LLB (Hons) Open University

#1

I am interested if anybody has taken this option as although it is a QLD (qualifying law degree) in England and Wales it seems to me that there are issues with studying in this way.

Let me first say that I think that OU is a splendid institution that has now been around for many years and is well respected, and thus my concerns may be misplaced. As we all know the benefit of studying for a degree on a residential basis is that there is face to face opportunities with the tutors and also the opportunity for discussions in the lecture room. The use of the common rooms also allows for an exchange of views and opinions and also the hammering out of areas which are not fully understood. There is the opportunity to bring real life experiences of the law to bear and to my mind distance learning will create its own drawbacks. There will be weekend courses, students chat rooms and blogs but they are not a replacement for the benefits of the residential degree.

I always recall Lord Denning stating “it is not the letter of the law, but the spirit of the law”, and this can best be understood in discussion. Yes, the laws are written in statute but there is a need to understand what the law is driving at. We see this in tax law where interpretation is so vital as HMRC will always see matters one way, whereas the practitioner will adopt on occasions a different view, the famous Vesty case being an example. It is in this mutual discussion that law id understood so why is learning through a distance course good?

As I have said I strongly support OU but on this occasion I am unsure.

Could I seek the views of others please?

#2

As I have previously stated I am an academic and thus involved in the admission process of students to postgraduate courses from masters through to doctoral research. Let me firstly say that we have had some really excellent students past through our hands that have first degrees from the OU. Indeed that also applies to postgraduates. That comment however needs to be tempered by the statement that the degree course studied will define the ability of a student to continue in a further degree. I know my colleagues speak volumes for people with OU degrees in philology but I need to temper that in my area of business. Law is something which requires a degree of interaction when learning. Law that is set in statute needs to be understood and interpreted, and there lies the nub of the problem. The interpretation comes through face to face discussion and the ability to understand that a literal approach is inappropriate in a number of cases. To teach this approach at masters level or above is not what these degrees are about. A masters upwards has limited time for teaching, but a lot of time for research. The lack of application knowledge shows through very quickly as there is a lack of a discoursive approach in the papers presented.
This is one degree which in my experience where the student will benefit from a residential approach as opposed to distance learning, although in saying that I would not want to denigrate the OU.

#3

Having been personally involved in studying an LLB I would definitely agree with the above and there is simply no substitute for a residential degree. There is an awful lot of learning that is not just lecture based for example small group discussions are a vital part of the timetable and when it comes to distance learning I would be worried that you would miss out on these vital interactions. Of course there are always ways of trying to mitigate this issue by attending weekend courses and by making links with others who are studying the same course but I do think on the whole, given the choice doing a traditional LLB in a residential university is better. That said for many people it may be the only option for many students and if that is the case I am very sure that the quality of teaching and personal dedication will be enough to ensure that the experience is positive. I also tend to find that employers are quite impressed with OU due to the fact that it is often so much harder for students to stay motivated and to gain the required knowledge.

#4

Stella

I must admit that I do agree with the sentiments that you express. With all forms of study student interaction is vital but even more so where there is a given need for interaction. If one is studying maths or history then these are subject where in my view it is possible to get by with little discussion, but law demands discussion. Law needs to be interpreted and that demands discussion. If one sees a barrister in action then how to discuss, apply and then assert the roots of this will have been established at university and developed at law school. There are very few naturally gifted lawyers of the type of the late George Carmen QC. Of course there is the argument that certain areas of law such as patent law will not need these skills of debate but nonetheless they add to one’s character and by studying law at OU these may be lost. OU is a great institution and as such gives very worthwhile degrees but there is a point whereby a residential university has prime position.

#5

It is something which was discussed at the last academic board that I attended. There is a need for all universities to increase their income and one way forward is to grow the distance learning facilities as this is generally seen as a cost effective exercise. The issue for all academic boards is what degrees should be offered for this medium of study and are there the resources to support the students. Two prime areas discussed were finance and law. Finance was seen as a good topic for distance learning as for many years there have been established courses for distance learning going back as far as RRC (Rapid Results College). The subject lends itelf to self study and we feel that this area will grow in numbers as it is cost effective for all parties.
However the Dean of the Law Faculty strongly argued against law as being suitable for distance learning. As he so eloquently put it the court room is a place for actors to debate and how can you learn those skill apart from by discourse. Yes he accepts that there are one or two areas of law that are very academic such as patent law and only rarely would this type of issue get to court on a full blown basis, but setting up a whole faculty to cater for one offs will not happen.
In general I think there is in academia the feeling that law and distance learning are not bed mates.