De Montfort’s LPC falls prey to UWE

UWE set to dominate legal education in the West of England after second raid on De Montfort; students must ‘go over’

De Montfort University’s legal course in Bristol will be forced to close because the University of the West of England (UWE) is poaching its staff and pupils for the second time.

De Montfort’s Legal Practice Course (LPC) in Bristol will terminate in June 2002, and the department’s five lecturers and three administrative staff plan to decamp to the UWE. The deal was close to being signed as The Lawyer went to press.

A source close to UWE said: “De Montfort should never have moved to the South West, they underestimated the student’s attraction to UWE.”

This is UWE’s second blow to De Montfort’s two-year-old department in Bristol. When De Montfort took over the teaching of the University of Bristol’s LPC, UWE employed nine of its 10 lecturers, leaving the incomer with one original Bristol lecturer, Professor Ruth Annand.

The defecting staff then threatened legal action against the University of Bristol for not offering them alternative employment or redundancy money before going ahead with the deal.

This time Paul Rylance, associate dean in the Faculty of Law at UWE, hopes the arrangement under the Transfer of Undertakings and Protection of Employment Regulations (Tupe) will go smoother than in 1998. “I look forward to welcoming De Montfort,” he said. “This development is a logical step to make the Bristol LPC a more formidable force.”

The transfer of the De Montfort course to UWE, which has been agreed in principle between the universities and is subject to Law Society approval in the autumn, makes it the only LPC provider in Bristol. As a result, the estimated 40 students due to start a two-year part-time LPC at De Montfort Bristol will be told today (Monday, 2 July) that their final year studies will take place in an as yet unknown location.

They could either join De Montfort’s other LPC courses in Birmingham or Leicester or change to UWE, which may honour their De Montfort degrees.

Belle Turner, the University of Bristol’s Student Union President, believes this will not be beneficial to the students.
She said: “It cannot be helpful to anyone to be uprooted from one institution to another. It would be terrible if some had to travel as far
as Birmingham or Leicester every fortnight.”

Ian Brookfield, deputy director of the School of Professional Legal Studies and head of studies of the LPC at Cardiff University, was also surprised by De Montfort’s transfer decision and UWE’s rapid expansion programme.

“This movement has come as a bit of a shock,” he said. “It’s a significant shift for the De Montfort franchise, but I can’t see how they’ll retain their identity within UWE. Cardiff University doesn’t feel threatened by UWE’s growth in the South West, as we usually attract a large part of the South Wales market.”

De Montfort’s decision to take its full-time LPC operation to UWE comes after three months of negotiations between the universities.
The troubled department, which has a ‘good’ rating from the Law Society and offers a free laptop to students, failed to fill 60 places on its 100-place LPC this year, thereby missing out on extra Government funding for higher education bodies in an effort to get 30 per cent of teenagers into higher education.

The university, which has four campuses in Britain, will also close its Milton Keynes branch in 2003.

The possible incorporation of De Montfort’s 100 validated LPC places to UWE’s existing 300 places will launch the first phase of UWE’s Institute of Legal Practice. It also seeks to revalidate vacancies on its Bristol Bar Vocational Course from 72 to 120 and expand its range of postgraduate diplomas.

Vice chancellor of UWE Alfred Morris said: “[The Institute will] confirm UWE as a leading provider of high-quality legal education.”