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Debating Differences Blog: Session 3 – Is social media a force for good in modern society?

‘Debating differences’ is a scheme run by Criminology Lecturer Laura Kelly-Corless, which joins together third-year Criminology and Law students from UCLan and male prisoners from HMP Kirkham, as a way to break down the barriers between those who reside in prison and the rest of society. This scheme is made up of four sessions which all take place within the prison, whereby debates surrounding various controversial issues are executed between a mixture of both groups. Prisoners and students are both encouraged to share their views and opinions on these topics, as a way to learn from each other whilst developing debating techniques and social skills. The third session which took place on the 28th November 2018 focused on the topic of ‘is social media a force for good in society’.

Prior to the debate, all students and all prisoners were given two articles to read regarding social media which provided us with information from both perspectives which would be useful on the day. As I was still unsure how I felt, I did some extra research and managed to come up with a lot more reasons for why social media was NOT a force for good in modern society. However, I still had not made up my mind.  I was particularly excited for this debate as it was my suggestion, which was selected following a vote during the previous session!

Once we were in the visiting centre, the prisoners arrived accompanied by the prison’s librarian Michelle, who would be co-judging the debate alongside guest judge Abi Stark. Everybody was happy to see each other which was a really satisfying feeling, as it showed that everyone was keen to take part and were really glad to be there! As it was the third session, we wasted no time in getting started as we all knew each other by name (no labels were needed) and we were all familiar with what was expected of us. Laura divided us into two groups which consisted of a mixture of students and prisoners and we were then assigned a perspective from which to argue. We excitably separated ourselves into our two groups and got started straight away!

I was assigned to team B, providing arguments for reasons why social media is NOT a force for good in modern society. The first task was to choose who would be the chair for our team and then contribute our top two points each. Everybody in the group had completed the preparation work, which meant we were well on our way to selecting our strongest six points! All members participated and shared their opinions on each of the points we suggested, which only made our arguments stronger. It was interesting to see how students and prisoners interacted so easily with each other, with nobody focusing on the fact that we were in a prison.

Once we returned to a whole group, Team A delivered their first three arguments stating reasons why social media IS a force for good, followed by Team B’s counter-arguments regarding why social media is NOT a force for good. We then returned to our separate groups to formulate responses to these first three points and then gathered as a whole to present them. Then, it was time for Team B to present the second half of their points, followed by Team A’s remaining points, and then once more, responses to both teams. After a quick reflection, the chair of each team delivered the closing remarks in one final attempt to put our argument across that social media is NOT a force for good.

The main argument presented by Team A focused on how social media is a useful tool for communication, connecting people from all over the world whether this be with friends and family or with vulnerable people seeking support. This was accompanied by statements which argued that social media can assist in catching criminals via posting CCTV footage on particular sites, that social media is a platform to help promote yourself in order to find employment and that people are able to engage in learning using social media through tutorials and educational videos which are posted. Team B’s arguments began with an interactive introduction, whereby one member shook hands with the opposing team members to demonstrate real social interaction – from this I thought we would win! We also argued how social media can become addictive which is damaging to all age groups, as well as pointing out that there are privacy issues surrounding these sites. One of the most important issues for me was that children can be targeted online and be subject to grooming, unaware of who they are talking to. However, Team A fought back by arguing that this can take place anywhere and everywhere and that social media is not to blame.

Abi and Michelle took a few minutes to make a judgment regarding who provided the most convincing argument during the debate and announced that team A were the winners – social media IS a force for good in modern society! Despite this, both teams were praised for the contributions they made, as each and every member participated in the creation and execution of the points during the session. By the end of the debate, there was one main point which made me form an opinion on whether social media is a force for good – social media is not the issue, it’s the people who abuse it. Social media is actually a very useful tool for communication and enhances everybody’s lives, but sadly it is people within society who take advantage and cause all of the negative issues which we mentioned.

Overall, I feel that ‘debating differences’ is an excellent scheme to take part in and after only four visits I am disappointed that it has come to an end. This has surprised me, as I was originally unsure of whether to apply due to my lack of confidence. I decided to push myself and take the opportunity and I am so glad I did! I overcame my fear of speaking out within a group which was shown by increasing the number of contributions I made each session – one prisoner even pointed out that he has seen me grow in confidence, which was really good to hear. I encourage anyone who has the opportunity to take part in this scheme to go for it, as it has been the highlight of my time at university!

Roxy Bland – Criminology and Criminal Justice student, UCLan.

