task force would have difficulty addressing the following issues:

a) establishing what a ‘legitimate student’ is and the standards that need to be met to qualify as the aforementioned,

b) undertaking such an evaluation of two thousand students in a period between 30 days from the end of August (around when the academic year will start and fresh enrolment will conclude) and 60 days (when the UKBA is ordered to deport them), and

c) finding University seats for those who are considered legitimate, in that same space of time. They’re definitely faced with an up-hill task given the fact that such a decision was made at a late juncture and as there are not many Universities that will take on transfer students from lower ranked Universities.

Furthermore, I am concerned about whether this will set a precedent for other institutions and universities. This is what the head of the London Metropolitan University said to the Guardian:

“The loss of ability to authorise visas “sends a fear through many universities in a way that I think is going to be detrimental to their confidence as higher education institutions, but also the projection of brand UK abroad.”

He said responses from other universities included “commiseration, worry, anger, but also a feeling of probably, ‘well thank God it wasn’t us this time’. I think that shows the nervousness that many in the sector have, especially at a time when clearly government policy is changing but also when the [UKBA] guidelines have been changing very rapidly.”

Giles also said that the future of the university, which has 30,000 students, is at risk because the punishment for its immigration failures will leave a £30m hole in its annual budget, a fifth of the total.”[6]

Legal Implications

It seems that my concerns over the suspension of LMU’s license have been addressed in the Administrative Division of the High Court as of 21 September 2012. Mr Justice Irwin heard representations from Richard Gordon QC, Counsel for LMU and Lisa Giovannetti QC, Counsel for the Home Office, after the University made the decision to contest the suspension of their license.

The former argued that there was a strong case that the UKBA acted unlawfully as “the UKBA can’t point to any [current] student who is in breach of immigration control requirements”[7] and as such, this measure is ‘draconian’ in severity. The latter contended that the University knew that their system did not comply with sponsorship requirements and though there were attempts to redress this, it was ineffective.

Upon hearing their submissions, the Honourable Judge decided to grant an interim injunction to allow more than a 1,000 internatonal students at LMU to start their courses on Monday, 24 September, while waiting for the University to judicially review the Secretary of State for the Home Department’s (SSHD) decision. The granting of this injunction was in line with an earlier decision made in regard to City Banking College Ltd. on 24 July 2012 in the case The Queen on the Application of City Banking College-and- Secretary of State for Home Department [2012] EWCH 33. The difference between that case and the present one is that in the former, the students of City Banking College Ltd. did not have to look for another college or leave the UK within a 60 day time frame. While the University was not allowed to recruit further overseas students, they were still allowed to retain their Tier 4 status, which means that it will be easier for it obtain a new Tier 4 status and recruit future students with minimal damage to the institution’s reputation.[8]

LMU, in contrast, have had their Tier 4 status revoked[9] and has, according to the UKBA, failed to have its sponsor status restored. They have allowed ‘genuine students’ to remain in the UK until the end of the course or the end of the academic year, whichever is sooner[10], but ‘non-genuine students’ are not allowed to stay on in the UK.[11]

I, along with many LMU students and their concerned families, will be waiting anxiously to see the outcome of this judicial review process. I hope that at the very least, it will be in line with the decision in City Banking College case.


[1] A Travis, “London Metropolitan University wins reprieve in student visa row” The Guardian [Available online at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/sep/21/london-metropolitan-university-reprieve-student-visa?CMP=twt_fd] [Accessed on 24 September 2012]

[2] Telegraph Reporters, “London Met banned from issuing visas to foreign students” The Telegraph [Available online at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/universityeducation/9508115/London-Met-banned-from-issuing-visas-to-foreign-students.html%5D [Accessed on 30 August 2012]

[3] L Burns, “London Met decision: ill-judged, badly timed and poorly executed” The Guardian on Facebook [Available online at: http://apps.facebook.com/theguardian/commentisfree/2012/aug/31/london-met-international-students?fb_ref=fb_opengraph,type:read,user:ICOu9Qqcb5mFyfmjpPXBarIfD7s&fb_source=other_multiline&fb_action_types=news.reads] [Accessed on 30 August 2012]

[4] E West, “London Metropolitan University and student visas: the Government is doing the right thing on immigration” The Telegraph (Blog) [Available online at: http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/edwest/100178565/student-visas-the-government-continues-to-do-the-right-thing-over-immigration/%5D [Accessed on 30 August 2012]

[5] E Jones, “London Met and Paralympics 2012: a tale of hypocrisy in international policy” The Guardian on Facebook [Available online at: http://apps.facebook.com/theguardian/higher-education-network/blog/2012/aug/30/london-met-paralympics-opening-ceremony?fb_ref=fb_opengraph,type:read,user:ICOu9Qqcb5mFyfmjpPXBarIfD7s&fb_source=other_multiline&fb_action_types=news.reads][Accessed on 30 August 2012]

[6] J Meikle and S Malik, “Taskforce to help London Met international students” The Guardian on Facebook [Available online at: http://apps.facebook.com/theguardian/p/3a4ny] [Accessed on 30 August 2012]

[7] A Travis, “London Metropolitan University wins reprieve in student visa row” The Guardian [Available online at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/sep/21/london-metropolitan-university-reprieve-student-visa?CMP=twt_fd] [Accessed on 24 September 2012]

[8] Nabila Mullick, (24 September 2012) The Queen on the Application of City Banking College-and- Secretary of State for Home Department [2012] EWCH 33, No. 5 Chambers News Publications [Available online at: http://www.no5.com/news-publications/publications/nabila-mallick–the-queen-on-the-application-of-city-banking-college-and–secretary-of-state-for-home-department-[2012]-ewch-33] [Accessed on 10.10.2012]

[9] UKBA (30 August 2012) “London Metropolitan University’s licence to sponsor students is withdrawn”, UK Border Agency Latest News and Updates, [Available online at: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/newsarticles/2012/august/28-LMU-revoked1] [Accessed on 10.10.2012]

[10] UKBA (28 August 2012) “Guidance for international students sponsored by London Metropolitan University”, UK Border Agency, [Available online at: http://www.ukba.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/newsfragments/72-LMU-student-page] [Accessed on 10.10.2012]

[11] Gherson [26 September 2012] “London Metropolitan University granted permission to apply for judicial review”, Gherson News & Articles, [Available online at: http://www.gherson.com/news-articles/london-met-judicial-review-3484/] [Accessed on 10.10.2012]

Morshed
Dhaka