ANU has announced that it will close it’s practical legal training program, being the Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice (GDLP). It will not be enrolling any new students and will only be operating until the end of 2021 to “teach-out” current students.
This is a big loss for future law students – in years past, the online ANU program has been relied on by students around Australia to complete their PLT requirements.
So, why did this happen?
ANU gave two reasons for the closure of its School of Legal Practice (which provides the GDLP, along with a few other masters level programs):
- (Market competition) ANU acknowledged that it’s School of Legal Practice is operating in what is now in “a very competitive, price-sensitive market occupied largely by private sector providers” and that “this situation is unlikely to change”. This is presumably a reference to College of Law and Leo Cussen Centre for Law, both of which also offer online programs. Whoever they are, “[ANU] is unable to compete with these providers”.
- (ANU’s research focus) The second reason was that the School of Legal Practice provided vocational courses, which are not aligned with ANU’s teaching priorities. ANU said it has a “strategic priority to deliver research-led teaching in subjects of national importance”. In other words, its focus is on the traditional law school curriculum.
What prompted this decision?
The decision was made following a “comprehensive international and independent review in 2018” which included a consultation process with the School of Legal Practice.
The subsequent report recommended only two options. ANU could:
- “offer the GDLP in a redesigned form” (query what this means – I have no idea and ANU didn’t elaborate) and remove the research requirement for academics working in the School of Legal Practice; or
- close the GDLP (and another masters course on military law).
Not surprisingly, the staff of the School of Legal Practice argued for option one. ANU management were not persuaded and, given the misalignment with the university’s strategic priorities, thought option two was the right choice.
I would be interested in reading the report (or even just the terms of reference!) for some more context on this decision.
What does this mean for the wider PLT market place?
There are a lot of questions that I would love to know the answer to around this. For example:
- Did ANU ask for a financial analysis of the GDLP program?
- Is the reference to increased competition by ANU meant to mean “we just can’t make as much money out of this anymore”? I assume so, in which case, what does this mean for all of the other universities who offer a PLT component to their course?
- My impression is that more universities are now starting to offer PLT built in to their law degrees (I may be completely wrong on this). Does this mean that these universities will also shut up shop in a few years?
- Will the College of Law and Leo Cussens be the Woolworths and Coles of the practical legal training world? Will they offer some kind of toy when law students leave the checkout – $10k would surely entitle one to a truck load of swag. Alright I’m just being silly, but two more serious questions:
- The review was “international”, so what did it have to say from an international perspective? Do other jurisdictions have a similar requirement to our PLT?
- Should universities be required to incorporate practical legal training into the tail end of law degrees (or should it be dropped altogether as a requirement to practice)?
In any event, a very interesting development and one which will will surely create further discussions in the legal education industry and wider PLT market over the coming months.
If you have any particular thoughts then make a comment below or email me.