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Napier University

UOA 38 - Law

RA5a: Research environment and esteem


This submission describes the work of the Centre for Law at Napier University. The Centre was established as part of a restructure in 2006 and continues the work of the former School of Law which made a return to the 2001 RAE.

Since the 2001 RAE, there has been steady growth and development of research capacity in Law and significant strengthening of support for research at the institutional and faculty level. The Centre has largely maintained the former School’s research activity in Environmental Law, International Law, Human Rights and Delict and has increasing expertise in selected areas of Private Law including Child Law and Education Law; Constitutional Law and Government Studies; Company Law and Business Law.

The Centre for Law forms part of the School of Management and Law which is one of three Schools in the faculty-level Napier University Business School (NUBS). The others are the School of Accounting, Economics and Statistics and the School of Marketing, Tourism and Languages. The Strategic framework for research is described in the University’s Research Strategy and within that, the NUBS Strategic Plan identifies selected areas of Law as a research theme which is strategically important to the University and which it plans to continue to grow.

Research students and research studentships

Since the 2001 RAE one PhD has been awarded to a student supervised by an inter-disciplinary team including a member of staff of the Centre for Law.

Currently two students are studying for a PhD and two for an MPhil. One member of staff is also completing a PhD. This represents a significant increase in research student supervision since 2001 and has increased the pool of experience of supervision in the Centre and its capacity to support and guide postgraduate students. The Centre will continue to develop this capacity (see below).

Research students in the Centre for Law are part of a community of 56 registered PhD and MPhil students in NUBS, co-located at the University’s Craiglockhart Campus (rebuilt in 2004) and as such benefit from a modern, well developed physical and academic infrastructure and opportunities to interact with colleagues in related disciplines, informally and through seminars and an annual student research conference.

The University established a Graduate School in 2006, recognising the need to strengthen support for significantly increasing numbers of research students (now around 250 in total including those writing up). The University and Faculty level Higher Degrees Committees work closely with the Graduate School on recruitment, progression, examination, training and support for the student experience.

In conjunction with the Graduate School, research students within the Centre for Law benefit from a personally tailored study programme. This is delivered both in-house and externally and covers a range of generic skills and subjects such as research ethics, data protection and intellectual property rights; discipline-linked advanced training; and specific needs such as data analysis and IT skills, English language support for overseas students and careers advice.

Research income

The Centre has won a number of small external grants to support both established and developing areas of research. For instance, McManus received funding from the Carnegie Trust to support research into noise law and product liability (£2000, 2005); Winetrobe received a Nuffield Foundation Small Grant for research into local government changes conducted jointly with a colleague (Fairley) from Management (£6000, 2007); Barnes received a grant from the Clark Foundation for research in Education Law and bullying (£3750, 2007); and Grier received a grant from the same Foundation for work on a monograph on Nobiliary Law (£5,000, 2003).

The greater range of sources of funding and the increase in the number of successful bids from the position in 2001 shows steady development and support of the research activity undertaken by staff, more of whom are involved and in a more diverse variety of specialisms.

Research structure

The Centre for Law provides the focus for research in Law and is one of a number of research centres within NUBS, including the Employment Research Institute (ERI) and other interdisciplinary centres. Research within the Centre is led by the Professor of Law supported by other senior staff. Research activity and infrastructure in NUBS is co-ordinated, supported and managed by the Business and Management Research College (BMRC). The College is led by an Associate Dean and forms part of the wider research network in the university led by the Vice-Principal for Research and Knowledge Transfer. This network ensures that opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration across Faculty boundaries can be identified and supported – e.g. the work by McManus relating to the effect of noise on buildings in collaboration with the School of Engineering and the Built Environment – as well as within the Faculty – e.g. Winetrobe’s work with Fairley on local government.

The BMRC also oversees the training provided to postgraduate research students and has a role in promoting dialogue among the research community in the Faculty.

Budgets for the BMRC and the Research Centres are allocated against Faculty plans and are overseen by the Faculty Research and Knowledge Transfer Committee. The Faculty maintains budgets to support the attendance of staff and students at research conferences, the employment of research assistants and to fund short sabbaticals. In successive years from 2004 to 2006, support was available for the employment of research assistants over the summer period to assist staff with small research projects (e.g. Barnes, McManus).

Library and IT facilities for research are supported by two central service departments of the University and staff have access to legal databases such as Westlaw, LexisNexis and Hein-online. In addition the staff have access to the legal collections of the Europa Library at the University of Edinburgh and to the collection of the National Library of Scotland which incorporates the Library of the Faculty of Advocates.

