Category Archives: Law Degrees

Brexit and Law Schools – my thoughts

I attended an event at Northumbria University today. It was titled Brexit and the Law School and I was asked to contribute some thoughts on ‘Learning, Teaching and the University: The Changing Shape of the University Community’. Below is a summary of my brief talk. I’ll try and summarise the rest of the day’s discussion in another post

  1. Law Schools are, in my view, distinct little communities within the wider university community, within the wider local, regional and national communities and, again in my view, communities are shaped by those who inhabit them. Therefore, to understand the impact of Brexit on Law Schools we need to understand how Brexit might change the make-up of the Law School and university communities and what that change might mean on the ground
  2. So how will the make-up of Law School and University inhabits change post Brexit? We don’t know!
  3. Here’s what we do know
  • UCAS figures show that applications from UK students for Law Courses for 2017 entry are up by 7% whereas applications from EU students are down 3%
  • UCAS figures also show that applications from UK students across the board for 2017 entry are down by 4%, whereas applications from EU students are down by 6%
  • The proportion of EU students studying law is relatively small when compared to the proportion of EU students studying some other subjects
  • The number and proportion of EU students varies quite dramatically between institutions
  • There is lots of anecdotal evidence that EU national academic staff are considering or actively looking to leave the UK and work elsewhere in Europe or the rest of the world
  • There is also anecdotal evidence of EU nationals discounting the UK as a possible destination for work
  • However there is also anecdotal evidence of EU national colleagues making plans to stay in the UK long term and also of some recruitment of EU national staff since the referendum
  • The UCU survey about academics’ views on Brexit suggests that 76% of non-UK national academics are considering leaving the UK. That’s pretty damning. However, I would urge caution over that figure because ‘considering’ is very different from ‘planning to’ and the considering may be the result of quite significant uncertainty. Thing may change as we get clarification on what rights exactly will be available to our EU colleagues

4. This leads me on to what these figures don’t tell us

  • Whether they are a trend or a blip. The applications for Law from EU nationals are still higher in number than for the 3 years running up to 2016 so was 2016 just a bumper year and we are returning to ‘normal’?
  • What will the figures be over the next 5-10 years? Only once we know that can the data really tell us something about whether Brexit had a significant impact on the number of EU national (law) students in the UK
  • If it is more than a blip, is it really Brexit or the uncertainty around Brexit that has caused the drop?

5. In short we don’t know how the make-up of Law School inhabitants might change. We really don’t. But let’s assume the worst – that we will loose the majority of our EU students and colleagues and that we will loose access to the Erasmus+ programme and research mobility/exchange programmes – what would the impact of that be? Well I think it would be devastating. I think we could see

  • a shift on who and what is valued in Law Schools
  • a more inward looking and insular approach to scholarship and teaching
  • less engagement with EU and international issues and in particular with non-common law issues and approaches
  • less well rounded curricula -explicit and hidden
  • a reduction in the opportunities to learn from each other and a loss of the sort of creativity that happens when you tackle a problem together with people who bring different ways of thinking and doing things to the table
  • less tolerance for different ideas and approaches and ways of thinking
  • less well rounded lawyers – whether academics, practitioners or ‘just’ citizens of (a possibly much more narrowly defined) world

So my question really is – how do we make sure that we don’t become insular and inward looking law schools that irrelevant to the rest of the world or possibly just irrelevant?

Clearing – I’ve been there

It is A-Level results week. But then if you have any interest in universities or schools you will know that. This week always comes with mixed feelings for me. I remember the disappointment of not quite getting the A-levels I was hoping for, the heartbreak of not getting into my first choice uni (Sheffield if anyone cares), the panic about not being able to find a place and the excitement of eventually securing a place to study Law at Leicester. It’s also a week of mixed feelings because this week I have to make decisions which change people’s lives.

Anyway, CLEARING. I was there once. It is awful. I got my results, I missed one A grade by a tiny margin and didn’t meet my offer. I called and was rejected. I cried. I had my heart set on going to Sheffield. In those days you had to go through the newspaper to find institutions with place available. I called Leicester because I had actually been on an open day there and liked it a lot – I’d just liked Sheffield more at the time. I also phoned the University of Sussex – my Mum went there as a student – that was the extent of my knowledge. Both institutions took my details, both said they’d phone back. I waited. Leicester called first and offered me a place on the LLB. I accepted and then I cried –  a lot, mostly with relief. I was going to Uni and I was going somewhere I’d seen and I’d liked and it was all going to be fine.

What’s my advice to anyone facing this possible scenario tomorrow? It’ll be fine, don’t panic. Breathe. My institution offers some advice (as do most others I would imagine!) – it includes thinking about where else you might want to go and make a list of alternatives. Do that now. Did you like the look of any institutions you visited for an Open Day but didn’t select in the end? That might be a good candidate to phone – you already know something about them. Think about how far away from home you want to go, if you’re going to live at home then that limits your options, if not, how easy to you want to make it for your parents to come visit or for you to nip home? Put the list in order of preference and then, if you have to, you can start at the top and work your way down.

On the day make sure you have your phone fully charged or access to a landline (ideally both so you can use one for calling out, leaving a line clear for call backs) and make sure you can access your email. Also have pen and paper ready so you can easily take down any reference numbers.

Take your time over making the decision. This decision will change your life. The university and the course have to be right for you. If you don’t know the institution, ask if you can go visit, speak to an academic if possible, ask questions, see if it feels right. This is about your future after all! Listen to those around you offering advice but remember that ultimately it has to be your decision!

