Law professor furious over proposal to increase student intake

by Samantha Woodhill03 Oct 2016

The University of Auckland vice-chancellor has recommended to the University Council that the Law School increase its student intake from 320 to 400 from next year, with the potential to increase the intake to 500.

It’s a controversial decision among the law school’s teaching staff, who say that the student experienced will be diminished by the larger cohort, that the school will have trouble finding enough quality teaching staff and that there simply aren’t enough jobs for an increase in law grads.

Auckland law professor Peter Watts QC is opposed to the proposition.

Speaking with NZ Lawyer, he said the move may be an attempt to plug financial holes in other faculties, in the hope that more law students might increase the number of students undertaking double degrees.  He said the university is turning away good students who want to study law.

“I understand that the University's main reason for wanting to increase the size of the Law School is a sense that the current very high entry standards at the Law School are resulting in good students who want to study law having to go elsewhere,” Watts said.

“At a time when retaining these students would maintain enrolments in Arts subjects, because of conjoint degree study, that currently have falling numbers.”

At the moment, The University of Auckland is the only law school proposing such an increase and Watts is concerned the move may result in a significant drop in the school’s global ranking.

“Even with our current intake, roughly 330 a year, we are unable fully to staff the compulsory subjects, those of most direct importance to the profession, with first class teachers who research in the areas,” Watts said.

“The faculty is having to move from the traditional three streams of roughly 100 students to two streams of 150.

“The proposal to move to 500 is likely to see streams of 250 students in the core subjects. The Law School's focus on the profession will weaken, and the quality of the student experience will be diluted.

“The prospects of finding a law job at the end of the process for many of these students will be very slim indeed.”

In the current recruitment climate, many are worried about the employment opportunities for an oversupply of law graduates in New Zealand’s legal market.