Jobwatch: Legal Aid boosts staff

February 6, 2004

Grants from an educational trust set up by City solicitors are enabling university law schools in the UK to compete for lecturers to shore up their faculties. Pat Leon reports

At least three English universities are competing for law lecturers this week to fill posts established with the help of an educational trust set up to combat government underfunding.

Bristol, Exeter and Surrey universities were successful bidders for a portion of the £500,000 donated annually by a dozen top London law firms to the City Solicitors' Educational Trust to shore up faculties and departments. The trust earmarks some 85 per cent of the money for teaching "core" subjects, such as contract, tort, land law, as well as the latest European, environmental and human-rights law.

Michael Maunsell, trust administrator, said: "We are not prescriptive but we have set criteria on what we are prepared to consider for funding. This year there is no particular trend. We mostly fund people, but also resources, such as libraries, computers and other technology."

About half of the 70 or so UK universities and colleges that give qualifying law degrees apply for grants. Since 1989, grants totalling just under £6 million have been made to 55 institutions to part-fund more than 100 lecturers and 17 other support staff for two or three years.

Bristol has received a grant for the past eight years. Malcolm Evans, professor of public international law, that this year's money will be used to maintain a healthy staff-student ratio. "We still teach in small groups and it's a tradition we want to maintain," he adds.

Elsewhere in the UK, Glasgow University is advertising for a lecturer and a teaching assistant in public international law and Stirling University for a general law lecturer, preferably with a research publications record.

Fraser Davidson, Glasgow's head of department, said: "Posts in several Scottish law schools are partly or wholly supported by benefactors. In recent times, such benefactors tended to be individual law firms. I know that posts in many English law schools are similarly supported."

In Northern Ireland, Ulster University is inviting applications for two research studentships in the Transitional Justice Institute, created with a £4 million investment.

And for those whose sights are set higher and on more distant horizons, Waikato University Law School in New Zealand is searching for a dean to replace Scott Davidson, former director of Hull University Law School, UK, who takes over as pro vice-chancellor at the University of Canterbury on February 16.

Davidson says: "There is nothing equivalent to the solicitors' trust in New Zealand. Funding is based almost exclusively on government subvention plus student fees. There is research support on a competitive basis from the NZ Law Foundation, but that is about as far as it goes."

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