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RA5a: Structure,environment and staffing policy

1. Introduction
Research in Legal Studies at Sussex has gone from strength to strength during the last five years and has fulfilled the promise predicted in the self assessment in the last RAE. In August 1999, the former Centre for Legal Studies (CLS) was upgraded to the status of a full school of the University, the School of Legal Studies (SLS) with its own Graduate Research Centre (GRC). Many of the faculty of SLS have been in post for the entire period under review; what was at the time of the previous RAE a predominantly young and inexperienced faculty has matured into a cohesive, research active body further strengthened, in research terms, by significant appointments at lecturer and professorial level.

2. Research policy
Research policy is driven and managed by the SLS Research Committee, chaired by the Dean and consisting of both elected and appointed members. This body, accountable to the members of SLS as a whole, oversees the research priorities of the School and co-ordinates strategies for their implementation. Thus, for example, the Committee monitors the research support mechanisms for individual staff (set out below), takes responsibility for the organisation of SLS research seminars and undertakes liaison with the appropriate Research Division of the University administration in relation to funding bids.

Research policy is characterised by four core values. First, SLS is firmly committed to the University's mission of interdisciplinary collaboration. Secondly, it endorses the value of international and comparative dimensions to legal research. Whilst SLS does not adopt a prescriptive approach to the interests of individual staff, this particular type of analysis is becoming increasingly evident among both new and established faculty. Thirdly, SLS strongly believes in the synergy between research and teaching. Research output has fed the expansion and delivery of postgraduate programmes and nurtured a deeper research culture across SLS involving taught and research students. Fourthly, SLS is mindful of the interests of users in research. It therefore seeks to involve local and regional organisations and professions where appropriate.

3. Research support mechanisms
SLS supports the research activity of its faculty by the following specific means:
• A mentoring system for all members with fewer than five years experience in university teaching. Assistance is tailored to individual needs but will usually include the mentor’s comments upon research proposals or articles, suggestions on placement of publications, advice on research skills development and the identification of relevant conference support or networking opportunities.

• An annual grant to enable members to pay for research assistance and/or to assist in meeting the expenses of attending appropriate academic conferences. Where funds permit, the allocated sum (currently £500 per member) is increased in suitable cases. Information about conferences is disseminated by the research committee. Members of faculty who attend conferences are expected to provide feedback to SLS.

• Paid research leave. Each year, the research committee assesses applications for leave and advises the University to grant such leave where it is satisfied as to the value and achievability of the research projects concerned. Leave is generally organised so as to enable two faculty members to be on leave for each of the autumn and spring terms. A faculty member who has had leave will be expected to give an account - usually in one of the weekly research seminars - of the work undertaken while on leave.

• A weekly research seminar slot with invited speakers, written into the timetable of each faculty member, thus ensuring that all are available to attend. Members of SLS present papers in this seminar from time to time, for example in accounting for a research grant or paid research leave received under the systems described above. The slot may also be used to discuss more general issues such as funding applications.

Besides these formal measures, other opportunities exist for developing research ideas. For example, research seminars run by other Schools or Subject Groups in the University, which many SLS faculty attend, reinforce the culture of interdisciplinary collaboration.

4. Research activities and achievements
Shaped by the values identified above, SLS has striven for research excellence in a number of defined fields which continue to expand. The current assessment period has seen the further strengthening of areas mentioned in RA5 1996, ie. Criminal Justice, European Law, Property Law and Commercial & Insolvency Law. In addition there have been exciting initiatives by faculty researching into International Law and Family Law. The following captures a flavour of activities in these broad fields.

a) Criminal law and criminal justice
Work in these areas continues to range from the empirical and socio-legal to the theoretical, comparative and contextual (see RA5 1996). The work involving victims and their relationship with the criminal justice system has been continued and strengthened (see Temkin RA2, and Koffman RA2). Temkin was appointed in 1999 to the Home Office Sex Offences Review (see further, RA6). Her latest work includes a chapter in Feminist Perspectives on Criminal Law (eds Nicolson and Bibbings, Cavendish, 2000), entitled ‘Rape and Criminal Justice at the Millenium’. She is also preparing a second edition of her highly influential work Rape and the Legal Process (OUP).

Koffman’s empirical work on rural crime and victimisation, published as Crime Surveys and Victims of Crime (1996), includes a substantial section discussing his mid-Wales crime survey, one of the first local surveys to make a detailed study of crime and victimisation in a rural area. The survey has achieved an international reputation and is frequently cited in works dealing with crime surveys and victimisation. This work led to an invitation to contribute a chapter on rural crime to a collection of essays, entitled Crime and Conflict in the Countryside (1999), which provided the most comprehensive examination of rural crime produced in Britain.

Comparative and international dimensions to criminal justice are highlighted in Vogler’s research. He began his work on the Spanish Criminal Justice system as a Research Fellow at the Max Planck Institute in 1997, completing this research by a programme of interviews in Madrid in 1998. His paper at the 1996 conference at the Seminario Internacional de Derecho Comparado Sobre La Prueba Testifical en La Union Europa at the Instituto Europeo in Madrid was developed into an Italian version and published (see Vogler, RA2). More recently, he presented a paper on lay participation in criminal trials in former British imperial territories at a conference on Lay Participation in the Criminal Trial held in Siracusa in 1999, underlining his international reputation in the field of comparative criminal law and criminal justice.

