Funding your Bar professional training course (BPTC)
It's expensive to train as a barrister but there's a range of funding options available for the postgraduate part of your studies.
Legal training doesn't come cheap for aspiring barristers. After you've done an undergraduate degree or a conversion course (fees for these range from £1,750pt to £9,400) you still have to think about how to fund another obligatory year: the Bar professional training course (BPTC), formerly known as the Bar vocational course (BVC). Fees for the course are in the region of £11,850 to £16,885, on top of which you'll have to add your living expenses.
Most students support themselves through a combination of funding sources, which include Inns of Court scholarships, savings, earnings from part-time work, support from family or partners, and commercial loans. The BPTC packs a lot of learning into a short amount of time and the course can be less stressful if you have already sorted out your funding. Consider the following options in your planning.
Inns of Court awards for barristers
Between them, the Inns of Court award more than £4 million to help students with the cost of the conversion course year, the BPTC and pupillage. This may include subsidised housing arrangements, major scholarships and exhibitions, or awards that cover particular costs (for example admission or call fees).
Hardship funds for barristers
When you apply for the conversion course and BPTC, enquire about any available hardship funds or bursaries at your chosen institution(s). These are usually discretionary funds that help students who encounter unforeseen financial difficulties during the course of their studies. However, depending on the institution, there may also be bursaries that you can apply for in advance.
Advances on pupillage awards
A number of chambers will allow successful applicants to draw part of their pupillage award early, in order to help fund the BPTC year. Depending on the size of the pupillage award, the amount you can draw in advance may vary.
Professional and career development loans
You can borrow between £300 and £10,000 with a professional and career development loan, available through an agreement between the Skills Funding Agency and participating high street banks. The Skills Funding Agency will pay the interest on your loan while you're studying and for up to a month after you've finished training – after that you will repay the loan to the bank over an agreed period at a fixed rate of interest.
Professional studies loans
Professional studies loans are offered by high street banks. As a potentially high earner you will probably be viewed as a sound borrower so high street banks are often prepared to make loans with deferred repayment schedules.
Regrettably, local authority grants are few and far between these days but you might want to contact your local authority just in case. Other less conventional sources of funding can be investigated in your university or local public library – for example there are publications detailing grant-making trusts and charities.