Professor Becky Huxley-Binns

Professor Becky Huxley-Binns to lead national review into legal exam controversy

An independent review into difficulties faced by law students trying to sit a professional qualification will be led by University of Hull Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Education, Professor Becky Huxley-Binns.

Professor Huxley-Binns, who joined the University in January 2019 from the University of Law, will investigate the issue which affected students who sought to sit the BSB’s centralised Bar professional training course assessments in civil and criminal litigation and professional ethics in August 2020.

It has been reported that as many as a quarter of bar school examinations, sat during the summer, could not be completed due to technical faults.

Some students claimed they were temporarily locked out of the exams, with one being told he could not leave his desk during the three-hour assessment.

The review will cover all aspects of the delivery of the August 2020 exams, including the handling of reasonable adjustments and the governance of the BSB’s decision making.

Professor Huxley-Binns said: “I am honoured to have been asked to take on the independent review of the Bar Standards Board’s management of the August sittings of the Centralised Examinations.

“The challenges presented by the global pandemic are well-known, so my focus is on the decision to postpone the April exams to August, the oversight of the decisions and operation of the exams as well as the impact on candidates.

“I welcome the opportunity to hear from all parties affected by the difficulties experienced by candidates.”

Dr Sarabajaya Kumar, an expert in diversity and disability issues, will work with Professor Huxley-Binns on the review.

The review will report to the BSB’s Governance, Risk and Audit Committee, which is composed of independent non-executive directors, and will be undertaken independently of the BSB.

The final report will be published by the BSB.

Announcing the appointment, Mark Neale, Director General of the Bar Standards Board, said: “The final figures confirm that a majority of students were able to sit these exams but I can only repeat how sorry we are that so many students were unable to complete them.

“Clearly there are lessons to be learned by the Bar Standards Board and I am delighted that Professor Huxley-Binns will conduct this review for us and that she will have the expert advice of Dr Sarabajaya Kumar.

“The review will be independent of the BSB and I would encourage anyone who is interested in this issue and anyone who was affected by the difficulties experienced in August to contribute to the review.”

Professor Huxley-Binns was appointed Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Education) at the University of Hull in January 2019, having previously held the role of Vice-Provost, Academic Enhancement, at the University of Law.

Previously, she has held a number of academic posts in legal education including Co-Director of the Nottingham Law School Centre for Legal Education at Nottingham Trent University.

She is also a member of the UK Teaching Excellence Awards Advisory Panel and was Chair of the UK Quality Assurance Agency Law Subject Benchmark Statement Review Group 2015.

In support of the review, Professor Huxley-Binns has offered an open invitation to make representations. She will also hold a series of meetings to capture views on the exams.

Information about the review and how it will be conducted can be found here.

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