Norton Rose backs Cambridge dons

City firm Norton Rose has announced it will sponsor degree courses at Cambridge University – just weeks after a law don expressed fears of too much commercial influence in academia.

Norton Rose will donate u25,000 per year towards paying for five new lecturers covering European, company, commercial, comparative and labour law for degree courses.

University vice-chancellor Professor Sir Alec Broers is delighted with the donation. “In order to maintain our international reputation for excellence, we've got to review and update our courses constantly,” he says.

Professor Tony Smith, the new law faculty chairman, says: “We need to attract and retain promising young scholars by offering them the chance to teach and research in fields which they can make their own.”

David Lewis, partner at Norton Rose, stresses how the firm was keen to ensure that law kept pace with the increasingly international nature of business.

The u25,000 donation has been matched with a further u25,000 donation from the The Isaac Newton Trust, established by Trinity College, Cambridge.

The news will come as a blow to academics who vigorously oppose faculty plans for a legal practice course (LPC) being created at the university.

The Norton Rose announcement comes just six weeks after The Lawyer (5 April) revealed that then faculty chairman Professor Kevin Gray resigned during the inter-faculty row.

A letter from Gray said the faculty thought it was desirable to become involved in vocational training, but fellow academics strongly opposed the move.

But Dr Pippa Rogerson, director of law studies at Gonville and Caius College, wrote a letter saying the course would have been “intellectually impoverished” and expensive.

She feared City firms would want to control the content of the course and who was given a place, while the high course fees would mean only City trainees would be able to pursue the LPC.

A faculty working party has been set up to look into the pros and cons of creating an LPC.