Which flavour BPTC should I take? (Is an integrated LLM right for me?)

If you’re taking the BPTC in September this year, you’ll notice that every provider now offers the professional course within a Masters in Law (LLM) programme.  The reason for this change is because an LLM rather than the plain vanilla (hence the picture) BPTC or BPTC plus LLM top-up, allows most domestic students to borrow up to £10,000 from the Government at Student Loans rates and terms.  An overview and eligibility criteria can be found here: Government postgraduate loan overview and criteria

Is this new LLM right for you?  Whether you’re considering the ‘vanilla’ BPTC vs an integrated LLM, this post can help you make your choice.

I thought all providers let you convert your BPTC into an LLM?

They do, but this is not the same thing.  Let’s compare the three:

The plain BPTC: 12 modules in 9 months full-time or 21 months part-time.  Completion gave you 120/150 academic credits depending on the provider.

A top-up LLM: After taking and passing the BPTC, you could take a taught course/write a dissertation (depending on the provider) to gain the 30/60 credits you needed to hit 180 and be awarded an LLM.  It wasn’t compulsory and you had up to 5 years to take the additional modules.

This new integrated LLM: You are signing up to take 180 credits from the outset.  120/150 of those are the 12 BPTC modules and the remaining 30/60 comprise taught courses and/or a dissertation depending on the provider.

30/60 extra credits doesn’t sound like much.  It won’t affect me, will it?

Over the years, my students have reported differing levels of perceived rigour when taking the BPTC but almost without exception, they agreed that doing the course properly is time consuming and they had little to spare.  Depending on when you have to take those extra credits, it may affect your ability to complete the BPTC modules.

Wouldn’t I be silly to turn down £10,000 from the Government?

Two important points here: If it affects your ability to pass the course then you need to consider carefully whether it’s still the best funding option.  Secondly, while it is a loan with a favourable interest rate and favourable repayment terms in that you don’t have to make repayments until you earn over a certain level, it is still a loan and not a gift.  You’ll still need to pay it back.

4 factors to help you choose

Soon after you accept your place on the BPTC, your provider will want to know which ‘flavour’ you want, the plain vanilla course or the integrated LLM.  Whether you’ve accepted an offer at a provider or are trying to decide where to go, here’s what I suggest you consider.

Do I have a choice of modules for LLM part of the course?

Is the LLM aspect a single compulsory module or is there a choice of modules?  If there is a choice, is it a mix of taught courses and a dissertation or just one or the other?  If one of the modules is a clinic/pro bono, are the numbers capped?  The right answer to these questions depends on your educational preferences.  It may help determine which provider to go to, or if you have already chosen, whether to enrol on the integrated LLM or not

When do you have to take the additional modules?  Is there a choice?

Do you have to take the additional LLM modules alongside the BPTC modules?  If you’re worried that the increased workload might affect your ability to pass the course, you should be slow to select a provider that doesn’t have an option to do the additional modules at the end of the 12 BPTC modules.  Look at the timescales and how it might affect the rest of the course.

Will it affect your pupillage start date?

(Note, this is only an issue if you have pupillage to start in the September following the end of your BPTC).  To start your 1st six pupillage, you must have passed the BPTC.  Prior to your 2nd six, you must have been called to the bar.  Speak to providers about timescales to see when you would be deemed to have passed the BPTC.

Is there an exit award?

In the unfortunate event that you:

(i) fail one or more parts of the LLM (and have run out of resits) but pass all 12 BPTC modules will the provider deem you to have passed the BPTC or failed the entire programme?

(ii) fail one or more modules on the BPTC (and have run out of resits) but pass the LLM modules and some of the BPTC, will you be provided with an exit award or be deemed to have failed the whole programme?

Point (i) is probably the greater concern.  If you pass the BPTC but not part of the LLM, will your provider certify you ask having passed the BPTC?  Don’t assume they will.  Some have been explicit in saying that if you sign up to this integrated LLM, it’s all or nothing.

 

This is a new and exciting change to the professional exams but one that should be approached with care.  If you’re still unsure about the course and/or where to take it, have a look at my post here: Choosing a BPTC provider and is the course for me?

If you’ve decided to take the course then perhaps look at: Thinking like a lawyer and 5 tips for prospective BPTC students

Ishan Kolhatkar is currently Teaching Enhancement Manager at BPP University in their Learning & Teaching Team.
He was called to the Bar in 2002. He undertook pupillage and was a tenant at 2 Hare Court. Following a short spell at the Nursing & Midwifery Council he joined BPP Law School in 2011 as a tutor on the Bar Professional Training Course and the Bar Transfer Test. He previously led the Criminal Litigation, Evidence & Sentencing module and also taught Advocacy, Professional Ethics, Advanced Criminal Litigation and Professional Discipline on the BPTC. He is an ATC accredited advocacy trainer. From September 2013-2016 he was appointed by the Bar Standards Board to be the External Examiner for Advocacy at Manchester Metropolitan University. He is now the External Examiner for Advanced Criminal Litigation at several BPTC providers and a Standard Setter for the CEB Crime paper.
He has an interest in online learning in terms of the technology, delivery and the blend with face-to-face teaching. Away from education he enjoys cooking and eating good food.