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Interdisciplinarity and Australian legal education: A commentary on the Pearce Report five years on

Wickham, G. (1992) Interdisciplinarity and Australian legal education: A commentary on the Pearce Report five years on. Socio-Legal Bulletin (7). pp. 11-15.

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In the last few years new Law Schools have sprung up in Australian Law Schools like mushrooms after rain (eleven new law schools in five years is a lot in anybody’s language). As well as this dramatic increase in new Law Schools, these few years have seen some dramatic reorganisation of existing Law Schools.

The impetus for this frenzy was the release in 1987 of the Pearce Committee Report (more correctly Australian Law Schools. A discipline assessment for the Commonwealth Tertiary Education Commission). This document included many scathing criticisms of, and suggested changes to, the way law is taught and researched in this country's higher education institutions. One important message of these criticisms and suggestions was that law had to be made more relevant. Among other themes in this message was the theme of interdisciplinarity - in other words, 'make law more relevant by making its links with other disciplines more explicit.'

This is the theme I explore in this commentary. My exploration is based on an assertion: that five years down the track Australian Law Schools (both new and old) are no more interdisciplinary than they were before Professor Pearce and his Committee began their work (indeed. the new ones look surprisingly like the old ones did before any government minister deemed them worth assessing). My exploration traces a contention about the reasons for the state of affairs captured in this assertion.

My contention is that the Pearce Committee report reflects and fails to address a confusion about interdisciplinarity in Australian law teaching and research which is remarkably widespread.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences and Humanities
Publisher: National Centre for Socio-legal Studies, La Trobe University
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