Suitors vie for Bristol law course

February 20, 1998

De Montfort University is bidding to take over Bristol University's faltering legal practice course.

The five-year-old course was expected to expand from 100 to 150 places and pay for itself within 15 years. But the Law Society last year called a moratorium on expanding such courses while it reviewed their future in the light of limited training contracts.

The moratorium has been lifted but Bristol's finances have already suffered. There is also said to be friction between those running the course and Bristol lawyers who want to concentrate on research. Bristol's law department dropped from 5 to 4 in last year's research assessment exercise.

Uncertainty meant it failed to fill its existing 100 places last year, a university spokeswoman said, "although the course is reckoned to be very good". The course will stay open until at least July next year.

Paulene Collins, Law Society chief training officer, said the legal practice board assessed both the quality of courses and their resources before deciding whether or not they should be allowed to grow. She said a number of universities were interested in taking on the Bristol course but the legal practice board would have to approve a decision.

The University of the West of England is another possible contender.

A De Montfort University spokesman said negotiations were at an early stage. It was proposing to run the course in Bristol along the same lines as a similar arrangement it had at Birmingham University.

De Montfort is also in negotiation with Cambridge University's board of continuing education and Anglia Polytechnic University to set up a legal practice course in the Cambridge area.

Last year, 8,166 people across the country took legal practice courses, of which 4,300 passed at their first attempt. They competed, with students successfully retaking the course, for 4,700 training contracts.

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