Academic Learning in Law

Academic Learning in Law

Theoretical Positions, Teaching Experiments and Learning Experiences

Edited by Bart van Klink and Ubaldus de Vries

This timely book calls for a critical re-evaluation of university legal education, with the particular aim of strengthening its academic nature. It emphasizes lecturers’ responsibility to challenge the assumptions students have about law, and the importance of putting law in a theoretical and social context that allows for critical reflection and sceptical detachment. In addition, the book reports upon teaching experiences and innovations, offering tools for teachers to strengthen the academic nature of legal education.

Chapter 1: Introduction: re-thinking academic legal education

Bart van Klink and Ubaldus de Vries

Subjects: law - academic, legal philosophy, legal theory, research methods in law, research methods, research methods in law


In many countries across the world, the nature of the university and the purpose and function of academic education are subject to intense academic, social and political debate. The protests in cities such as Amsterdam, Hong Kong, London and Melbourne, in Spring 2015 have created a momentum to re-evaluate what the university is about and, in particular, what we want to achieve with academic education. Both students and lecturers call for a fundamental re-evaluation of the Academia. A common thread in the protests is the resistance against the managerial culture (or ‘managerialism’) prevailing at universities. According to RethinkUvA (an Amsterdam based protest movement consisting of both lecturers and students), ‘[o]utput-focused management has severely compromised the quality of both university education and research. […] What is called for, are ‘structural reforms in education and research.’ RethinkUU (based in Utrecht) argues that the ideals of the academic community are under pressure and warns that the ‘trend toward efficiency and standardization threaten the depth and versatility of academic learning and expand bureaucracy on paper and between individuals’. At the London School of Economics (LSE) in London, students and lecturers oppose the current trend of neoliberalism in the academic world: ‘LSE is the epitome of the neoliberal university. It is managed and organised around corporate interests, which promote elitism and perpetuate inequality.’ OccupyLSE has started a project called the ‘Free University of London’, proposing that students, lecturers and workers run the university together.