Hertfordshire allowed to recommence Bar training after suspension

Recruitment to vocational Bar course put on hold last year amid regulator’s concern over low pass rates

June 7, 2024
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A UK university that had its authorisation to recruit students to vocational Bar training suspended amid concern over low pass rates has been allowed to start recruiting again.

The Bar Standards Board (BSB) varied the University of Hertfordshire’s authorisation last August “in the interests of students”, requiring it to defer its next intake to January this year.

That enrolment did not go ahead, with the BSB only now allowing Hertfordshire to recommence course delivery from this September.

“The BSB has worked with the university over the last year to ensure the necessary improvements are being implemented, and we recognise the considerable work put in by the university to ensure that appropriate standards are met,” said the board, which regulates barristers in England and Wales.

“We will continue to closely monitor course delivery to ensure that the university is complying with the mandatory requirements in the authorisation framework and that students are properly supported.”

Hertfordshire was initially granted authorisation to deliver vocational Bar training in November 2021 and started its first course in September 2022.

The programme is one of three training components that must be completed before an individual can practice as a barrister.

But the BSB’s Annual Report on Bar Training 2023 notes that concerns had been raised by external examiners during their review of “the standard of the assessments drafted by the university”.

Particular concern was expressed over “low pass rates”, with the report revealing that only 29 per cent of Hertfordshire’s candidates had passed their first Bar training exam – the criminal litigation exam – compared with pass rates of upwards of 80 per cent at the majority of providers. Excluding resits, just 14 per cent of Hertfordshire students passed the exam first time around.

The BSB report says it had sought assurance that alternative arrangements were being put in place for students due to enrol for this academic year, including supporting their transfer to other courses or deferral to September 2024, plus “financial compensation where relevant”.

Hertfordshire said that it had made a range of improvements, including “a new course design with additional delivery time to prepare students for the centralised assessments”, and “intensive revision and dedicated pastoral support for students resitting assessments”.

“We have been working extremely hard and very closely with the Bar Standards Board to respond to their recommendations and ensure all necessary requirements are met. We are delighted these efforts have paid off, and look forward to reintroducing BSB accredited, vocational Bar training for our students from this September,” said Penny Carey, dean of Hertfordshire Law School.

In 2018, Hertfordshire became the first provider to be fined by the English higher education regulator, the Office for Students, for “persistently” overcharging students taking a franchised course in early years education at a partner college.


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