The Centre for Law maintains a programme of research seminars. These both inform research activity and help develop research capacity. The seminars provide an important means of support and development for research students and early career academic staff. Their value is reflected in the subsequent development of conference papers (e.g. Barnes, Stavert at the Scottish Universities Law Conference, 2005) and articles based on ideas originally presented and discussed through the programme of seminars. (Stavert, Barnes, Niu) published in SCOLAG Legal Journal, Journal of Law Society of Scotland and Entertainment Law Review A number of the seminars are dedicated to capacity development, e.g. information and discussion of external funding opportunities.

Staff are also involved in external research networks, for instance Niu has connections with the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia while Winetrobe has extensive networks in the UK Parliament and the devolved bodies in Scotland and Wales. McManus has extensive links within the Noise Law Association.

Staffing policy

The University recognises research activity through a workload allocation scheme which was fully introduced in 2007. Ten percent of total staff time is made available to support research in addition to time paid for by external grants and contracts. Allocation of this resource is planed at Faculty level by the Associate Dean leading the Faculty Research College (the BMRC in NUBS). All staff are entitled to be considered for a time allocation for research but the resource is managed strategically. Hence extra time allowances are given to early career staff and to active researchers. All staff have an allowance of 5% of their time for scholarly activity. These allowances and a statement of equality of opportunity to undertake research form part of the University’s Research and Knowledge Transfer Strategy and Policies.

The NUBS BMRC provides an inclusive approach to the development and support of research staff and each research centre is headed by an experienced researcher – the Professor of Law, Professor McManus, in the Centre for Law – who together with other senior members of staff provide mentoring and support.

New academic staff are expected to have a track record of research and/or knowledge transfer or, in the case of early career appointments, clear evidence of the potential to become research active. New staff are also encouraged to have or to be working towards a PhD. In this regard, Stavert already has a PhD while Niu is at the writing-up stage of his PhD study and Barnes has recently completed an LLM and is seeking to undertake doctoral study. The University also expects all early career researchers to take part in research student supervision, in conjunction with more experienced colleagues, in order to build supervisory capacity. Team supervision is the norm in the University and the emphasis on interdisciplinarity means it is not unusual for supervisory teams to be drawn from a range of disciplines. The member of staff who completed her PhD was supervised by an inter-disciplinary team from backgrounds in Law and Statistics, while a current PhD student is supervised by staff from Law and Financial Services.

As noted above, the planning and budgeting process in NUBS makes available funds for strategic investment in capacity building and the Centre for Law has benefited from two successive research assistant appointments.

The new research structure and strengthened culture within NUBS influences the strategic management of staff who are, or may be, research active by assisting them in the achievement of suitable research outputs. In the Centre for Law, this is evidenced by the selection of staff with research potential or ability; by encouragement and support to enable research activity and seek external funding; and by dissemination of research in published outputs and conference attendance.

Research strategy 2001 – 2007

In the 2001 RAE, Napier University made its first submission in Law and the achievement of a grade 3a was recognition of the progress which had been since the department’s inception. As noted in the introduction, the Centre has developed areas of research activity which formed the basis of the 2001 RAE submission and has started to grow a number of new areas, notably Constitutional, Company and Business Law.

The plans set out in the 2001 submission had to be adapted to take account of staff changes, particularly in the early years, after a key research leader moved to a chair at another university. The broad strategy set out in 2001 has been pursued, with further development of activity in areas such as Child Law, Human Rights and Environmental Law, as a consequence of investment in staffing. The variety of research outputs has been expanded from the relatively narrow focus on text books to include book contributions and articles in national and international journals. Established research active staff (McManus, Ashton, Grier, and Winetrobe) have been joined by a number of early career researchers (Stavert, Barnes, Niu). Research currently focuses on the clusters of activity described below:

Research in Environmental Law and Noise Law
This work has been headed by McManus with his editorship of and contributions to the Scottish Universities Law Institute (SULI) series on Environmental Law, articles and conference papers, and collaboration with colleagues from the School of Engineering and the Built Environment at Napier University on noise and its effects in buildings. Ashton has contributed a chapter on human rights and environmental law to the SULI book on Environmental law. In 2005 / 06 the Centre organised a national conference on noise law in collaboration with the UK Noise Law Association. McManus has also acted as an advisor to government organisations including DEFRA in various areas of environmental law and noise law.

Research in Public Law areas
Stavert, Ashton and Winetrobe have been active in these areas, particularly in the field of comparative mental health law regimes (Stavert) and the impact of human rights on Scots law (Ashton). Constitutional law / government studies have been the focus of research by Winetrobe. In addition to articles and book chapters on Parliamentary processes and the effects of devolution on the British constitution, he has contributed widely to public enquiries and Parliamentary committees. In collaboration with Fairley (Management) he has obtained a Nuffield grant to examine the implications of recent legislative changes on local government in Scotland.

