Sunday, 26 September 2010

THE World University Rankings

Published a few days ago on its website. It seems to be less imperfect than the alternative rankings (here and here) but one is still wondering whether institutional differences across countries (to mention just a few: public or private structure of universities, sources of funding, types of academic positions and careers, forms of teaching) do not lead to a comparison between apples and oranges. Moreover, many universities have very focused ambitions, e.g., in terms of fields of research, though in this respect it may help that the THE will also publish separate subject-specific rankings in the following weeks (see its website).

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Legrand (again) - did he really write and they really publish “that”

It’s a couple of years old but I’m just reading Pierre Legrand, “Un the Unbearable Localness of Law: Academic Fallacies and Unseasonable Observations”, (2002) 1 European Review of Private Law 61 at p. 75, where he talks about his decision to leave the University of Tilburg:
Having been hired under false pretenses by Tilburg University in 1994 (...). I had rapidly become aware that academic life in the law faculty was distressingly stifling and “intellectual” life narrow almost beyond description. As a foreigner, I was also experiencing “collegial” life – characterised by its hierarchical and homogeneizing ethos – as demonstrably antipathetic. Having resolved to fight the acute sense of depression instilled by me by arid and conformist institutional agendas, I (...) eventually became determined to leave no matter where I would find a teaching post (...)
The obvious questions may be: what horrible had exactly happen to PL in Tilburg? Who are the persons behind this drama? What’s the most outraging element of his attack? (I would go for the two “”s) But then also: is it really useful to burn bridges? Does it really make you content to look back in anger? And, obviously, how could the European Review of Private Law publish such an entirely personal (though, admittedly, interesting) statement?

Sunday, 12 September 2010

Paradoxically, Legrand ...

What better to do on a Sunday afternoon than reading the infamous Pierre Legrand... I just managed the 85-page article on ‘Paradoxically, Derrida: For a Comparative Legal Studies’ (available here), the problem being that with the exception of the first 10 pages (a polemic against Hein Kötz) this article is absolutely incomprehensible. Well, perhaps I exaggerate very slightly because there is one good paragraph:
What is required in an age of globalization is not so much yet more technical knowledge about what a foreign law says on any given point at any given time, for one can relatively easily consult an encyclopedia or enlist the help of a foreign lawyer to ascertain such rudimentary data. Rather, there is an urgent need to understand how foreign legal communities think about the law, why they think about the law as they do, why they would find it difficult to think about the law in any other way, and how their thought differs from ours. It is this kind of fundamental information about alterity-in-the-law that comparatists are uniquely suited to provide and that they should be seeking to disseminate, leaving the technical updates to practitioners specializing in a given foreign law (id. p. 707)

Here, paradoxically, Legrand is absolutely right.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

A Tory on the German Constitutional Court?

I just return from a nice Alumni conference in Oxford, organised by the DAAD. They had a number of great speakers, for instance Prof Di Fabio, one of the judges of the German constitutional court (BVerfG). Amongst other things, Di Fabio talked about the criticism of the 2009 Lisbon decision of the BVerfG: the court being accused of having a Eurosceptic attitude similar to the Tories in England – to which he added, that in his view "this is not the worst accusation".
What shall we think about this? On the one hand, this statement may not have been a surprise since Di Fabio is known to be one of the politically most conservative judges of the BVerfG (given his Italian name, one may almost tempted to call him the ‘German Scalia’). On the other hand, I would not assume that English Supreme Court judges would make such open political confessions. Perhaps, the background lies in the different appointment procedures: in the German system the judges of the BVerfG are selected on recommendation by one of the political parties, with the comprise that overall half of the judges should be selected by the centre-left and the other half by the centre-right. Thus, it is usually known anyway which position a particular judge may have. In the case of Di Fabio it may also matter that he is actually a law professor, and therefore he may still feel the freedom of an academic to say whatever he thinks.