Uni appoints first female law dean

by Samantha Woodhill14 Oct 2015
The University of Canterbury has appointed its first female law dean, only the third woman to ever have been appointed dean of a NZ law school.

Ursula Cheer, who will officially take up the role in January, will work alongside head of school Karen Scott.  Despite the university taking 142 years to appoint a female law dean, Cheer said the lack of women in leadership roles is changing.

“Things move slowly and change and respect of appointing women to leadership roles takes time and women’s careers sometimes take a bit longer,” Cheer told NZ Lawyer.

“The other thing is that enough women don’t put themselves forward. There’s that side of it as well.”

While Cheer said the private practice still has a way to go in aiding the career progression of women, the university is doing what it can in terms of course structure to give young women career options.

“I’m about supporting young people who want to do law,” she said.

“They can do other degrees now too, which is very useful. Most of them do, so that gives them more strings to their bow, which is great, and they can do other things with their law degree.

“Our young men are so very important to our law school and I think it’s important that both genders learn to work together.”

Cheer said her focus will be building on the school’s clinical program, giving grads practical skills before they enter the workforce, along with other unique offerings like a focus on community input and cross disciplinary courses with the humanities.

“I see my term as being a time of consolidation and making sure we do things as well as we can,” she said.

“We offer a Bachelor of Criminal Justice degree, that has been introduced in the last few years and we’re working on that to improve it and make sure that more courses are offered within that.”