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Talent is everywhere. Opportunity is not.

Social Mobility in the Legal Profession Conference – 19 November 2018

On 19 November 2018, Lancashire Law School held its inaugural Social Mobility in the Legal Profession Conference to engage lawyers, law firms, academics and students in the North West in debate and positive action to tackle the important and complex issue of inequality of access in the legal profession.

A fantastic line up speakers from academia and the legal profession all spoke passionately about the importance of raising awareness of the inequality of access in the legal profession, sharing narratives and importantly taking positive steps to effect change in the profession and the North West.

Conference organiser, Principal Lecturer at Lancashire Law School and former solicitor Simon Price outlined the launch of three initiatives at the conference, the launch of Lancashire Law School’s Centre for Social Mobility in the Legal Profession, the North West Social Mobility Alliance and the Legal Mentor Network.

The Centre for Social Mobility in the Legal Profession

The mission of the centre will be to empower students to realise their potential and aims to bring together researchers, practitioners and students to promote equality of access, encourage open and transparent dialogue and develop evidence based approaches that translate into practice and provide tangible outcomes of Social Mobility in the Legal Profession.

North West Social Mobility Alliance

The Alliance was launched in partnership with Global Law firm DWF and aims to grow to a dozen North West law firms in the next 12 months to provide a forum for sharing best practice and experiences and develop a regional network of legal professionals who were 1st generation law students.  The Alliance will run the Legal Mentor Network and hold regional networking events where 1st generation law students can meet legal professionals and develop their skills and experience.

social mobility 2

 

 

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Debating Differences Session 2

Yesterday, on the 8th of November 2018, 6 third year criminology/law students traveled to HMP Kirkham along with the event organiser Laura Kelly, who is one of UCLan’s Criminology lecturers, to meet with 7 prisoners for the second session of ‘debating differences’. This a scheme which is run in partnership between HMP Kirkham and UCLan and is now in its third year running. The purpose of the scheme is to break down barriers and to allow both the students and the prisoners to be in a positive learning environment, where all feel confident enough to share their ideas on different topics that exist within society as well as being able to develop on their debating techniques, learn how to create good quality arguments and improve on social skills.

The topic up for debate in this session was ‘Should prostitution be decriminalised in England and Wales?’- an incredibly thought-provoking and controversial issue. As with the first session, both the students and prisoners were given preparation work which was to be completed prior to the session. The prep was made up of research surrounding the main points of the topic and we were all required to write three ‘pro’ points and three ‘con’ points regarding the issue as well as our own opinion on the topic. Personally, my opinion on this topic stayed the same after I had completed the research. However, when traveling to the prison it was made apparent that several of the students, as well as Laura, were unsure about where they stood on the matter and so it was clear that it was going to be a very interesting debate!

Once we had arrived at the prison, Viv Ivins who is the head of UCLan’s Law school and one of the judges for this session was waiting for us and we were also greeted by the prison librarian Michelle who was also co-judging alongside Viv. After a quick introduction, we were split into two teams with a mix of prisoners and students on each side, one team was arguing in agreement that prostitution should be decriminalised in England and Wales and the other opposing this. Both teams were given an adequate amount of time to come up with six points supporting their side of the argument (Laura’s timekeeping was very good).  The structure of the debate meant that all team members were encouraged to share their ideas when the main points were being formulated as well as delivering these points within the debate setting. This proved a great opportunity for improvement of skills such as public speaking and confidence. Also, we were all aware from the last debate that it was important for us to expand on our arguments when delivering our points, this was something that every team member in both teams did very well in.

Some of the main arguments give from Team A who were ‘pro’ for this debate included people being able to do as they please with their own bodies without feeling that what they are doing is ‘illegal’ and ‘wrong’, as well as how prostitutes who had been the subject to crimes would feel much more confident in coming forward if it was legalised and also how the decriminalisation of prostitution within England and Wales would benefit the economy. Arguments put forward by Team B were based around the negative factors that the decriminalisation could bring into society. These included how the decriminalisation of prostitution could encourage a further increase in crimes such as human trafficking and how it could also mean an increase in violence towards prostitutes as well as how the legalisation could be a negative influence on children.  In general, the points given by both sides had clearly been well researched and were extremely thought-provoking as well.

