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?
Ishan Kolhatkar is Director of Group Education Technologies at BPP Professional Education reporting to the Group CEO. He retains the title of Principal Lecturer in Law.
He was called to the Bar in 2002 and was tenant at 2 Hare Court where he prosecuted and defended serious crime, much of it IT related. He also appeared before the Tax Tribunal instructed by HMRC in missing trader frauds.
In 2011 he left the Bar (via a short spell at the NMC) to join the BPTC teaching team at BPP. After 5 happy years of teaching and leading several modules, including being the founding editor of the BPP Criminal Litigation manual, he moved to Education Services (Learning and Teaching).
In 2017 he became Deputy Dean of the wider Education Services function which spans L&T, Careers, Library, Widening Participation and Pro Bono. He has a particular interest in learning technology and is involved in strategic initiatives across the BPP group in this area. He remains a Principal Lecturer and teaches Advocacy and Criminal Litigation on the BPTC on the part-time weekend course. He is both an External Examiner and Standard Setter for the Bar Standards Board. Ishan was appointed to the Department for Education T-Panel (Law) in 2018. He is regularly asked to speak at conferences on legal education and technology. In relation to the latter, he is building a speciality in e-assessment.
During the autumn of 2019 he edited the Billable Hour Cookbook which is available to order here: billablehour.org/cookbook
Away from the law and teaching, he enjoys cooking and posting pictures of his food on twitter. Probably in equal measures.