Research in Private Law areas
Barnes has been active in researching issues surrounding bullying in schools (LLM thesis and article) and is a contributor to the Butterworth Family Law loose-leaf publication. Ashton is executive editor of a loose-leaf publication, Scottish Education Manual, and has written an annotation for a Scottish Education Statute published in Current Law Statutes. Grier has written extensively on Company Law and bankruptcy / insolvency, and was advisor to the Enterprise and Culture Committee of the Scottish Parliament on the Bankruptcy and Diligence (Scotland) Act 2007. Niu has published and given conference papers on media regulation and International Media Law. McManus has continued to publish articles in Delict, contributing two chapters to the major SULI publication on Delict (Statutory Nuisance; Product Liability) as well as contributing to the Stair Memorial Encyclopaedia on the subject of Food Law.

Research strategy 2007 – 2012

The Centre for Law’s research strategy will continue to focus on those clusters of research where there is existing strength or where it is already developing capacity. The imminent recruitment of a new research active member of staff in January 2008, with expertise and publications in IT and European Law will strengthen both the Public and Private Law clusters.

There will be a strong focus on continuing to increase research student supervisory capacity and in particular there are plans to develop a taught LLM programme and an LLM by research. This will be supported by the recruitment of new research active staff which in turn will attract students who will progress to undertake PhD or MPhil degrees.

New interdisciplinary research opportunities will be sought particularly in the fields of noise law and mental health law where nascent networks already exist. External network development is occurring and will be actively encouraged (e.g. Niu – Media regulation in the Pacific basin).

The Centre will aim for a steady increase in the number of research students both for the LLM by research and for PhD. Over the next five years, it is expected that research activity within the Centre for Law will increase from its current 50% to a minimum of 75%. So far as staff registered for higher degrees are concerned, the aim will be for an increase of one member of staff registered each academic year.

Indicators of esteem

Policy Contributions
McManus has acted as a consultant on environmental law to Health Protection Scotland and as the designated legal advisor for a Report on Neighbour and Neighbourhood Noise, published by Environmental Resources Management and submitted to DEFRA in 2003. He was also a member of the Scottish Executive Steering Group for the Review of Public Health Legislation in Scotland (2002) while Barnes has been a member of a legal group advising the Scottish Executive on changes in Scots Family Law (2006). Winetrobe was lead Parliamentary consultant for the DFiD sponsored programme on strengthening parliamentary processes in Slovakia (2001-2003). Grier was the legal advisor to the Enterprise and Culture Committee of the Scottish Parliament on the Bankruptcy and Diligence etc (Scotland) Act 2007. Members of staff including Barnes, McManus, Winetrobe and Ashton have appeared on television and radio to give expert commentary on issues of the day.

Professional Association and Conferences
Barnes is a Board member of the Scottish Child Law Centre (from 2007), while Ashton is Legal Director of Scottish Gymnastics Association (from 2002) Stavert is a non-executive director of Interminds, a non-governmental organisation on mental health issues (from 2003). Winetrobe has been Vice-Chair of the Hansard Society Scotland (from 2005) and a member of the executive Committee of the Study of Parliament Group (2005). Grier is chairman of the Lothian Research Ethics Committee 1, and a member of the Scottish Ethics Implementation group implementing the results of the Warner Report on Ethics Management in Scotland.

McManus has presented papers at the Law of Nuisance and Rights Conference on Conflict of Rights, University of Ghent, Belgium (2006); European Noise Law, Conference on Noise, University of Luisiada, Porto, Portugal (2005); and Noise Law in Europe – A comparative approach, World Congress on Environmental Health, San Diego, USA (2002). Niu (with P. Keller, King’s College London) co-authored a paper “Under the skin of globalisation: Inforbasmation on privacy law in China”, which was presented by Keller at the Columbia University Conference entitled “New Scholarship on Chinese Law – A celebration in honour of Stanley Lubman” (2005).

Winetrobe has led a number of seminars for parliamentary bodies and public enquiries giving advice and assistance on aspects of the work they were currently undertaking. These included: Scottish Parliament Procedures Committee. UK Parliament Committee on Standards in Public Life, Royal Commission on House of Lords reform (Wakeham Commission), Commission on the Welsh Assembly (Richard Commission) and Commission on Scottish Parliament Voting System (Arbuthnott Commission).

Editorial work
McManus has been assistant editor of the Scottish Planning and Environmental Law Journal since 1995; Ashton is currently executive editor of the Scottish Education Manual.  In addition, Barnes is an ongoing contributor for Butterworths Scottish Family Law Service.