LL.M In Threat Of Losing Its M.Phil Status
The mushroom growth of private educational institutions offering the LL.M degree is indeed encouraging but there is a dark side to it too. The kind of education that is being imparted by some of these institutions in the name of LL.M is disturbing to say the least. It is no secret that very limited, if any, supervision is offered at dissertation writing stage and more often than not by someone who is himself or herself not qualified in the relevant field. To become a supervisor, all you need is a LL.M degree, regardless of your area of specialization. No wonder public confidence is receding in our post-graduate level legal education. Here is an example: suppose you choose ADR (alternate dispute resolution) as a topic for your LL.M dissertation, your supervisor may not be an expert in ADR, rather he or she may be having a degree in general law or any other branch of law. How could they offer you supervision in the area that they themselves never touched upon? Similarly, your examiners may be having little or no understanding of your dissertation topic; but to stay safe, they would be relying on the assessment of your supervisor which nullifies the objective of external evaluation, i.e. impartiality and transparency. Because of this and the issues I shall be highlighting below, the LL.M degree of many of our newly established institutions may not be treated at par with the M.Phil. degree in other disciplines.
To begin with, many of the institutions recognized, of late, by the Higher Education Commission (HEC) as degree awarding bodies, do not meet the requirements of imparting legal education at post-graduate level. Either, they lack qualified teaching staff, or the structure of their LL.M is seriously flawed. A lot of these institutions are offering LL.M in general law, in utter disregard of the fact that LL.M being specialized degree can only be offered in one subject, or at best, in combination with two inter-related subjects. To give you an idea of international practices, the University of Sheffield offers LL.M in International and Commercial Law. To fulfill the requirements of this degree, you will be required to study, at course work stage, International Criminal Law, International Environmental Law, Public International Law, International Trade and Investment Law, International Humanitarian Law, International Intellectual Property Law, International Law of Insurance and International Law of the Use of Force. Furthermore, the candidate will have to choose the topic of his dissertation from amongst the subjects studied at course work stage. On the contrary, what our newly established institutions do is offer a degree in general law, while course modules are designed regardless of their connection to each other. For instance, they might be asking you to study Criminal Law, Civil Law, Company Law, Law of Evidence, International Law, Islamic Law and Constitutional Law at course work stage, and you may be entitled to write a dissertation on any topic, unrelated to these subjects, at research work stage. Clearly, this course outline is a mockery of advanced level specialized education. Needless to say, every field has its own law and it is virtually impossible to offer a degree in general law, purportedly covering all spheres of human activity. Apparently, this scheme of study is nothing but a continuation of the LL.B at a Masters’ level.
Upon being inquired, these institutions would put forward the excuse that they have chosen their courses from HEC’s approved list. It is pertinent to mention that the HEC is a recommendatory body and it has identified some courses for the purposes of guideline only. Nowhere has it stated that an institution will have to teach all the subjects mentioned in its approved list. By displaying the list, HEC means to inform the concerned institutions to choose one of the given subjects, bifurcate the same in several modules, and cover its various sub-areas. Fortunately, not all academic institutions are following this slippery slope; rather some are quite vigilant in applying the international standards. For example, Government College Lahore University (GCU) has recently launched LL.M in Forensic Science and the courses being taught there relate to the broad single subject. Nonetheless, a vast majority of the newly established institutions, both public and private, have fallen prey to the temptation of offering LL.M in general law. This critical flaw should be rectified at the earliest, lest our LL.M loses its status of being equivalent to M.Phil.
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