Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Despite Brexit: Strengthening the role of EU law at UK universities

It seems unlikely that the ‘Brexit’ will somehow be stopped. Prior to the referendum, research in economics explained the many negative economic implications. An issue less relevant for the general public, but highly relevant for UK legal scholarship is the future status of research and teaching on EU law in a post-Brexit UK. In past decades, UK law schools have established themselves as leading knowledge hubs for EU law. So what will happen now?

Some may suggest a grim scenario: to start with teaching, EU law will be dropped from the compulsory subjects required for the qualifications as solicitor and barrister. In addition, since EU students will in the future be charged the considerably higher overseas fees, few of them will want to study in the UK, thus further decreasing the demand for EU law teaching at undergraduate and postgraduate level. Finally, academic staff with core expertise on EU law may feel alienated and leave for universities in Ireland and continental Europe.

However, this is not bound to happen. While universities cannot prevent the ‘Brexit’, they can autonomously decide to keep EU law as an important subject in both teaching and research. Even more so, as a form of resistance counterbalancing the Brexit, they should strengthen the role of EU law at their universities. For example, universities should not only keep modules of EU law at the undergraduate level as mandatory ones for their LLB degrees, but introduce new LLM degrees on EU law related topics, establish new centres of EU law, strengthen the collaboration with universities in Europe on EU law etc. It’s in their / our hands.