Saturday, August 05, 2006


Scotland's law schools were yesterday charged by a leading lawyer with turning out sub-standard graduates. He also accused universities of putting profits before standards. Professor Alastair Bonnington claimed legal education was being dumbed down and accused law schools of making the subject an easy option to increase their profits with boosted student numbers. In a scathing article in the current issue of the Law Society Journal, written to reflect on his retirement after 25 years' teaching, Prof Bonnington said that studying law had become much easier than it was 30 years ago and that law schools hand out 2:1 honours degrees almost as a matter of course. He also complained there was a paucity of teachers who had actually practised law employed at Scottish law schools.

The article, which the Law Society of Scotland was quick to point out was Prof Bonnington's "personal opinion", provoked outrage at Scotland's university law schools. Professor David Carey-Miller, head of the law school at Aberdeen University, said: "I would vehemently disagree with almost everything Alastair is saying." He said that in a recent survey five out of the top 20 law schools in the whole of the UK were Scottish. "The fundamental reason for these schools appearing in this list is high standards," said Prof Carey-Miller.

Professor Colin Reid, Dean of the Faculty of Law and Accountancy at Dundee University, said: "It is hardly surprising that many students are achieving good honours results since well-qualified students enter the law schools where more thought is being given to teaching and learning than ever before. "Moreover Dundee is unique in offering qualifying law degrees for Scotland, England and Wales and Northern Ireland. We are, therefore, very conscious of the differences between the various legal systems."

Prof Bonnington, solicitor to BBC Scotland and a visiting professor at Glasgow Law School, said he had major concerns that students today did not understand Scottish law as "it is taught little and seldom" by academics who lack "necessary practical skills". And lamenting the lack of intellectual rigour and vocational training, he noted that 2:1 degrees are dished out to "almost everyone", while university administrations milk law schools as "cash cows". Prof Bonnington said: "Today, Scottish law schools admit almost everyone to study honours and award almost everyone a 2:1 degree. It appears that Scots law is taught little and seldom in some law schools."


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