Following the successful pilot event (read the blog post here) in Manchester in November 2010, UKCLE staged a follow up National Law Students Forum in Birmingham in June 2011. The event was attended by 50 nominated law student representatives from university law schools throughout England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland, including some who had attended in November 2010. UKCLE was greatly assisted in this venture by a small group of students and academics who had formed a steering group after the November event.
The full report on the event can be accessed on the UKCLE Student Forum website.
The event began with Sefton Bloxham, the event organiser, indicating the key issues (identified from feedback from the previous event) that would be addressed and ending by identifying three key themes for the event – engagement, empowerment and enjoyment! This was followed by an unforgettable ‘icebreaker’ session led by Rebecca Huxley-Binns (Nottingham Trent University), which set the tone for the remainder of the event.
After lunch, there were two parallel sessions. Victoria Passant (NUS Student Engagement Officer) talked about student engagement from an NUS perspective, encouraging students to get involved in local projects, and Linda Graham (Student Development Officer, University of Northumbria) talked about approaches to peer mentoring. Linda had participants sharing examples of good practice via a ‘brick in the wall’ display which remained on show for the duration of the event.
The parallel sessions were followed by an interactive session on mooting and communication skills, led by Rebecca Huxley-Binns, at which participants were able to exchange ideas on all aspects of mooting from organisation of competitions to advocacy skills for mooting.
The second morning began with a session, led by Sefton Bloxham, on shared student experiences of legal education. Discussion took place in small groups on issues of concern to students. A number of issues had been identified though responses to a questionnaire issued in advance of the event, but on the day each group was left to determine its own topic. Interestingly, most groups opted to talk with some passion about how to improve informal communications with law staff.
This was followed by a presentation on LLB student perceptions of assessment and feedback: Lessons from the National Students’ Survey by Lisa Webley (University of Westminster) which provoked further questions and discussion. After a break , there followed two more parallel sessions. Ben Fitzpatrick (University of York) led a participatory session on problem-based learning, drawing on his experience of developing the law programme at York, during which groups of students were confronted with a problem and asked to identify the legal issues involved. And Michael Bromby (Glasgow Caledonian University) spoke about simulated learning, introducing students to a range of ways in which simulations have been used within legal education, prompting some very interesting discussion around the respective merits of online and/or ‘real’ simulations. Michael was also tweeting throughout the event, updating followers and engaging with presenters and participants.
Planning for the future
After lunch, and much anticipation, Sefton Bloxham reminded participants of the question he had asked on the first morning – why are you all here? He stressed that if the Forum was to continue then it was in the hands of those present to grasp the nettle and establish an organisation for the future. Sefton introduced Clare Weaver (Oxford University Press) and Tom Laidlaw (LexisNexis), both of whom had been in attendance throughout the event. Both Clare and Tom welcomed the development of a student forum and indicated that both publishers may be willing to offer some form of financial support in the future. At this point, Sefton announced, to some looks of horror, that the presenters, facilitators and potential sponsors would be leaving the room and the student participants were to be left to form a new steering group/committee and establish an action plan for the future.
UKCLE has no record of what happened during the next hour or so, other than the fact that it was noisy, but at various stages individuals emerged for refreshment, reporting that “it’s getting a bit chaotic” and “it’s a bit like Lord of the Flies in there”. Finally, after about 90 minutes, the doors opened and the presenters were informed that “a committee has been formed”! There followed a brief plenary session in which the new committee identified themselves and pledged to set up a discussion forum for participants to continue the discussion of the key issues – a name, objectives, membership, structure, future activities, sustainability (resourcing). That discussion forum was set up the same evening and all participants at the event are encouraged to contribute to the discussion which will determine the future shape of the new organisation.
The committee are:
- Nneka Agada (University of Hertfordshire)
- David Bannister (Anglia Ruskin University)
- John Bell (De Montfort University)
- Wade Clifton (University of Central Lancashire)
- Gabriella D’Isidoro (University of Salford)
- Phillip Jones (University of Glamorgan)
- Joshua Lintern (University of Plymouth)
- Dominika Malinowska (University of Bradford)
- Lauren Mercer (University of Exeter)
- Jeanette Mooney (Manchester Metropolitan University)
- Peter Shandley (University of Leicester)
- Elle Yates (Coventry University)
This was a highly successful event which appears to have been enjoyed by all participants and which has produced an outcome that exceeds the expectations of the organisers. UKCLE is confident that the new committee will succeed in establishing a new, independent, law student network which will, in time, be able to act as a ‘student voice’ for all law students.