On the morning of Wednesday 18th December, GĦSL represented by President Clive Gerada alongside 1st and 2nd year class representatives Francesca Zarb and Luisa Cassar Pullicino respectively, as well as faculty board representatives Paul Caruana Turner, Patrick Gatt and Robert Dingli, organised a consultation meeting with law students to discuss the current issue of a proposition to remove the Doctorate of Laws (LLD) title and replace it with Master of Laws (LLM), so that the course is in accordance with the Bologna process requirements to which Malta is signatory. Students present had the opportunity to ask questions to the panel, which was chaired by Dirk Urpani, and express their own opinions on the issue, which will be made known during a future meeting to be held by the said organization with the Parliamentary Secretary for Justice Dr. Owen Bonnici.
During the meeting, students again voiced their concerns regarding possible discrimination at the workplace between lawyers with a Doctorate and a Masters degree, as well as the possibility of disadvantageous public perception. While acknowledging the validity of such a worry, the panel stated that a change in title would not affect employment since firms and other legal entities will be fully aware of the changes by the time they come into place, if they pass through Parliament.
A particular issue raised by the students was the part of the proposal which replaces the end of course thesis with a dissertation during fourth year and a log book system in fifth year, whereby students formally report their court visits and other work experience sessions to University. According to the panel, again in consensus, a shorter dissertation instead of a longer thesis would not jeopardise students in prospective employment, since after all the content within the research is far more relevant than the length. In other parts of the discussion, the panel further asserted that the legal requirements for the law course will not change, and that credits have been placed strategically and efficiently in the situation of a 3-year-long Doctorate being reduced to a single year of Masters.
Earlier this month, the Dean of the Faculty of Laws Dr. Kevin Aquilina addressed law students with the proposal in question. In brief, during this initial session, Dr. Aquilina stated that students would not be jeopardised by the change, but the majority of the student body has remained uneasy as to whether or not the presented changes would truly benefit the affected students. Hence, GĦSL felt the need to set up Wednesday’s discussion in order to affirm a displeased consensus among law students, and to use this consensus against the possible implementation of the mentioned proposal.
Seemingly the students believe that, if such change is necessary and the proposal is accepted by the House of Representatives, the Doctorate title is removed for prospective students who are informed of the change before entering the course, and thus is not applied to those already undergoing their legal studies. In this way, the requirements of the Bologna process would be satisfied, but at the same time the process would not be unfair for current students who entered the course with the intention of attaining a Doctorate. By the end of the consultation, the panel in fact confirmed that it will take this complaint on board and vocally present it to Dr. Bonnici in the coming weeks.