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Trend toward post-graduate study sees makeover for College of Law

Trend toward post-graduate study sees makeover for College of Law

A global trend towards post-graduate legal qualifications has inspired a significant re-positioning of Australia's largest practical legal training provider.

A global trend towards post-graduate legal qualifications has inspired a significant re-positioning of Australia's largest practical legal training provider.

AT THE HELM: Neville Carter steps into a new role as chief executive of TCOL
According to the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations, there are more than 6000 people currently studying post-graduate legal degrees across the country.

It's a figure that has risen substantially in recent years, as legal professionals seek out further qualifications in order to bolster their skills in a specific area of practice and build up the academic side of their CV.

Now, the College of Law wants a piece of such change by becoming a Higher Education Provider themselves and further extending its range of recognised degrees and diplomas for ongoing legal training.

And, after announcing it will soon be a wholly independent education institution after becoming a public company last month, it is well on the way to doing just that.

To now be known as TCOL Ltd (and renamed College of Law Limited once the current college is wound-up), the new company includes legal stakeholders across Australia and New Zealand.

In line with the move, Neville Carter's job title has changed from managing director of the College of Law to CEO of TCOL.

He says that diversifying the College's offering will answer to an emerging desire from lawyers looking for concrete credentials in higher learning.

"It's fascinating, and it seems to have happened suddenly," he says. "For a very long time ... the legal profession seemed not to show the same interest as some other professions and general industry in acquiring higher credentials."

But, as evidenced by the growing number of people exploring post-graduate legal education, Carter believes the interest levels of young lawyers in higher education are shifting significantly.

"In recent years - say the last five to eight years - there's been clear evidence that young professionals want credentials to evidence their studies and to advance their careers," he says.

Neville believes the change reflects a trend in higher education worldwide. "As I speak to young people, they're clear-eyed in terms of where they want to go career wise. They see pathways to explore, and formal education and credentials as implicit in these pathways."

Such a shift has presented significant new opportunities for the College, with Carter citing the need to mould their existing "ten point" continuing legal education platform into solid streams of study with definitive credentials.

It's also an opportunity for the College to move "beyond the gateway" to deliver credentialed programs like master degrees to legal practitioners. "We've been gateway trainers for a long time offering graduate diplomas and other qualifications for all manner of first licence - for becoming a lawyer in NSW and other states and licenses for various kinds of business credentials," he says.

The evolution of the College will be ongoing, but Neville says the board is prepared to make the necessary investment. "We're prepared to lead as much as follow," he says. "My board's happy to develop twenty year investment programs. This is about providing better education to the profession."

That board also carries some significant hitters from the profession, all appointed last month at the new company's first General Meeting. The board includes Professor Gillian Triggs, faculty of law dean at the University of Sydney, former Law Council of Australia president Glenn Ferguson and NSW Law Society CEO, Michael Tidball.

NSW Law Society president Stuart Westgarth told the General Meeting last month that the Society will continue to provide support and input into the future direction of TCOL.

TCOL's initial new offerings to the profession include their four Master in Applied Law offerings across family law, commercial litigation, wills and estate and in-house practice. This suite will be followed up with the announcement of further courses in the short-term future.

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