Joint law course hits buffers

April 16, 1999

Dons have shelved plans to run a legal practice course in the University of Cambridge's law faculty after strong opposition to the idea, writes Harriet Swain.

Kevin Gray, former chairman of the faculty, resigned last month following responses to a faculty-wide consultation that he believed "descended to the level of personal abuse".

The original proposals suggested Cambridge should make space for about 120 students on a legal practice course run in collaboration with Anglia Polytechnic University. This would have brought the faculty an estimated Pounds 130,000 a year.

But academics were divided over the scheme, with some questioning whether Cambridge could afford to give up space to an outside body. Responding to the consultation, John Baker, a QC and professor of law, wrote: "The scheme looks awfully like selling our good name and reputation in order to make money."

Pippa Rogerson, director of studies in law, said if City firms paid for the course they would have too much control over it.

But Professor Gray, who supported the idea, wrote to members saying the tone of debate had intimidated others from expressing enthusiasm. He added:

"Free and open discussion of the issue seems, for the moment, impossible."

A spokesman for the faculty said: "The board, after consultation within the faculty, took the view that it would be impracticable to run a legal practice course within the faculty building. The board nevertheless agreed to examine further the issue of legal practice course provision and, in particular, a possible collaboration with APU."

This will be discussed at a meeting next week. A committee has also been set up to tackle the issue.

Tony Smith, new chairman of the faculty, said he was "neutral" over the issue but took the view that the faculty would not do anything unless it did it "extremely well". He denied Professor Gray's resignation was a result of disagreements over the course. Professor Gray could not be contacted.

John White, head of law at APU's Chelmsford campus, said he would be disappointed if the law faculty decided not to allow use of its premises for the course but that discussions would continue.

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