Many unhappy with 'onerous' demands of modular degree


ANALYSIS:THE KING’S Inns is the only institution in the State providing professional education for barristers. Therefore it was also, until the recent access by solicitors to the higher courts, the portal through which the upper ranks of the judiciary had to pass.

In recent years it reorganised the education course and now the BL degree is a full-time one-year course open to law graduates or those who have undertaken the King’s Inns two-year diploma.

Following widespread criticism of the fact that the change meant those working could no longer study for the bar, it introduced a modular two-year course, whereby the same ground is covered at weekends, with a limited requirement to attend during the week.

However, several of those who have just completed the modular course contacted The Irish Timesto say that aspects of it were very onerous and took little account of the needs of those working.

For example, said one, in May there were three weekends of classes in a row, from nine to five on both days, so people worked full-time 26 days in a row. During this time there was also an exam and a large research assignment. Yet there were no classes in April.

Modular students, especially those from outside Dublin, had very few opportunities to participate in midweek competitions, said another.

Most assessments took place midweek, said yet another, meaning a considerable number of modular students had to take leave from work or, in some cases, give up work in order to do them. In addition, the hand-in times for completed work were described as “ridiculously onerous” by another student, with work having to be handed in on a Monday, necessitating staying an additional night in Dublin for those from outside the capital.

Camilla McAleese, under-treasurer of the King’s Inns, acknowledges that a number of issues need to be addressed. “We’re very conscious of the fact that we’re not around at weekends,” she said. However, she said that any concerns students had would be addressed, where possible. “We’re revamping our whole IT system at the moment,” she added.

She accepted the issuing and handing-in of assessments could take place at weekends. Optional subjects, taken at the end of the year, could be scheduled earlier.

For some students there is a more general problem of lack of transparency and accountability. “I resent the fact that a private organisation has power over entry to the profession and it’s the only place you can train,” said one. “They are subject to no man nor master, and this is the seed of the judiciary. It is such a core part of our society and entry to it is via this private organisation.”