When it was time to decide on a winner it was apparent that this would be a difficult task as both teams had presented well-rounded arguments and strong closing remarks. Both Viv and Michelle (the co-judges) agreed with this and even mentioned how they briefly considered calling it a draw. However, in the end, Team A who were pro-decriminalisation were chosen as the winners of this session.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this session as well as the previous one and know that the others who are participating in the scheme with me feel the same. I have gained so much from this experience so far and I must say that my own expectations of what the scheme and the prisoners would be like were rather inaccurate and I have definitely had my opinions changed on prisoners and prisons themselves.  I was rather anxious before starting the scheme and was wary about how some of the prisoners might behave. However, I could not have been more wrong, every single prisoner was well-mannered and civilised, if I didn’t know they were prisoners then I honestly could never have guessed, they just seem like normal guys. This is an incredibly unique opportunity where preconceptions are challenged, schemes like ‘debating differences’ allow stereotypes to be eradicated. One of the main things I have taken away from the past two sessions is how intelligent and educated on issues of the world the prisoners were, I will be the first to admit that I did not generally expect this, it was clear that they had all put a large amount of effort into preparing for the debate and were thoroughly enthusiastic about it, which was good to see. I am incredibly lucky to have been given the opportunity to participate in this scheme and am looking forward to the next two sessions. I would strongly encourage anyone who is considering participating in this scheme to apply as it is a thoroughly enjoyable and yet rare opportunity where you will find your opinions and conceptions challenged in a way they might never have been before.

  • Iram Ali – Third-year Law (LLB) student, UCLan.
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A Student’s Perspective of A Solicitors for the Elderly Meeting about Mental Capacity in the Elderly.

On 4 October 2018 I attended an event about Mental Capacity in the Elderly. This event was a chance for students to join a forum of Solicitors, who work with the Elderly, at one of their meetings. The speaker was Tim Farmer who conducts mental capacity assessments for solicitors. His passion for the subject kept me gripped from beginning to end.

I first heard about the event from one of those employability emails we are sent by lecturers. The subject line caught my attention because I am studying Wills and Probate this semester and I am a Paralegal for a firm which specialises in private client work and has mainly elderly clients. This event sounded like the perfect opportunity for me to learn and network with other solicitors who work in my area of interest.

Tim told us stories about his experiences to illustrate how to interpret the Mental Capacity Act 2005 to assess whether a client has mental capacity or not.  When determining whether a client has mental capacity, we mustn’t assume lack of capacity and we must tailor our assessment to the client; ensuring we conduct the assessment when the client is at their best and focus our questions on the reason why the client needs to have capacity. If a client struggles to remember everyday things, this doesn’t mean that they lack capacity for a legal transaction. If the client understands the legal transaction they will have the mental capacity required.

Also, Tim explained that there is a difference between understanding and communication. As solicitors, we must be creative and discover how to communicate with our client before deciding whether they have the mental capacity to understand or not. Tim illustrated the splitting up of a client’s estate by using the different chocolates in a box of chocolates.

Attending this event has provided me with many tips on how to communicate effectively with clients. This knowledge will help me in my Wills and Probate Interview Assessment.

The most surprising thing about this event was that both students and solicitors were on an equal platform. We were all dressed in business wear, we were all sat as one audience and it was impossible to distinguish between the students and the solicitors. This made it easier to speak with the solicitors and it didn’t feel like it was as much of a daunting networking experience.

To all my fellow students I would like to say one thing, ‘Read all your employability emails and sign up to the employability events on offer.’ This is because the Law School’s events provide you with the rare opportunity to get a real insight into what it is like to be a solicitor in practice.

-Katie Egan, Fourth Year MLaw student.

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Kirkham Prison Debating the Differences Blog

In April of this year, criminology lecturer Laura Kelly, asked me if I would like to come along and watch the final event in the ‘Debating the Differences’ series of debates between Uclan students and the men of HMP Kirkham.  As the criminology team lead I was delighted to lend my support but more than that, I was really keen to learn more about how the debates were organised and how all the debaters felt about participating in them. As it turned out I had more to do than I had expected.  The final topic was, ‘Does religion do more harm than good?’.  I knew that Laura K was a little anxious about this, as it is a subject which can stir up very deep emotions and can involve challenging very deeply held beliefs.  For personal reasons one of the usual judges did not feel objective enough to judge this particular debate so Laura asked me if I would step in. No pressure there then!

