Oxford Brookes University has responded to criticism about its decision to discontinue its legal practice course (LPC) from the beginning of the next academic next year, leaving part-time students on uncertain ground.
Professor Anne-Marie Kilday, pro vice-chancellor and dean of the faculty of humanities and social sciences said: “There has been a clear fall in demand for the legal practice course in recent years with a steady decline in applications and enrolments. Applications have declined by over 50% in the last five years and demand is expected to fall further, which is a situation mirrored across the sector.
“It is therefore not viable for the university to continue to run the course and the difficult decision was made to close a respected course to further recruitment. Oxford Brookes will be meeting with the Solicitors Regulation Authority to ensure measures are put in place for students currently studying the course.
“This will include the consideration of a range of alternative providers so that appropriate arrangements can be made available to students. I will also be meeting with course representatives as part of our continued engagement in supporting current students.”
Oxford Brookes law students wrote an open letter, hosted on Lawyer2B, to university management yesterday expressing their dismay at the course’s discontinuation.
The letter read: “This is a course of immense practical value, taught by passionate and committed staff, which brings prestige to Oxford Brookes as it seeks to establish a reputation as a centre for academic and vocational excellence…
“The sudden discontinuation of the LPC will both cripple the pro bono scheme, and adversely affect the quality of the postgraduate law provision.
“However, of most concern is the way in which Oxford Brookes has made this decision without regard to the welfare of students who took up its two-year part time LPC. Due to the SRA requirement that relevant modules be undertaken at the same establishment these students have been left in limbo over the validity of their partially complete courses.
“Furthermore, those with families or employment in the Oxford area are suddenly faced with the prospect of relocating or commuting long distances to complete their study. Many of those who have already planned to take up places promised on the LPC at OXILP after their GDL or LLB are similarly affected.
“This decision to discontinue an outstanding course at such abrupt notice is thus not only saddening, but irresponsible. For an academic provider to let its students and staff down in this manner is not in the spirit of the reputation Oxford Brookes intends to foster, as a serious academic institution.
“Therefore, we the undersigned, urge the management of Oxford Brookes University to consider running the course for an additional year to allow those who had relied on its provision to complete their study, and giving all others fair notice of its closure.”
Lawyer2B put the questions raised by students to university management but there has been no response on the exact fate of part-time students or any word on whether affected students will be refunded or compensated.