And if you just haven’t got the grades to do what you really want? Well that can happen. Get advice. Maybe there’s a foundation year you can do, maybe your College can offer resits or further study or maybe you’re just not as suited to your chosen subject as you thought and it is time for a re-think. Talk it through, think it through, don’t do anything in a panic

Good Luck. I feel for you, I really do. I’ve been there. I will take up my duties on our Clearing helpline tomorrow morning with a knot in my stomach. I will remember my 18 year old self and I will try and handle any of your calls with the same calm and reassurance as the admissions team did at Leicester all those years ago (thank you  – whoever it was!) and I really do hope I’ll be able to say ‘yes, please join us for your student journey’.

Hello 2015

So, made any resolutions? It is the time of year after all! I haven’t. I never do. I have the usual vague thoughts about losing weight, exercising more… that kind of thing but I never actually make any actualy resolutions. I have thought about what I would like 2015 to be about as far as work is concerned:

1. Successful launch of our new Law Programmes – there’s a lot of work to do here yet. The paperwork we need for the University processes is nearing completion but we will need to create materials, pull together timetables and assessment plans etc to make sure the programmes really work. It’s exciting and a little daunting

2. Sticking to my principles – I have always believed in a liberal legal education which is shaped by my own socio-legal and interdisciplinary background and which exposes students to new ideas and challenges them – this has to come through in the new programmes – and I think it does but the devil is of course in the detail

3. My research on identiy has stalled, I just haven’t had the time to drive that forward and yet that is the work I really want to do  – so in 2015 I want to find time for that – I guess this might be resolution territory!

4. I would really like to work more with others, within my institution and outside – but that means I probably need to be a little less of a control freak. So that’s not going to happen really

5. Ah yes, number 5. I have had this little book idea, half an idea really rattling around in my head for quite a while but I don’t think I’m ready to share that quite yet – it will grow over the next 12 months, I’m sure

Oh but there is a resolution I need to make. I have been Head of School for 6 months. I have another 6 months to do with the possibility of applying for the post for a bit longer. I will apply and if I get it, my resolution is this: I will do management but I will do management my way and I will not be drawn into corporate crap, I won’t play games, I will just be me. There – how’s that for a resolution? 2015, I think I might be ready!

Clearing – my thoughts

This week has been all about Clearing and A-Level results for me. It started earlier this week when the University got the results and we worked out how many clearing places we would have for our courses and continued through the week as we got more information, confirmed some more students and got ready for today – A-Level results day.

I have a weird sort of affection for clearing. I went through clearing, I loved my uni days and am grateful for the chance to study law and I get really excited about now being able to give that chance to some of our callers. Working the clearing helpline is a bit of an emotional rollercoaster though. There are the calls from people who are nowhere near the entry tariffs and you just know they will struggle to get a place and it’s heartbreaking; there’s those who are so close and you really want to take them but can’t because os university policy; there are those who have made it and are so excited about getting a place in clearing and those who have done better than expected and are even more over the moon. So basically today I have been in the business of making dreams come true and shattering them in pretty much equal measures. Here are my thoughts/tips whatever you want to call them for surviving clearing

1. Don’t panic – you don’t have to make all the decisions now – don’t let institutions pressure you into accepting a place you don’t really want
2. Come to an open day if possible – most unis have them (For Bradford’s clearing open days see the website)
3. Think about what you want – if it is to study a particular subject at a particular institution and you haven’t got in, can you resit and try again next year? Is it the place or the subject that grabs you? If the place, do they have other courses of interest; if the subject, can you go somewhere else?

4. Have all your info ready – institutions need your UCAS ID, Clearing ID, information about your results, what course you’re interested in and if you have called them before the reference number they gave you.

So for those who got the results and uni places you wanted – well done! For those who haven’t, it feels horrible, really horrible but you know what, I went through clearing and my student days were fabulous and with hindsight I’m actually quite pleased I didn’t get into my first choice! And if this helps a little bit – a lot of our best students have come through clearing. We don’t accept people who we think will struggle too much on our courses so if we offer you a place it’s because we believe in you and want to help you reach your potential. I’ll be back on the phonelines tomorrow afternoon and I am looking forward to it – I just hope that the dreams I can make happen far outnumber the dreams I have to shatter! (Oh and just in case you want to come and study with us at Bradford – we have some places available and all the info including the number to call is on the website.

Teaching EU Law?

It looks like I will again be teaching EU law next academic year. I am sort of excited about this but I am also already thinking and worrying about it. Most students don’t really enjoy EU law and many find it boring and difficult and frankly irrelevant to them. So what am I going to teach and how and why?

Well, we have a first year course which is all about the EU instituions, law making etc – what you might call the instituional, administrative and constitutional elements. Our Level 2 course is a substantive law course which has always focused on free movement of goods, services and persons. I can’t change that too much as the modules are validated along those lines.

So my plan for year one is to focus on the legal elements of EU integration and think about how law and legal processes have pushed the integration agenda. I want to think about power relationships between actors, relationships between institutions and between Member States and the EU and each other. I want to think about gender awareness in this context – well because that’s my thing and because it gives me an angle to make this more engaging.

Year 2 – well I guess I will stick to mostly free movement stuff but I think I will start with questions around EU migration and explore contexts of highly skilled, low skilled, economic activity, other activity, meanings of citizenship etc. Maybe there is scope here to also explore the external dimensions and some Human Rights stuff. I’d like to do less of the goods and services stuff because that’s not where my interest and expertise lies – although there are some cracking cases and having an understanding of the internal market is useful and important.

I’m thinking if not recommending a specific textbook but prepare detailed reading lists based on online material, a fairly detailed module manual and journal articles, blogs as well as some textbook chapters. So, what do you think? Any suggestions for how to make these EU modules stand out, make them interesting and engaging. Suggestions for coverage, approach, materials? What do you do? What works?