On the way there (on a very large bus for 12 of us) the students were enthusiastic about this final debate and I could see that for some this was a very personal topic.  From their discussions I could certainly tell that they had done their research. On arrival at Kirkham we were made to feel welcome as we went through the usual security checks and were directed to the visitors’ room where the debates were held.  There I met the prison librarian, Michelle, who has been instrumental in getting these debates off the ground.  She is a mine of information about how the prison operates and I learned a huge amount from her on that afternoon.  We have a lot to thank her for in making these debates so successful. She was also the co-judge with me.

As the men joined us, what struck me immediately was the chemistry between them and the students.  They greeted each other as equals and the good natured banter that followed set the tone for the friendly rivalry which continued all afternoon. As the teams were selected there were some groans and moans as people were put on a team opposing their natural viewpoint, but there was no ‘kicking off’ and those people took it as the challenge it was designed to be.  As the teams separated to do their preparation I wandered round to listen.  What a delight!  There was no chit chat about last night’s Corrie or the footie scores (yes, that happens all the time in my classes back at Uclan) just complete focus on the task.   I saw groups of individuals demonstrating superb team working skills.  There were some people who had a lot to say and they were listened to, and challenged when necessary.  This was no pushover.  There were some with less to say but they were directly encouraged to participate to give everyone a chance to contribute.   Great prep work from the teams.

What of the debate itself? I didn’t really know what to expect to be honest.  Our students are well used to speaking in groups, some will even be assessed on it, so I expected them to run away with it.  How wrong I was.  Even our students can suffer lack of confidence at times and there were a few stumbles.  As for the men – well it quickly became very apparent that there were some intelligent, articulate deep thinkers amongst them. They had limited access to research materials for this debate but they more than made up for that by the construction of cleverly thought out arguments. This was going to be harder to judge than I had imagined!

The 1st round came and went with no clear winner – the arguments came thick and fast.  To be fair, both teams found the response stage challenging.  The 2nd round was equally tight.  Just when you thought one team had nailed it the other team pulled some other convincing point out of the hat. The rivalry did not only exist between teams but also between the students and the men themselves.  I reckon there were some interesting conversations in the billets that evening. What Laura and Michelle were able to tell me was the scale of the improvement in both the men and the students since the debates began.  The value added in this scheme seems to have been impressive.

Anyway a decision had to be made as to the winner … but Michelle and I could not do it!  We could not put a hair between them – it was a photo finish – it was a dead heat (you get the gist).  The depth and complexity of the arguments from both sides, together with the delivery of the points, when looked at overall meant it would have been unfair to choose one team over the other so it ended in an honourable draw. What a great afternoon of debating I witnessed.  Great work from everyone.

A few weeks later I went back to HMP Kirkham for the certificate awarding ceremony and celebration lunch to mark the end of the successful debates series. I was delighted at this stage to get to talk to the men at length about what their views were on the debates, what they had got from them and how we could improve them next time.  I had some really useful conversations and as a result of their feedback we hope to expand the debating programme even further next year. It’s good to know that the men have enjoyed the debates and feel that they have got something out of them on a personal level.

After lunch we were lucky enough to have a few of the men take us on a guided tour of the prison.  This was fascinating and it was made so much more impactful by having the residents talk us through the various sectors.  The prison is a hive of industry and it struck me what a range of skills are needed from the men to keep it ticking over and allowing it to be as successful as it appears to be.  For me though, it was the places away from the hustle and bustle which made the biggest impact on me: the library, with the corner set up so that dads can read a story to their kids and get it recorded, and the pride with which those who work in the library explain how, amongst other things,  they help men improve their literacy skills; there was the chapel, which soothed you as soon as you stepped inside and which acts as a tranquil place for men of any religion (or indeed none at all); and the gym, which acts as a different sort of  church for some of the men and which needs the skilful and powerful management which it gets from the staff there.

A heartfelt ‘Thank you!’ to all the debate participants, both students and men, to the staff at Kirkham especially the superb Michelle and most of all to Laura Kelly, who has been the driving force behind this initiative.   It has been a great learning experience for all involved.

Finally, going back to the debate – l learned that we all need something to believe in – it’s what makes us human.  You can choose to believe in your God, your family, your football team, or just yourself.  But whatever is your choice:

YOU GOTTA HAVE FAITH!!

by Laura Hughes

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Deploying The Blockchain Against Cryptocurrencies, Giving Regulators An Edge Over Criminals

Introduction

Whenever cryptocurrencies go under regulatory spotlight, the conversation quickly descends into what has become a cryptocurrency cliché, the use of crypto assets to fund criminal activities and terrorism. The point which regulators omit to also emphasise on is the fact that terrorism, drugs and all the other illicit activities under the sun pre-date crypto assets which were only discovered almost a decade ago. The 9/11 attacks occurred long before crypto assets arrived and to relate crypto assets to terrorism for example would be to put the cart before the horse. It cannot be denied though that cryptocurrencies make it easier for unscrupulous players to take advantage of a vacuum in this space.

