Only a few higher education institutions and other centres will be allowed to offer barrister training courses initially, according to informal discussions between the Office of Fair Trading and the Bar Council.
It is expected that between three and six institutions will be allowed to offer the Bar vocational course, but after three years it is likely that the market will be open to all institutions of a proven standard.
The Bar Council has been concerned that opening up the market should not lead to an explosion in student numbers. This happened when the Law Society allowed institutions to bid to teach its new legal practice course (LPC).
The Bar agreed to open up the market in 1994 following criticisms from the Office of Fair Trading about its restrictive entry procedure at the Inns of Court School of Law - currently the only provider. The ICSL takes 1,000 students annually, each paying Pounds 5,000, although many more apply. It plans to reduce to 700 when the market is opened up.
Chris Maguire, validation officer for the Bar Council, said that it was very relieved that there was to be a two or three-year start-up period. This was the normal period when a monopoly was broken, he said.