Delisted British law schools express disappointment

They defend quality of their degrees, will work towards reinstatement

Most of the eight British universities which have been removed from Singapore's pool of accredited law schools have expressed their disappointment.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, they maintained that their law degrees are of high quality, questioned the criteria used to delist them, and added that they will work towards being reinstated in the next review.

On Tuesday, the Ministry of Law (MinLaw) cut the number of British law schools whose students can be admitted to the Singapore Bar from 19 to 11, weeding out those which are believed to have fared poorly in certain rankings. The changes will affect only next year's intake, and not students already studying there.

It explained that the move was "to ensure the continued high quality of overseas-trained entrants to the Singapore Bar".

Except for the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, the other seven delisted law schools - the University of Exeter, University of Leeds, University of Leicester, University of Liverpool, University of Manchester, University of Sheffield, and University of Southampton - all sent e-mail to The Straits Times responding to the Government's decision.

Professor Alastair Mullis, head of the University of Leeds' law school, expressed the sadness that after four decades, "we will soon have no Singaporean students".

He described Leeds as one of Britain's leading law schools, pointing to how it recently was ranked eighth out of 67 universities in the Research Excellence Framework, which released its report last December.

"We are convinced that, at the time of the next review, Leeds will present the Sile with a formidable case for re-accreditation."

The Singapore Institute of Legal Education (Sile), after accepting recommendations from the 4th Committee on the Supply of Lawyers, said in 2013 that it will review the list of approved law schools every five years.

A University of Liverpool spokesman highlighted its "awardwinning" law clinic, run by final-year students, and pointed out that its criminology and security honours degree programme is offered at the Singapore Institute of Technology.

The director of the University of Leicester International Office, Ms Suzanne Alexander, described the school as ranked among the top 20 British universities, and among the top 1 per cent in the world.

She also said that the school, which admitted 49 Singaporean law students between 2012 and last year, continues to have a law exchange programme with the Singapore Management University. She added: "We are naturally very disappointed by the outcome of the Sile review."

A spokesman for the University of Exeter, where there are 110 Singaporean law students, said it is strengthening its law curriculum and is "confident" that it will have a strong case for reinstatement in the future.

Professor Tamara Hervey, head of the University of Sheffield's law school, also expressed similar confidence.

A spokesman for the University of Manchester, which has 98 Singaporean law undergraduates, said it will continue to offer them the "highest quality teaching".

The National University of Singapore's law faculty has an exchange programme with the University of Manchester and said it has no plans to change this.

Some of the universities, such as Leeds, said they were holding dialogues with their Singaporean students to address their concerns over the delisting.

Professor Hazel Biggs, head of the University of Southampton's law school, which takes in 10 to 20 Singaporean students each year, said it is "working closely with our current students to provide the best possible advice and guidance".

Mr Airell Ang, 27, a second- year law student at the University of Liverpool, said that graduates from the eight schools may now find it even harder to get a six- month practice training contract at a law firm - a requirement for the Bar - when they return.

"But I remain optimistic that employers will not look at the school we come from, and our image will not be tainted."

ateng@sph.com.sg