School of Law Global Vision
In keeping with the university’s Five&Fifty policy, the School of Law is committed to becoming – and remaining – a globally engaged and outward-looking entity which will attract as wide a range of international talent as possible.
Towards this end, the School has already undertaken a number of initiatives which have, in recent years, enhanced its international standing and made it a visible centre of excellence in teaching, research and civic mission.
In terms of global citizenship, the School has constantly sought to expand its curricula and teaching methods to give students an increasing breadth of international perspectives. This is particularly evident in the work of the Transitional Justice Institute which has, over the years, attracted a significant number students and academics from diverse cultural backgrounds, and which has in turn allowed domestic students to engage with, and enrich their understanding of, a multiplicity of cultures and intellectual traditions.
Another initiative which has contributed to this process is the School’s active engagement in the Erasmus programme, run jointly by the European Union and the British Council, under whose aegis a sizeable number of student and staff exchanges have taken place over the years.
The School currently has partnership agreements with universities in Germany, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and Turkey, and these allow students to spend up to twelve months studying courses in each other’s institutions. The Erasmus programme also encourages staff mobility, and a number of academic members of the School have profited from spending periods of time in the partner institutions on teaching, curriculum design, research-related conversations and other activities.
As part of this effort to engage extensively with academic partners abroad, the School has also participated in a number of ad hoc collaborative programmes over the years. For example, academics from the School played a prominent part of a series of Intensive Programmes on Criminology and Criminal Justice within the European Union in conjunction with universities in Central and Eastern Europe (Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Estonia) as well as Western Europe (France, the Netherlands, Germany etc.). More recently, the School has been approached with an invitation to join a collaborative enterprise – involving staff and student exchanges under the Erasmus + KA107 and FSJ-CB programmes – with Tbilisi University, Republic of Georgia.
The School’s engagement with institutions of higher education in the United States of America has also been extensive and hugely successful. Among other things, a sizeable number of Ulster law students – from both the Jordanstown and Magee campuses – have spent periods of time (up to a year) in American universities under the ‘Study USA’ programme and returned with a significant understanding of cultural, social and educational norms in that country.
Among the US institutions with which the School has had long-standing ties are Fordham University and Brooklyn Law School. In addition to staff exchanges with both institutions, the School advertises and promotes the LLM programme of Brooklyn to its undergraduate and post-graduate students, with an incentive under which that programme could be taken by Ulster students at a heavily discounted fee. By way of reciprocation, Brooklyn has undertaken to promote Ulster’s LLM programmes to their 2nd and 3rd year JD students (at a 15% discount in fees). For incoming students the Ulster LLMs would ‘double count’ as credit toward their eventual JD, and so they would emerge from the 3 year programme with a US JD and an Ulster LLM.
The School is pursuing student recruitment initiatives in Asia and the Far East as well. Countries targeted for this purpose include Sri Lanka, India and Malaysia. In relation to Sri Lanka, the School was, in late-2017, invited by a well-known college of higher studies in Colombo to enter into a partnership agreement under which Sri Lankan students aspiring to acquire a UK law degree – and one which, moreover, enjoys Qualifying Law Degree (QLD) status with the professional regulatory authorities in England & Wales and Northern Ireland – could study for the first two years in Colombo and then move to Ulster to complete third-year studies. A Memorandum of Understanding has already been signed between the two institutions and the proposal to implement the 2+1 arrangement is currently at an advanced stage of consideration at university level.
Another proposal for collaborative provision that is presently being considered concerns a LLB degree combining general law with Torah Law. This new degree, being designed in partnership with UniTorah, a Belfast-based organisation, and projected to be made available in September 2019, has few parallels elsewhere in the world, and is likely to attract students from a wide range of countries. It has significant potential to promote cross-cultural understanding between domestic and foreign students.
The need for global engagement has also permeated the activities of the School’s staff in their individual endeavours at various levels.
Many of the School’s academics have worked closely with foreign counterparts in such areas as teaching, research, consultancy services, and other outreach activities.
For example, the Director of Educational Partnerships and International Affairs, Dr Venkat Iyer, has, for many years now, been sought as a consultant by governments around the world to provide advisory and drafting services in the area of media and broadcasting law. He was, in 2004-5, invited by the World Bank to design a Continuing Legal Education Programme for lawyers in Kenya. More recently, Dr Iyer was appointed a Law Commissioner for Northern Ireland, in which capacity he provided services in the area of legal reform to the devolved administration in Northern Ireland. Dr Iyer has also been engaged in judicial training in various jurisdictions, and has been the editor of two prestigious journals, The Commonwealth Lawyer and The Round Table: The Commonwealth Journal of International Affairs, both published from London.
Another member of staff, Dr Thomas Hansen, has been promoting links between Ulster and universities in Kenya. In 2017 Dr Hansen was awarded a grant by the Royal Irish Academy to act as principal investigator on a project involving peace-building and justice in that country. He is currently working on another project relating to Kenya which aims to improve future justice processes relating to international crimes. Dr Hansen has also been involved, under a British Academy/Leverhulme grant, in investigating accountability for British war crimes in Iraq.
The School is constantly striving to increase its international engagement and aiming to, among other things, help Ulster achieve its mission of becoming one of the top 10 UK universities for international student experience. The process of internationalising the School’s teaching and research continues apace, as do its efforts to build strong partnerships around the world.