A recent article in the UKCLE's hard-copy magazine - Directions (McCartney & Cassella, pg 8-9 Autumn 2008 edition) - discusses the absence of forensic modules on the LLB in England and Wales.
Of all the 10 LLB providers in Scotland,the majority (7) offer an elective forensic module of some description:
Aberdeen - Advanced Evidence (which includes expert witness and probability evidence)
Abertay - Scientific Detectives (two modules available) (catalogue not available online)
Dundee - Forensic Medicine
Edinburgh - Medical Jurisprudence
Glasgow - Forensic Medicine
Glasgow Caledonian - Evidence and Forensic Identification (two modules available)
Strathclyde - Forensic Medicine & Science (two modules available)
Beyond the issue of whether LLB students can opt for a forensic module, Napier offers a Law for Forensic Scientists module and the Robert Gordon University offers a named BSc Forensic Science with Law that combats the opposite issue - do forensic scientists get enough training in legal issues?
So, it seems that forensic issues are more mainstream in the Scottish LLB curriculum, although not as a core subject, and students are required to opt for these modules as an elective. Whether they have a 'scientific background' in terms of secondary schooling, I couldn't comment. But, Scottish students arrive at university with around 5 to 7 Highers taken over two years- therefore there is a greater possibility of having some scientific knowledge, albeit slightly lower than A level standard.
As a very rough and ready analysis, I had a quick count up of our own first year intake (47) for Glasgow Caledonian and found that students had the following Highers:
I've included Maths as I'd like to suggest that a knowledge of maths and stats is equally important for a law student when taking a forensic module to appreciate the problems and issues around probability and likelihood ratios that had confounded the courts in the 1990s and probably still confounds the jury today.
Carole McCartney at Leeds looked at unconditional offers (214) and found approx 18% have an A level in a science (such as biology, chemistry, physics). With Scottish students having a larger number of subjects they can take, this will clearly be higher, and of course, I've included maths too.
|All 4 Sciences||4%|
|At least 3 Sciences||19%|
|At least 2 Sciences||47%|
|At least 1 Sciences||72%|
But does this make their grades any better? I'll tell you in four years! Will this make them better lawyers? Who knows!