Regulators would have to stop dithering about the rights and wrongs of crypto-assets and take affirmative action to protect consumers. In this regard, they should look no further than cryptocurrencies for solutions. The blockchain which powers cryptocurrencies is the biggest tool which regulators will need to quickly get familiar with in order to win the fight against crypto related criminal activities. The same attributes which cryptocurrencies have been lauded for-transparency, immutability and efficiency can enable regulators to discharge their functions without the need to expend the limited resources at their disposal.

Transparency

All cryptocurrencies function through the manipulation of a public distributed ledger. This ledger is available for anyone who wants to view it through a functionality called blockchain explorer for example. This displays all wallet addresses on a particular blockchain. A search using a wallet address reveals all transactions of incoming and outgoing transactions. The only problem is, you cannot tell who the parties involved in the transaction are-which is why most people confuse this for anonymity. Once you have a wallet address, you can find out more information such as dates when the transaction occurred and all wallets where assets have been sent to which can also enable anyone to then uncover the value of assets involved.

This information can be very useful for regulators as at some point the assets would have to be disposed of and brought back into the traditional financial systems at which point regulators can start asking questions about the source of funds.

Immutability

Immutability is hailed as one of the fundamentals of the blockchain which enables cryptocurrencies to be passed around on the blockchain without any concerns about double spending. Once a transaction has been recorded and the ledger has been distributed across the network, it is almost impossible to change the record on the blockchain. This is because one would have to conspire with the entire network of computers spread across the globe which were involved in confirming that transaction in the first place. This does not end there, one would also have to do the same by changing all subsequent transactions. This means that enforcement agencies can use the blockchain to nail criminals so long as they manage to get a wallet address.

Transparency, when combined with immutability, can enable regulators to bring prosecutions and enable prosecutors to discharge the burden of proof which is beyond reasonable doubt for criminal prosecutions. This is how assailants were nabbed in the famous Silk Road trial in the US where bitcoins were used in criminal activities. A prosecutor gets proof beyond reasonable doubt through the blockchain as this cannot be disputed in court.

Efficiency

One of the biggest benefits of the blockchain is its efficiency in as far as crypto assets are concerned. Anyone can simply input a wallet address and you get to view all the outgoing and incoming transactions which are recorded and kept on the blockchain. This means that you do not need to solve a difficult puzzle which is normally the case when tracing assets through fiat bank accounts whereby you have to jump through various privacy hoops, with the puzzle increasing in complexity where cross-border transactions are involved.

A combination of transparency, immutability and efficiency can help law enforcement agencies and regulators to stay ahead of criminals if the blockchain can be used effetively.

The pre-requisites

In order to be able to throw the book back at cryptocurrencies, law enforcement and government agencies will have to understand how blockchain technology works. Tackling crime within this sector requires enforcement agencies to adopt smart ways of investigating financial crimes. It also requires cooperation between various government agencies. The complexity of the issues surrounding regulation can be explained through an analysis of the regulatory regime in western countries.

The regulatory framework in the US is confusing as there are multiple agencies which claim jurisdiction-and as an example, the Securities and Exchanges Commission (SEC) and the Commodities and Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) often clash. Cryptocurrencies overlap across these agencies as it is not possible to give a blanket definition to them as every asset is different in the sectors getting disrupted, how it was funded and functionality of the token. Bitcoin for example is classed as a commodity meaning that CFTC retains jurisdiction[1]. The SEC believes that most tokens distributed through ICOs are securities hence they fall under its jurisdiction[2]. The truth is that none of the agencies are wrong, it is simply a reflection of the complexity of issues involved which can only be solved through tailor made laws and regulations.

In the United Kingdom, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) is empowered to regulate financial services. Through a statement, the FCA acknowledged that cryptocurrencies fall in a grey area and this is not covered by law[3]. The conclusion has been that this new asset class will require parliament’s involvement before it can get regulated.

The US approach is in sharp contrast with the UK approach and this serves to illustrate how complex it is to tackle the issue of regulations in this space. It is by no way suggested that any country should adopt any of these approaches, however, something needs to be done. The difficulties involved probably explain why some jurisdictions have simply decided to take the irrational measure of a complete barn.

