Having watched the recent unveiling of the New College of Humanities, and much discussion and debate surrounding this event, I felt moved to point out, echo and elaborate on some of Richard Moorhead's blog comments on Lawyer Watch.
Indeed, offering a law degree based upon the University of London's International Programme (previously known as the London External) is not exactly innovative, which Julian Webb expands upon in his blog hEaD SPACE.
Where favourable comment may be passed is the combining of the traditional academic subject-based study with a broader curriculum from a core 'professional skills' module and three other core modules:
- Logic and Critical Thinking
- Science Literacy
- Applied Ethics
These additional modules appear to be core throughout all NCH's programmes: it is vague as to whether these modules will be tailored towards the study of law, or more generic in their approach. If they are subject-oriented then perhaps they do not provide a wider, more liberal educational aspect and differ little from the types of options and electives available in many other institutions. If they are truely generic, then perhaps cross-fertilisation between disciplines can be achieved.
Legal Ethics is likely to enter into the curriculum for England and Wales, as Richard points out, so the study of applied ethics may well need to enter into the UoL programme as a core module for the qualifying degree.
The study of science, scientific theory and the use of scientific evidence in a legal context has already been well explored by the legal education community. Indeed, previous blog posts have evaluated and the 'law and forensic science education in the 21st century’ event supported jointly by UKCLE and the Physical Sciences Centre.
Going as far back as 2008, Carole McCartney and I explored the prior knowledge of law undergraduates and their likely understanding of scientific theory in our survey of science-based A levels / Highers. Whilst NCH may be attracting the A* student, they may not have a good grounding in science to start.
Logic and Critical Thinking: I've yet to find an LLB programme that does not address these skills both pervasively and directly in the curriculum.
It will be interesting to see if their success is based upon 'smells like Oxbridge' where fees appear to equate to quality; or whether the creation of a new institution will allow greater emphasis to be placed upon learning and teaching, which is sold as the old-fashioned type rather than the adoption of cutting-edge innovation.