Dear Members of the NUS Law Community,
We recently held our annual Farewell Dinner — an opportunity for the graduating class to have a relaxed evening of reminiscences about their time at NUS Law. Run largely by the students, the light-hearted event is always entertaining. This year was no exception, as the students roped some of the faculty into assisting them in presenting Oscars-style awards to their classmates. These included an “Un-Valedictorian Award”, a prize for the person “Most Likely to be a Future Dean”, and other honours that are perhaps best confined to the memories of those who were present.
Scene from the Law IV musical.The Farewell Dinner is a precursor to the more formal Commencement, which takes place in July. Between the two lies the necessary evil of exams, which our students have just completed. There is a palpable sense of relief around the campus as they enjoy a well-earned break from study.
For this Dean’s Diary, I thought I would share some thoughts about the various ways in which our alumni have been supporting NUS Law, some achievements by our students, some faculty news, and a word about international gatherings of law deans.
Supporting NUS Law
At the Farewell Dinner, I was particularly touched that the Class of 2013 was the first to establish a class grant prior to graduating, including a significant contribution from the Law IV musical. The funds contributed will go towards the creation of the Class of 2013 Book Grant which will provide help to financially needy law students.
The gift from the graduating students capped one of our best years ever in terms of alumni support. One hundred and sixty-five alumni gave to the Law School, contributing just short of a million dollars for bursaries, scholarships, and other support in the financial year ended 31 March 2013.
Your generosity makes it possible for us to promise that no deserving undergraduate Singaporean student will be denied a place in law school for financial reasons, while also allowing us to ensure that we can attract and retain the very best students and faculty from around the world.
Most recently, we celebrated the retirement of Emeritus Professor Peter Ellinger with his Valedictory Lecture on banking law and practice. Some of Peter’s former students banded together to create a new Peter Ellinger Visiting Professorship, which will enable us to invite leading scholars in banking and finance law from around the world to spend time at NUS Law teaching and researching. It is a fitting testament to Peter’s tremendous influence on banking law and practice in Singapore that his name will be associated directly with the education of students for many years to come.
From left to right: The Honourable Mr Chan Sek Keong SC, Prof Ellinger and NUS Law Dean, Prof Simon Chesterman.
In addition to work and play, our students have excelled outside the classroom. Among other achievements, Kok Yee Keong ’14, Kristy Teo ’14 and Catherine Lim ’14 — recently won the 5th GNLU International Moot Court Competition, organised by Gujarat National Law University, India, in February 2013.
The NUS Law team beat 36 Indian teams and 5 other international teams from the US, Mauritius, Nepal, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. The final round was a tough fight with the National Law School of India University, Bangalore (arguably the best law school in India and winner of the 2013 Jessup Cup). The judges in the final round comprised of a member of the WTO Panel and the secretariat of the WTO Appellate Body. In addition to winning the competition, Kristy Teo was awarded the best oralist for the finals, and Yee Keong was the best oralist for prelims.
As always, in addition to their teaching and research activities, our faculty have been active in other ways also.
Among other achievements, Prof Tan Cheng Han ’87 was recently appointed Chairman of the Public Accountants Oversight Committee (PAOC), and also as a member of the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) board.
Prof Tan Cheng Han
Assoc Prof Lye Lin Heng ’73 has been appointed Deputy Chair of the IUCN Academy of Environment Law’s Board of Governors. The IUCN Academy is an international network of environmental law faculties and centres collaboratively engaged in academic exchange, research and capacity-building activities.
Asst Prof Lynette Chua ’03 has been awarded a Law & Society Association Honourable Mention for Article Prize for her article, “Pragmatic Resistance, Law, and Social Movements in Authoritarian States: The Case of Gay Collective Action in Singapore”. It was published in volume 46(4) of Law & Society Review, the leading journal on law and society studies.
Law Deans' Forums & Law School Rankings
On April 19 and 20, I had the pleasure of attending the Fourth Asian Law School Deans' Forum, which was held at Korea University School of Law in Seoul. Such gatherings are an opportunity to exchange views with counterparts from around the region, while also exploring ways in which we can work together to create opportunities for our students and pursue research in shared areas of interest.
Law Deans from all around Asia gathered for the Fourth Asian Law School Deans' Forum.
In September this year, NUS Law will be hosting the first ever Global Law Deans’ Forum, organised in conjunction with the International Association of Law Schools. The Forum will bring academic leaders from law schools around the world to Singapore to share their thoughts on best practices in education and research.
One of the things that many deans must confront is the variability of rankings.
In the recent QS Rankings of Universities by Subject for Law and Legal Studies, NUS Law was ranked 22nd in the world. Looking more closely, the rankings give some good news, some reasons for optimism, and some areas in which more work needs to be done.
The good news, when one drills down into the rankings, is that in one of the areas most important to our students we remain extremely strong. In employer reputation, we remained 10th in the world. This suggests the strength of our academic programme, which is one of the key factors considered by undergraduate and graduate students.
The reason for optimism is that a new measure in which we did very poorly – H-index citations and a revised Citation per paper – should change for the better. These measures rely on Scopus, a journal database that includes only a selection of law journals. For example, it has included the Hong Kong Law Journal produced by HKU for some years, but not the Singapore Journal of Legal Studies (SJLS). This means that work published in SJLS does not count towards the rankings. Happily, SJLS was added last month and this should be reflected in future rankings.
The areas in which more work needs to be done are in the quantity and quality of our research. It is my hope that our new research centres, as well as the resources that will support them and free up existing research funding for other areas of research, will inspire all of us to push ourselves to produce high quality work and ensure that its impact is maximised.
Rankings are, of course, a blunt measure of the success of an institution. We should not distort our activities in order to move up rankings, but as we aspire to be one of the best law schools in the world, we can do more to ensure that our achievements are properly recognised. In doing so, we will create more opportunities for our graduates and increase our impact as a thought leader in legal research.
I hope you find these updates of interest. If you have a Facebook account, one way to receive more frequent updates on our activities is to “like” our page: www.facebook.com/NUS.Law (And if you do not have a Facebook page, or are suspicious about the way information on the Internet is affecting our ability to think, you may enjoy my recent article for the Straits Times, available here.)
Dean, NUS Law