Academic lawyers fight for resources

June 27, 2003

Academic lawyers fear professional bodies will seek to shut under-resourced law departments rather than try to help them win more funds.

The Law Society and the Bar Council have produced a new framework for quality assurance in qualifying law degrees. Responses to the framework have to be in by the end of this month.

The framework says: "We believe that the case for us to prepare guidance to you on the resources that we consider should be provided to support a qualifying law degree has acquired added weight as a result of the government's white paper."

Nigel Bastin, head of education and training at the Bar Council, said: "We believe that the time has come to issue guidance on the resources necessary to meet the outcomes of the degree."

The guidance would not be prescriptive, he said, but a law department that could not meet them could lose its accreditation from the professional bodies.

This would in effect shut a department because it would not be able to offer a qualifying law degree. "We hope it would not come to that," Mr Bastin said.

Anthony Smith, professor of criminal and public laws at Cambridge University and chair of the Committee of Heads of University Law Schools, said: "Law is in the Higher Education Funding Council for England's lowest funding band. We want to move up a band. The increasing use of electronic resources means we are not a cheap subject to teach."

Professor Smith said that any concerns the professional bodies had about standards should be addressed in a spirit of partnership between the law schools and the professional bodies rather than through "an attritional and confrontational process".

The framework, Quality Assurance and Qualifying Law Degrees: The Way Forward, builds on a joint statement on the regulatory framework recently drawn up by the professional bodies and universities.

There were fears that the professional bodies would redraft the statement.

But new guidance on the curriculum, as well as resourcing, is also proposed.

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