Laurier inks unique deal with U.K. law school

Wilfrid Laurier University says it’s struck a deal with the U.K.’s University of Sussex that will allow students to get a BA and a law degree in six years.

Students will spend two years at Laurier in Waterloo, Ont., studying one of four undergraduate programs — criminology, human rights, political science, or law and society — and spend the next three years studying law at the University of Sussex in Brighton, England. They will then return for a final year at Laurier to complete their BA studies and take law accreditation exams to be able to use their British law degree in Canada.

There will be no requirement to take the LSAT to get into the law program at Sussex.

“Students who meet the GPA and eligibility requirements at Laurier may apply to the University of Sussex and are guaranteed an offer of admission to the Sussex Law School providing they meet the entrance requirements of the University of Sussex,” Laurier said in an announcement.

Daniel Jutras, president of the Council of Canadian Law Deans, says since programs like this don’t currently exist, it’s difficult to determine what kind of success they’ll have and what the size of the program will be.
But, “I think most deans would share the view that diversity is a good idea. Different programs and innovation in legal education are good ideas,” says Jutras, who is the law dean at McGill University.

Students who do the dual program will have to complete qualification exams to be able to go on to article in Ontario, or participate in the law practice program.
As to the quality of legal education, Jutras says the law society already exercises oversight over the qualification of people who come to Canada with foreign credentials. “It does so meticulously and with efficiency so I don’t think we should be concerned about this,” he says.

Heidi Northwood, Laurier’s dean of liberal arts, says the law program at Sussex is a good fit with the undergraduate programs offered at Laurier. She also says the program provides “value added” to students who are looking for a specific experience.

“It seemed to us that when a student decides they want to pursue law, the question they should have in their mind, even if they don’t, is what sort of value added can be brought to the law degree depending on where they decide to study,” says Northwood.

“A growing number of our students have made it clear that they’re interested in pursuing law after they do the BA,” she says.

For students who want to have an international perspective to their studies, the program provides an option to gain that experience along the opportunity to travel and be immersed in a different culture, Northwood adds.

Laurier is “very excited” about its new affiliation with the University of Sussex, says Deborah MacLatchy, Laurier’s vice-president, academic and provost. “The University of Sussex has an outstanding law program that is already home to many Canadian students. This is a tremendous opportunity for students to build a professional credential and international experience into their studies at Laurier.”

The program will start in September 2016 for new entries, but Northwood says students who are already in one of the four BA programs will be given the option to get into continue into the law degree.

Students will pay University of Sussex tuition fees while studying there. Based on the current exchange rate, Laurier says fees fall in the $25,000 to $30,000 range per year. While at Laurier, Ontario students will pay the school’s approximately $6,000 tuition per year for their undergraduate degree. That brings the total tuition for the six years to between $93,000 and $108,000.

Update Oct 15: Comments from Daniel Jutras added.

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