BPP has taken potshots at its cheap new rival as it announced its new Barrister Training Course (BTC).
Legal education providers have been scrambling to rebuild their courses following the Bar Standard Board's review of training for barristers, which decided the existing method of qualifying via a BPTC should be scrapped and replaced with new Bar ‘training pathways’.
In May a new provider, the Council of the Inns of Court (ICCA), announced that its BTC would cost just £13,000 if approved by the BSB, compared to the £19,070 price tag on BPP's BPTC.
The ICCA also said its students wouldn't have to buy its whole BTC at once. Instead they will be able to pay £1,575 for part one of the course, which covers criminal and civil litigation, and can then decide whether they still like the idea of being a barrister before they shell out for part two.
This week BPP confirmed that its BTC will be divisible as well, and its students will have no obligation to purchase the second part of the course, either.
Its announcement also took aim at its cost effective new rival, emphasising that BPP’s part one, unlike the ICCA's, is not 'online only', and is therefore much better.
“We have made the conscious decision to not go down a Part 1 ‘teach yourself’ experience", said Mark Keith, lead designer of the BTC at at BPP University Law School. "Our highly capable students regularly tell us that they could not envisage passing the centralised assessments without the expert teaching of our Law School faculty."*
It was an uncharacteristically aggressive advertising campaign.
Because learning in person is more memorable, argued Keith, BPP's students will gain skill and knowledge "throughout the entire time that they study with us". Not like those ICCA mugs absorbing nothing on their laptop in a Costa.
BPP's focus on its classroom bona fides may also be an early justification for higher fees. But that won’t be known for a while, because BPP omitted to mention how much its BTC will cost and said it won't disclose fees until later this year.
Both the ICCA and BPP BTC are scheduled to commence in September 2020, pending BSB approval. Although the ICCA has a head start with the regulator, it may need all the time it can get. Completion of the Ashworth Centre, the underground bunker at Lincoln's Inn which is intended to house ICCA's part two students, was due to open last November. That date sailed by, as did the next deadline of Summer 2019. A spokeswoman for the ICCA told RollOnFriday the development is now expected to be finished "in a matter of weeks".
*Lady Hale might disagree, having qualified as a barrister partly via a correspondence course.