Keating’s work also has an international dimension (see further, RA6). Her work on child abduction with Reddaway (see RA2) is an example of collaborative work between supervisor and research student. Also, Keating’s joint work (with Clarkson, Leicester) entitled Criminal law: Text and Materials (1998) is now in its fourth edition and enjoys a reputation as one of the leading criminal law texts.

b) European Law
A crucial element in the structural development of SLS during this period was the decision to expand European Law activity by the establishment of a new Chair, taken up by Ross in February 2000. Measures have already been taken to boost collaboration with other centres of European studies within the university, notably the Sussex European Institute (SEI), a graduate school with the status of a Jean Monnet Centre of Excellence. Ross and Rajak are both participants in a bid submitted in conjunction with SEI in summer 2000 (outcome not yet known) for substantial funding under the EU’s Fifth Framework Programme for a project on multilevel governance in the context of the EU and WTO. A new MA in European Law and Society, taught jointly by SEI and SLS was launched in October 2000. Co-author of a substantially revised edition of one of the most respected and authoritative EU textbooks (see RA2), Ross is currently writing a book on State Intervention in EC Law (Longmans European Law Series).

c) Property Law
As noted in RA5 1996, property law research at SLS combines traditional legal scholarship with comparative and interdisciplinary approaches. Examples include the work by Edmunds and Sutton on restrictive covenants in the context of community care and people with mental health problems. Disseminated at the Reading Property Law Conference 2000, this research will appear in Cooke (ed), Modern Studies in Property Law; Volume 1 Property 2000 (Hart Publishing). Edmunds has been invited (with Lowry, Warwick) to give a paper “Honest and reasonable breaches” at the Mansfield Symposium on Breach of Trust to be held at St John’s College, Cambridge in April 2001.

d) Commercial Law
Rajak's bankruptcy work has developed a substantial comparative and international dimension. He was appointed one of three international consultants to a project at the Wirtschaftsuniversität on the examination of the insolvency codes of 8 newly independent central and eastern European countries. His work examined proposals for business rescue in each of these codes and part of his findings were published in the proceedings of conference in Texas in 1997 (see RA2 Rajak,). He also accepted an assignment of the South Africa government to redraft the business rescue provision for inclusion in a proposed new consolidation of that country's insolvency code. This work was completed in 1998 and the final report published in the South African Law Journal (see RA2 Rajak & Henning).

Related to this work was Rajak’s co-organisation (with economist Lipton) of a conference held at Sussex in July 2000 on Business in South Africa. The proceedings of an earlier conference on the (then still unenacted) European Bankruptcy Convention in 1996 are being edited for publication by Rajak and Andenas (now Director, British Institute of Comparative and International Law, with whom Rajak organised the conference). This 1996 conference was largely funded by a grant by Coopers & Lybrand, who as Price Waterhouse Coopers also provided funding for the Business in South Africa conference. This phase of research on comparative and international bankruptcy will be rounded off by a further conference in Summer 2001 to examine the prospects for the harmonisation of substantive insolvency principles and institutions throughout the member states of the EU. It is anticipated that this will attract representatives from all the EU states, plus (at least) Australia, the United States, South Africa and Israel.

e) Comparative and International Law
The current period has seen burgeoning enthusiasm among SLS faculty to pursue research involving comparative studies or the investigation of law in other States and regions. Notable contributions to this considerable body of publication are Probert on the law of cohabitation in France and Europe, Roberts on New Zealand’s Family Court, Rajak on South African Company Law, Dembour on the Belgian Congo, Vogler on criminal law and procedure in France and Spain, Keating and Vogler on child protection law in France and Belgium, Dean on all aspects of Japanese law, Lind on same sex headed families in Britain, the USA, South Africa and other jurisdictions and Edmunds on directors’ duties in America and the UK.

International law research has been enhanced by the arrival of faculty keen to develop new areas. Examples include Haslam’s work on NGO Tribunals and on technological change, as well as Eden’s study of the legal implications of electronic commerce. Happold participated in an international delegation to observe the trial of Nazmi Gűr, Secretary-General of the Human Rights Association of Turkey, in Ankara. He subsequently gave a presentation on the mission to the Bar Human Rights Committee in May 2000, followed by publication of his report.

f) Family Law
This area epitomises the synthesis of the core values of SLS’s research policy. Around a dozen faculty work in the field, resulting in a strong research output, energetically disseminated through seminar presentations, conference papers and publications and exhibiting a blend of international, interdisciplinary and socio-legal approaches. For example, Bridgeman, already well known for her feminist analysis of legal issues relating to the health of women, is now exploring issues of children’s health. She is currently preparing a chapter for a collection, Real Bodies (Macmillan Press Ltd) which analyses the legal construction of young children’s bodies. This draws upon contemporary analysis of childhood applied in her chapter in Feminist Perspectives on Child Law (see RA2). Probert’s work on the boundary between marriage and cohabitation adopts both historical and comparative approaches, developing ideas given in papers to the Socio-Legal Studies Association and the University of Bergamo. She is now contributing a paper on cohabitation to a major project being undertaken by Cretney on reform of family law in the twentieth century. Lind’s research connects sexual identity, family rights and constitutional issues. He has given papers at numerous conferences in South Africa and the UK, and is currently completing his contribution to a collection of essays on same-sex relationships (ed Wintemute, King’s College London).

