New survey to gain insight into schools

Legal academics are mounting a Domesday-style survey of UK law schools to create an up-to-date snap-shot of students, research and resources.

As the last survey of this kind is now 10 years out of date, the Association of Law Teachers and the UK Centre for Legal Education are planning to send out the first questionnaires in May.

Mike Cuthbert, from University College Northampton’s law department, believes there is a need for another survey to take place.

“Things have changed so much in the past 10 years. The last time we did this we found a variety of different expectations across the old and new universities. We now want to set benchmarks so that law schools can compare themselves and argue, if need be, that they are under resourced.”

Recently proposed changes to the Quality Assurance Agency’s structure (the body that monitors university teaching standards) could also give professional bodies like the Law Society and the Bar Council the go-ahead to ‘request’ that individual law schools are inspected, if they are thought to be sub-standard.

“This makes it even more important that we carry out this survey,” said Cuthbert.

The survey aims to “inform debates within the legal community about the content and delivery of law courses” and to “provide state-of-the-art analysis of areas of need, concern and response to trends”.

“Law schools are in a funny position because unlike other subjects, we have the professional bodies who take a very big interest in what we do. They want to see that the courses are properly developed. It will be possible to see from this whether your law school is making the grade.”

The project will be completed by December 2003.