|Introduction||In this chapter –|
Australian universities have a long tradition of teaching international students and an impressive record of achieving excellence on the world stage. Australian universities have been active in the internationalisation of Australian education.
Recent growth and competition in the higher education sector has resulted in greater flexibility and diversity in course offerings, teaching methods and research orientation. Many Australian universities concentrate on traditional areas of learning and inquiry, while others are more vocational and applied in focus. All, to some extent, follow the Western European tradition of combining tuition with research. Some undertake research across all disciplines, while others concentrate their research on areas of particular strength.
There are 39 universities in Australia’s diverse system of public and private higher education institutions. There is a large number of international students from over 80 countries at Australian universities. Australia is actively involved in globalising university education through overseas branch campuses, twinning arrangements and exchange programs for students and staff worldwide.
A high proportion of international students in Australian universities are enrolled at the postgraduate level, attracted by Australia’s reputation as an innovative and research-intensive culture. There are numerous special Research Centres, Centres of Excellence and Key Centres of Teaching and Research based at Australian universities undertaking high-level research and providing a diverse range of undergraduate, postgraduate and specialised professional education courses in a variety of fields. In addition, there are many Cooperative Research Centres promoting links with industry and developing products and technology in fields as diverse as mining, manufacturing, agriculture, communications, environment and medical science.
University study in Australia is exciting and challenging, advanced and innovative, traditional yet high-tech.
The Australian study year
In Australia it is summer from December to February, autumn from March to May, winter from June to August and spring from September to November.
Australian undergraduate and most postgraduate courses are taught in two semesters or terms, which amount to about 28 weeks of formal instruction per year.
The academic year normally begins in the first week of March and ends by the first week of November. The Christmas period is the major holiday period for many Australians; Easter is also a major holiday period. The long vacation is always in the Australian summer (December to February).
Some law schools will now accept students for a second semester intake and some institutions run a third semester over the summer which would enable you to complete the degree in a shorter time than usual or to resit in subjects in which you have failed. Other law schools teach postgraduate courses ‘intensively’, that is, in blocks of days rather than over a conventional semester. Some teach, in part, ‘online’.
General aims of legal education in Australia
Each law school will have its own particular focus as represented by the skills and interest of its teaching staff.
In general, though, it is possible to say that at an undergraduate level, most law degrees aim to –
- teach fundamental principles of Australian law and the ability to apply these principles to client problems
- equip the student with a knowledge of fundamental legal procedures — such as court procedures
- give some introduction to practical skills such as legal research, legal writing, advocacy
- appreciate the role of law in society
- understand and respect the ethical standards of the profession
- learn fundamental practice skills
Graduate diplomas and certificates and coursework masters degrees aim to supplement and extend the candidate’s knowledge of a specialist area of the law.
Postgraduate degrees by thesis enable candidates to research a substantial question of law under supervision and to present a substantial argument embodying a discussion of the question reviewed and its conclusions.
Law as a vocational discipline
For many law students, the study of law prepares them for work as a practising lawyer. Generally speaking, a person must have a law degree to practise as a lawyer in Australia.
Most jurisdictions also prescribe a period of additional study, after the law degree, at a practical training institution or a period of traineeship, in some states called articles, in a practising solicitor’s office. There is a list of Practical Legal Training Institutions later in Studying Law in Australia.
A solicitor advises clients of rights and obligations under the law and draws any necessary documentation. Barristers, on the other hand, practise alone and not in partnership. They usually cannot deal directly with clients; they are generally instructed or ‘briefed’ by solicitors on behalf of their clients. They appear in civil and criminal trials on behalf of their clients and give opinions upon legal questions, including drafting documents, referred to them by solicitors.
Most lawyers practise as either solicitors or as barristers. Solicitors can practise alone, in partnership with another solicitor or be employed in private practice or in government.
There are substantial numbers of solicitors employed by the Commonwealth and State Governments such as in the Departments of the Attorney-General, in the offices of the Crown Solicitor and in the Office of Parliamentary Counsel.
Large corporations often also have their own legal departments and employ lawyers who act almost as a solicitor in private practice, but with only one client. The work of the lawyer working in a corporation may vary from strictly legal work such as the preparation of mortgages for a bank to the actual negotiation of commercial deals as well as their documentation.
Lawyers also work in public interest organisations, such as legal aid, welfare, tenancy advice services and the like.
The law degree does not have
a high component of simply memorising principles. The capacities developed
are rather –