LETTER PUBLISHED IN THE STRAITS TIMES FORUM ONLINE ON 3 MARCH 2015
National University of Singapore (NUS) law dean Simon Chesterman has suggested that the eight law schools dropped from the approved list are among the lower-ranked law schools in Britain and their graduates often find it harder to get jobs ("Shorter list of approved UK law schools welcomed"; last Thursday).
He then urged parents and students as follows: "Instead of spending tens of thousands of pounds on a law education at a lower-ranked school, they could be better off pursuing other degrees locally."
I have had the benefit of studying at NUS Law School, the Singapore Management University (SMU) Law School and Leicester Law School. I gained far more from my experience in a year in Leicester than I have in a year in the other two law schools.
It is not accurate to imply that graduates of the University of Leicester find it harder to get jobs. Recent alumni of the law school include at least one justice's law clerk and a leading investment banker. Several of us started our careers in top Singapore law firms, and most of us are now in offshore law firms, multinational corporations or financial institutions.
By narrowing the list of approved schools to high-cost areas of England like Oxford and London, the Singapore Institute of Legal Education has made the pursuit of an English law degree more expensive and a preserve of the rich. My parents had to sell their HDB home to send me to law school.
If the decision was made purely on rankings, the University of Bristol, which was ranked lower than the University of Southampton in the 2014 Guardian League Table for law schools, should have been struck off.
Many students choose to study law overseas because they desire to study law but are not able to secure a place in the local law schools. To suggest that they do something else is a fundamental failure to understand a person's motivation for studying law. Not all who choose to study law do it to become lawyers. This is a traditional mindset we should shift away from.
Stakeholders of the legal profession could have been better consulted before the recommendations were made. The eight law schools could also have been given an avenue to respond to the recommendations, rather than wait five years for the next review to take place.