NUS Law does students justice

When senior lawyer R. S. Wijaya sponsored his 22-year-old son to study at a peer institution in London last year, it was with the knowledge that he had a place at NUS Law School not taken up.

Mr Wijaya, himself a barrister from Gray's Inn, said the compelling reason for this was to give his son - a straight A student - not just a broader exposure but also to significantly better the odds for getting a first class honours or a second class upper.

This explains why the National University of Singapore Law Faculty is doubling the number of first class honours to be awarded to 10 per cent and increased the second class upper to between 65 and 68 per cent of each cohort, starting with the cohort due to graduate this year.


The revised figures are still lower compared with peer law schools like Cambridge, Oxford, London School of Economics (LSE) and University College London, where the proportion of first class honours ranges from 24 per cent at Cambridge to 12 per cent at LSE, according to one set of figures provided by the UK government accessed last September. The same figures show second upper honours awarded to between 67 and 82 per cent of each cohort.

NUS law dean Professor Simon Chesterman said the changes recognised the hard work the students did and their quality. Admission is an indicator.

"The quality of the students coming in is so good that we think it is unfair to say to almost half of them - 'you are going to graduate with a lower second honours' - which makes them look like they didn't work as hard as their peers when it is just a function of mathematics," Prof Chesterman said.

Pegging the figures to peer institutions abroad is one way for the school to continue internationalising its outlook.

"This is the first review that we have done in a decade," said Prof Chesterman.

Perhaps the increased pace of change and globalisation may dictate reviews sooner than another decade.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2016, with the headline 'NUS Law does students justice'. Print Edition | Subscribe