The Challenge for Law Schools of Satisfying Multiple Masters

Australian Universities' Review 62(2) 2020, pp. 5-13

9 Pages Posted: 13 Feb 2021

Date Written: September 11, 2020


University law schools have been beset with a sense of schizophrenia ever since first established in the 19th century. They were unsure as to whether they were free to teach and research in the same way as the humanities or whether they were constrained by the presuppositions of legal practice. More recently, this tension has been overshadowed by the impact of the neoliberal turn and disinvestment by the state in higher education. Ironically, as government has provided less money to universities, it has arrogated to itself increased control over teaching standards and research productivity. At the same time, the mastery of the legal profession continues to be exercised through the specification of 11 subjects required for admission to legal practice, known as the ‘Priestley 11’. Drawing on Foucault’s idea of the self as a kind of enterprise, it is argued that law students have also assumed an element of mastery over what is taught and how it is taught. It is suggested that all elements of mastery are imbricated with one another so as to reify enterprise and capital accumulation within the neoliberal economy.

Keywords: Universities, Legal Education, Teaching Research, Neoliberalism, Australia

JEL Classification: K19, I23

Suggested Citation

Thornton, Margaret, The Challenge for Law Schools of Satisfying Multiple Masters (September 11, 2020). Australian Universities' Review 62(2) 2020, pp. 5-13, Available at SSRN:

Margaret Thornton (Contact Author)

ANU College of Law ( email )

Canberra, Australian Capital Territory 0200

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