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Students demand law degree revamp

Students demand law degree revamp

Students tired of expensive, content-heavy and largely impractical law degrees are changing the way in which legal education is delivered around the world, according to the College of

Law Sydney.

The College of Law CEO, Neville Carter, made the comments in relation to the recent announcement that the UK College of Law, with which the Australian College is closely aligned, is introducing a two-year undergraduate law degree that will have a heavy focus on practical legal skills.

Speaking to Lawyers Weekly, Carter said he was not surprised by the UK College's decision to enter the undergraduate market as he believes the move is indicative of the change legal education will face in the years to come.

"We need to understand that the world of legal education is changing, that the global financial crisis world-wide has influenced, to a significant degree, the way intending lawyers, practicing lawyers and law firms are thinking about ... education for careers in law," he said.

"Once every decade or two we start to see these major changes, and unambiguously that's occurring now."

However, Carter said that although the two colleges are similar in many ways, the Australian College would not be taking a comparable path anytime soon.

"Will we be going down the track that we're seeing in England? No," he said.

"But does that track tell us something about what is happening to legal education? Yes. And will that have implications for this organisation as it moves forward over the next few years? Very likely."

According to Carter, the primary reason for not moving towards offering a similar two-year undergraduate qualification is that the UK College has always offered initial qualifications in law, especially for students of other disciplines wishing to switch to a law degree. However, the Australian College has always operated solely in the post-legal qualification space.

"The college in Australia has always been exclusively a provider of post-initial education," he said.

"It is difficult, at this point, to see why the college would become involved in an undergraduate market, already populated by [numerous] law schools, when there is a diverse range of programs available through the law school sector. The college's province in legal education is separate and well-defined ... and it would be inconsistent with our history and traditions."

But change is definitely coming, said Carter, and the Australian College needs to be ready for it.

"I predict that the demand for legal education ... which is more vocationally-oriented will grow. There will be less financial and relational tolerance in the law student market for heavy duty, scholarly curriculum content," he said.

"As those changes start to occur, the college needs to prepare and keep close to its law school stakeholders, to be talking about curriculum accords and how we can all best manage what we have to offer to ensure there's a good, coherent, strongly vocational, overall legal education system.

"So that might see us working with law schools at the undergraduate level in the future."

Claire Chaffey

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