• Responding to expectation

      Dutton, Kathryn; Hunter, Phil; University of Chester (2008-01-04)
      Student motivation for, and, more recently, student expectations of, undergraduate study have been important critical foci within the educational literature in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. In recent years, the commodification and commercialisation of learning has led to increased pressure upon programme providers to ‘meet’ the expectation of the ‘student consumers’ (see, inter alia, Arthurs, 2001; Boon et al, 2005; Barnet, 1994; Delaney, 2001). These issues, as most legal academics are aware, have particular pertinence for undergraduate law programmes. The provision of the ‘qualifying law degree’ (Q.L.D.) ensures that many students enter their undergraduate studies with the understanding that the programme is one ‘step’ towards achieving their ambition to join the legal profession. Arguably, however, these student motivations and expectations are often very far removed from the legal academy’s perceptions of the true value and purpose of undergraduate law study (Hunt, 1986: 292. See also, Hunt, 1987; MacCormick, 1985; Twining, 1997 & 1986; and, Cownie 2004). This paper will provide information on, and the early findings of, a new research study (commenced in September 2007) that aims to explore the ‘expectation-reality’ gap for undergraduate law students. The research aims to address some of the hitherto (empirically) unanswered questions concerning the ‘real’ reasons students come to study law at University and what exactly they expect from studying law at undergraduate level. One of the principal contentions that will be made by the researchers is that it will only be possible for the legal academy to address some of the issues arising from the ‘clash of ideologies’ (arguably inherent in contemporary Q.L.D. programmes) by forming a detailed understanding of actual student expectation and motivations for undergraduate law study. The researchers will assert that full understanding of the extent to which student perceptions of the purpose of undergraduate law study deviate from the perceptions of those guiding their study will not be possible until this empirical information is gathered and subjected to detailed analysis. The researchers will argue that this evidential basis is crucial if we are to design programmes that can provide some acceptable reconciliation between the expectations of contemporary students and those of legal academics.