Cash shortage blamed for legal research institute's woes

June 11, 1999

One of Europe's leading institutes of legal research is facing "gradual decline" unless it can raise more funds, a report warns.

A review committee examining the work of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, set up in 1947 by the University of London, says the body desperately needs to raise a "substantial" capital sum for another building and must augment its income "considerably".

Although the report was commissioned by the institute, its findings have rankled with some staff and research students, who have taken exception to criticisms over funding and the quality of research.

The institute has expanded in the past decade into a centre for postgraduate students, scholars, judges and practising lawyers.

Former director Terence Daintith and his successor, current director Barry Rider, are credited with transforming it.

The directorship of Professor Rider, an expert in the study of white-collar crime and a controversial figure among some London University academics, is up for renewal next year. He is known to want to remain, and has considerable backing, but the report could prove an obstacle.

The review committee, led by Oxford University's Roy Goode, found that despite the institute's Pounds 2.4 million income, the division of funds left it with "limited room for manoeuvre for non-library activities".

It said the research institute's attempt to undertake serious research was "bedevilled" by its "excessive dependence on short-term research appointments". It added: "We regard it as wholly unacceptable that in an institute of the stature of the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies 15 out of 17 research posts are held on one-year contracts."

The committee was concerned about the dominance of "soft" money - income from research grants - as a source of funding. It called for a minimum complement of 15 research staff at any one time.

It went on to say: "It is evident from the comments we have received that the institute has a considerable way to go in fulfilling a national role as a facilitator of legal research."

The library - which is one of the largest of its kind in Europe - was described in the report as cramped and with inadequate computer access.

Professor Rider, under whose directorship the number of research posts leapt from one and a half to 17 and the number of PhD students from two to 47, said that he welcomed the "positive" report.

But he said the cost of creating the recommended number of new posts would be about Pounds 1.3 million a year. He said his priority was the new building and extending the library.

On the issue of short-term research contracts, Professor Rider said that many research fellows were still in the first year of their appointments. Others were specifically involved in one-year projects.

"The review committee making its recommendations has not necessarily taken into account that we are in a state of transition and therefore a moving target," he said.

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