ANU to Close School of Legal Practice

The ANU COllege of Law

By Samuel Wright

The ANU has announced that the School of Legal Practice (SLP) will be ceasing to offer its vocational programs and will be closing after 48 years of teaching.

This change was announced yesterday evening following an independent review, which found that the School was not meeting the “strategic priorities of the University”. 

The School of Legal Practice currently provides a range of vocational law courses. This includes the Graduate Diploma of Legal Practice (GDLP), which law graduates need in order to practice law. The School also offers a Master of Legal Practice (MLP), a Military Law program and a Migration Law program. 

The review was conducted as part of the University’s practice of reviewing all schools and departments on a five-yearly basis. It identified “a number of challenges” facing the School. Issues included a lack of alignment with ANU’s “strategic priority” of research-led teaching, and a change in the market for vocational legal courses. Two options were given for the School’s future: to redesign the curriculum and have with reduced expectations of research from academics; or to close the School and redesign the College of Law as a whole. 

Staff at the School of Legal Practice were given the review in February, and there was then a four week consultation period. In March, the School submitted a response supporting the option of keeping the School open. However, the University administration opted for the other option: closing the School.

Professor Sally Wheeler, Dean of the College of Law, made the announcement in an email to ANU law students. Wheeler highlighted that because of the closure, there will be a “teach-out” period for the Graduate Diploma in GDLP and the Master of Legal Practice (MLP) by 2021. No new enrolments will be taken for the MLP after 2019, and new enrolments for the GDLP will only be accepted “as part of existing contractual arrangements.” The MigrationLaw program will cease at the end of 2019. The Military Law program will continue to be offered within the ANU College of Law.

The University has said that it is “committed to and will be working with and supporting the academic staff” through the changes. There are currently 30 staff members within the School, and only one continuing position will be transferred to the ANU College of Law. As well as this, two full-time and one part-time position will be made available within the School of Law. 

ANUSA Law Representatives Brigid Horneman-Wren and Kunal Vankadara said that they were “disappointed” that students were not more involved in the decision-making process. According to a University spokesperson, “Students were invited to participate in two stages of the review: in the call for written submissions and during on-site visits and meetings held by the review panel.” 

The University has said that it will make a “range of provisions available” to current students at the School of Legal Practice, and that “no one should be concerned about the quality of their current teaching or qualifications”. Wheeler also stressed that “supporting current students within the School is a priority”. Horneman-Wren and Vankadara said they plan to “make every effort to look at how the Law School can help provide guidance for students looking to complete a GDLP in Canberra”.

A two week consultation with the staff members of the SLP will commence and run until 23 August. This will then be followed by the release of the implementation plan during the week commencing 2 September.

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