Lack of students closes joint law course with NYU

A joint degree run by New York University and the National University of Singapore that awarded a master of laws degree from both universities is being scrapped after just five years, due to poor uptake by students.

The one-year graduate course started in 2007 with 39 students, with ambitions to enrol up to 80 students a year. However, according to National University of Singapore (NUS) figures it averaged only around 40 students a year.

Although the degree attracted students from more than 20 countries, just 21 students will enter the programme this year, completing the degree in 2014.

Tuition fees for the course taught by faculty members from both universities are around S$62,600 (US$50,000) a year – almost double the cost of NUS’s graduate law programmes.

According to local reports, “at least” 50 scholarships were offered in each of the first four years of the programme but that did not appear to boost the intake.

Singapore’s Economic Development Board, which provides incentives for private businesses to set up in Singapore, had provided some financial support “based on the understanding that it would be financially sustainable after a few years”.

Students study in the Singapore institution for a law degree before going to the US. New York University (NYU) said in a statement: “The incoming class that begins its studies in May 2013 will be the last intake for the programme.

“This group is the last that is covered by the order of the New York State Court of Appeals that allows NYU@NUS graduates to sit the New York Bar examination. It also enjoys generous scholarships and financial awards that the programme has secured for outstanding applicants from around the world.”

The degree was initially established for four years until 2011 and then extended for another three until 2014.

“We have now agreed to conclude the programme without seeking additional financing to extend it. In the last few years, the cost of graduate legal education has risen significantly, and running the programme in Singapore has been made possible by a generous grant by the government of Singapore to fund the numerous scholarships offered,” NYU said.

“Unfortunately, the programme did not become self-financing in the way we had hoped it would; continuing it in its present form would entail a significant diversion of financial resources on the part of both NYU and NUS.”

NUS said that about five or six of its students go on to study in the US every year.

The Economic Development Board said it had provided financial support to the NYU@NUS programme on the understanding that it would be financially sustainable after a few years.

However, other law education providers have not been dissuaded from the Singapore market.

The UK’s College of Law announced last year that it would set up a Singapore campus – its first venture outside the UK – in conjunction with the Singapore Institute of Legal Education, to develop new courses in the city state.

It will be an accredited provider of continuing professional development programmes in law, which became compulsory in Singapore from April 2012, as well as developing undergraduate and graduate courses.

Singapore is seen as a hub of international legal and arbitration services for the region, but in practice most law graduates in the commercial field work for British commercial law firms.