Law schools face student shortage

March 25, 2005

Law schools could face an unprecedented battle to attract entrants, with new universities particularly vulnerable, a law expert has warned.

Phil Harris, professor of legal education at Sheffield Hallam University, made the prediction when revealing the results of a UK law schools survey during the annual conference of the Association of Law Teachers at Edinburgh University this week.

The survey, which attracted a 71 per cent response rate from law schools, shows a 25 per cent drop in applications over nine years.

The average number of applicants for full-time single honours courses fell from 12.8 to 7.3 between 1994-95 and 2002-03. This is especially marked in new universities, which in 2002-03 had 4.6 applicants for every place, compared with 9.6 in old universities.

Over the same period, the number of law places increased by 25 per cent.

Professor Harris said this suggested that supply and demand for courses were approaching an equilibrium.

"With the onset of top-up fees, there is no room for complacency," he said.

"It will be interesting to see what kind of answer we give to students and their parents when they ask, 'Why should I come to you?'."

* April Stroud, senior law lecturer at Southampton Institute, has won the ALT's law teacher of the year competition.

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