Written Answer by Minister for Law, K Shanmugam, to Parliamentary Question on Overseas Scheduled Universities Review
Mrs Lina Chiam, Non-Constituency Member of Parliament
To ask the Minister for Law (a) what is the basis for accepting the recommendation of the Singapore Institute of Legal Education to drop eight UK universities from the list of approved universities for admission to the Singapore Bar; (b) whether criteria apart from the quality of legal education, such as obligations under established free trade agreements, are considered in making this decision; and (c) whether the Government will ensure that the quality of legal education is the main criterion for selecting approved law schools.
1. The approved Overseas Scheduled Universities (“OSUs”) were first listed in 1994 pursuant to recommendations of the First Committee on the Supply of Lawyers. Since then, the composition of universities on the list has undergone periodic revisions following recommendations of subsequent Committees, based on the prevalent standards and desired quality of education required for the practice of Singapore law.
2. The latest review by the Singapore Institute of Legal Education (“SILE”) was completed in February 2015. It was made pursuant to the recommendations of the Fourth Committee on the Supply of Lawyers (“the Fourth Committee”). The Fourth Committee, made up of key stakeholders in the legal industry, including practitioners from both local and foreign law firms based in Singapore, the Law Society of Singapore, Singapore Corporate Counsel Association, the local law schools, and various government agencies, recommended a review of the list of OSUs to ensure the continued quality of overseas-trained entrants to the Singapore Bar.
3. The SILE reviewed the list of OSUs (except those whose law degrees Singapore is required to recognise under Free Trade Agreements) in accordance with the assessment methodology set out by the Fourth Committee, which had proposed the use of objective standards to guide the qualitative review. Three publicly available rankings from reputable UK broadsheets over a period of years and representations from the OSUs were taken into consideration. The SILE review reached the conclusion that 11 UK OSUs and 2 New Zealand OSUs were of the standards and quality that were suitable for the list.
4. Transitional provisions will be put in place for Singaporean citizens and permanent residents who have secured a place to read the LL.B (Honours) course in the omitted UK OSUs before 1 October 2015, or who have been admitted for Academic Year 2015/2016. They will be able to be admitted to the Singapore Bar. The list of OSUs will be reviewed by SILE every 5 years.