Around 70 higher education institutions are poised to set up an education law network, which will allow them to exchange information on specialist legal issues ranging from redundancy consultations and pension rights to intellectual property and university governance.
The network stems from a conference organised last autumn by Dennis Farrington, deputy secretary of Stirling University, whose book, The Law of Higher Education, was recently published by Butterworths.
"The cost to public funds of defending an action can be absolutely astronomical," Dr Farrington said. "With good information and good advice, institutions ought to be able to avoid litigation in the first place, and if litigation is still threatened, to respond in such a way that cost is kept to a minimum."
Only a handful of law firms had educational law departments, Dr Farrington said, and most universities used local firms, having to seek advice from experts in, for example, employment law, when necessary. Since many cases brought before the courts or industrial tribunals did not appear in media or law reports, institutions faced "reinventing the wheel".
The network aims to collect, comment on and disseminate information from member institutions on relevant cases, and produce a bulletin including articles from legal experts.