Collaborative approach

Successful regulation of cryptocurrencies will require a coordinated and collaborative approach across government agencies and countries. A better starting point would be for legislation to be passed through parliament which either split regulatory powers across various regulators by following the US approach or the other alternative would be to pass laws which give powers to only one institution to have oversight of all things crypto.

Taking a regulatory option to cryptocurrencies can bring benefits as trading these assets can attract revenue through taxes provided they are clearly defined in law. Germany took the lead in Europe by making cryptocurrencies more like a legal tender and German citizens will be able to use crypto assets for day to day transactions. Taking this approach will mean that it will be easier to develop tailor-made regulations whilst at the same time allowing law enforcement agencies to catch up with how the technology works.

The three attributes discussed above can be harnessed as tools for regulating the cryptocurrencies space. However, the implementation of regulations would have to be frontloaded with training across all sectors which may include training the public and raising awareness on the risks and benefits posed by cryptocurrencies.

Ineffectiveness of a ban

Whilst others may advocate for a ban and feel that this could solve the problem, this is not necessarily the case. A knee-jerk reaction ban can increase demand and drive prices up, cryptocurrencies are already trading at a premium in some parts of the world especially across the whole of Africa. A ban will simply drive this sector underground. The decentralised nature of cryptocurrencies means that enforcing a ban is almost impossible especially in circumstances where law enforcement agencies are under-trained and ill equipped in recovering the assets which are often stored online and can be moved across borders easily.

Conclusion

In as much as the establishment would like to see off cryptocurrencies, the reality tells a very different story. Cryptocurrencies are already becoming mainstream and 2018 has already been a defining period. Major global and traditional institutions which impact on the development of financial services have already signalled an intention to embrace digital assets. Big entities such as Mastercard and Barclays have since moved to file patents for various payments systems using cryptocurrency as a settlement method. Some regulated products such as futures have started to surface in the UK. In the US, despite several applications of Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs) being turned down by SEC, it appears to be only a matter of time before an approval occurs. There is consensus that this emerging technology is very disruptive, however, this does not call for taking what appears to be the easier option-a ban. Once this technology gets embedded elsewhere across the globe, playing catch up would be difficult and probably costly. Regulating cryptocurrencies appears to be the only reasonable option on the table. The blockchain which is the driver for cryptocurrencies can be used against this asset class to assist law enforcement and regulatory authorities. However, before this happens there is a need to consider the best approach to take to regulations and lay the groundwork possibly through clearly thought out legislation in parliament.

Post by Prosper Mwedzi

[1] ttps://www.cftc.gov/sites/default/files/idc/groups/public/%40customerprotection/documents/file/oceo_bitcoinbasics0218.pdf

[2] https://www.sec.gov/ICO

[3] https://www.fca.org.uk/news/statements/cryptocurrency-derivatives

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SLS Conference

Tina McKee and Rachel Nir’s trip to the SLS conference, September 201

The SLS conference was at Queen Mary’s University in East London this year.  One of the themes was ‘Law in Troubled Times’ and there was a lot of debate about BREXIT understandably.  There was even an interactive drama session focussing on legal problem solving, ranging from air pollution to teenagers being sent to prison on the basis of joint enterprise.  It was a sight to behold, gaggles of self-conscious legal academics channelling their inner lovies (fortunately no photographic or video evidence remains from that session) in the middle of a massive Victorian octagonal library.

library

The Octagon at QMU London

We delivered our paper on ‘The Participation Puzzle: Students, why don’t they come?’.  We were exploring why many LLS students don’t attend as well as we want them too, and how that affects their learning and assessment results.  Following a 2 year project, conducted with the help of our hard-working and imaginative student research interns, Jonathan Holmes, Declan Kenyon and Iana Morova, we had discovered for instance, that students who attend less than 60% of their classes, normally have to take resits to pass the year.  Our findings also suggest that we need to rethink our use of BlackBoard because students are failing to attend because they think that they can learn effectively from the materials online.  Student stress levels are far higher than anticipated, with 50% of those who returned surveys saying that they found their studies ‘stressful’.  These are issues that we need to tackle directly and we are drawing up plans about how to do this.  Part of this will involve talking to students for their input.

Our presentation was well received and generated lots of discussion.  Other Law Schools across the sector are also experiencing the same issue with attendance.  We’ve been invited to get involved with other Law Schools in joint project work and to visit other Universities to present our findings.