5. Applying the core values of research policy
a) interdisciplinarity
There are many examples of inter-disciplinary collaboration between members of SLS and non-law scholars. Thus Koffman has worked with Pease, a noted social scientist of Huddersfield University, in the analysis of data collected as part of a crime survey. Sokol’s collaborative work on law and literature appears in leading literature journals. SLS faculty regularly participate in the activities of the Cunliffe Centre - a centre within the School of English and American Studies dedicated to research and study of constitutional issues. Notable among its recent activities was an international conference on constitutions and conflict resolution (under the joint auspices of the Universities of Sussex and Ulster) at the Rockefeller Foundation International Study Centre in Bellagio. The next conference, on gender and constitutional change, takes place at Sussex in January 2001 and includes a paper by Clarke on gender and the Human Rights Act.

Dembour draws upon her anthropology background in research focused on human rights and multiculturalism. Having completed her book on the Belgian Congo (see RA2), she is now co-editor with two Sussex anthropologists of a further book, Culture and Rights: Anthropological Perspectives, due for publication by CUP in July 2001.

Environmental law research also continues to be conducted on an interdisciplinary basis. Edmunds and Sutton are collaborating on a paper to the fifth colloquium on law and geography in the UCL Current Legal Issues. Edmunds is an active member of the interdisciplinary Centre for Environmental Research at Sussex (see website: http://www.cpes.sussex.ac.uk/cer/).

SLS has encouraged academic work across the science/social science divide by granting Davies a term's leave to undertake a literature review on the inter-relationship between law and science. This was the first part of an ongoing study, which it is anticipated, will develop to apply ideas from sociology and philosophy of science to the legal process and, ultimately, assess the place of the expert witness in court.

b) international context
The wide range of substantive international and comparative research interests was noted throughout section 4 above. In addition, SLS has sought to consolidate its links with scholars in other countries. Examples include an annual Socrates intensive seminar on international criminal law matters with colleagues and postgraduate students from Utrecht, Antwerp, Toulouse, Dundee and Dublin. Rajak is establishing an annual company law seminar with Halle, Germany.

c) the synergy between research and teaching
A research active School enhances the diversity and quality of postgraduate opportunities at both Masters and Doctorate levels. SLS has been at the forefront of establishing a number of taught programmes in collaboration with other units in the university - an MA in Law Rhetoric and Power with the Humanities Graduate Research Centre, an MA in Criminal Justice with the Social Policy and Social Welfare subject group, an MA in Migration Studies with the Culture, Development and Environment Graduate Research Centre and an MA in European Law and Society with SEI. A further MA in Family Justice - a collaboration between the family lawyers in SLS and the social policy and social welfare subject group - is now under consideration. The proposed MA in Family Justice arises out of the collaborative research between Vogler and Keating of SLS and Luckock of the School of Cultural and Community Studies. Their research project was foreshadowed in the last RAE submission and was published in two parts in 1996 and 1997 (see RA2: Vogler).

The GRC (director, Vogler) caters for the School's research students and for its strengthened taught Masters' degrees, each of which has a substantial research component. The GRC now provides its own intensive research methodology courses for postgraduate students at Master's and doctoral level. The enthusiasm of SLS faculty for research has been transmitted to the postgraduate student body, which has supplemented the regular research supervision seminars with informal meetings throughout the academic session in the last two years to discuss their research and writing. SLS is embarking on a strategy to increase research student numbers (presently nine). This includes all members of SLS undergoing training in research supervision to encourage the widest possible involvement of faculty and to maximise the range of expertise available to potential applicants.

d) user groups and the community
SLS feels itself firmly part of the south-east region of the UK, with a responsibility to that community. It enjoys particularly strong links with solicitors, Donne Mileham & Haddock, a firm which not only provides substantial sponsorship but also seeks our professional opinions and encourages our intellectual and academic approach to legal questions of all kinds. Many SLS members have established close personal and professional ties with people employed in local educational institutions, trade councils, public bodies and commercial organisations and we are extremely happy that many send representatives to events organised by SLS in the University. In this regard we should also mention the longstanding sponsorship of another local firm, Wynne, Baxter, Godfrey of an invariably well supported annual lecture which has secured a number of judicial and other luminaries as speakers. These local links actively stimulate and support research activity. For example, the research interests of Davies triggered plans for a conference in 2001 with Donne Mileham & Haddock on the theme of
professional negligence.

Users of this website should note that the information is not intended to be a complete record of all research centres in the UK

Copyright 2002 - HEFCE, SHEFC, ELWa, DEL

Last updated 17 October 2003

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