November 25, 2011 4:28 pm

LLM courses 2011: Growth area

To complement this report on developments in global legal education, the Financial Times has compiled an listing of Master of Laws (LLM) degree programmes. Through the completion of a short questionnaire, law schools outlined their courses, the details of which are summarised below.

In the fourth year of this listing, 82 schools from 18 countries participated. In total, 379 programmes are offered by these schools, of which nearly 80 per cent can be studied part-time.

Specialised LLM programmes are becoming increasingly popular. Of schools that took part in last year’s report, 12 have introduced new specialised courses this year, in addition to seven schools making their listing debut. New programmes range from an LLM in biotechnology, law and ethics at the University of Sheffield to the University of Pretoria’s LLM in air, space and telecommunications law.

“The provision of more diverse courses is necessary to offer students the variety they demand,” says Ioannis Kokkoris, associate professor at the UK’s University of Reading. Overseeing the provision of three new programmes this year, he explains that schools must respond to a competitive market in postgraduate legal education through innovation and differentiation.

It is not only through new programmes that schools are expanding student choice. Of the 61 schools listed that offer general LLMs, most offer specialist optional modules within the course. As schools invest in diversifying their portfolio of courses, the number of students on LLM

programmes is also rising. Among the 57 schools that also participated last year, an 8 per cent increase in student numbers has been reported.

Increased demand for LLM degrees comes in spite of average minimum tuition fees of about $28,000 among listed schools. There is significant diversity between tuition fees on both sides of the Atlantic. UK schools’ fees average $12,000, while their US counterparts’ fees average almost $44,000.

Reflecting this disparity and the longstanding tradition of merit-based financial support, 33 of the 35 participating American schools offer prospective students scholarships.

John Riccardi, assistant dean at Boston University School of Law, which awarded merit-based scholarships to one-third of its LLM students last year, outlines the importance of “partial tuition waivers” for “international students not eligible for US federal loans”.

Skip Horne, director of graduate programmes at the University of San Diego School of Law, where a majority of LLM students are offered financial assistance, says: “Completing an LLM in the US is already an expensive proposition, particularly for international students, so anything that a US school can do to help defray the cost of tuition is welcome.”

While assisting capable students to access top schools, scholarships symbiotically assist schools in attracting the best students. Noting intense competition between schools, Mr Horne explains: “Scholarships give law schools one additional way to differentiate themselves from their peers.”

However, competition in the international market for talented students is not confined to the US. ISDE of Spain, which introduced four new LLMs in 2011, offered 94 scholarships last year. “It is through scholarships that we do not lose any student that needs support and is worth the opportunity,” says Juan José Sánchez Puig, executive director of ISDE.

Asked if student financial support has become more important in the prevailing economic downturn, Nathan Tamblyn, assistant professor of law at the Chinese University of Hong Kong, has no doubt. He asserts, however, that “there must always be scholarships, even in good times, until everyone who merits a place at law school can study”.

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