A Comment on the Use of Foreign Professors in the German Council of Science and Humanities Report: “Prospects of Legal Scholarship in Germany: Current Situation, Analyses, Recommendations.”

The main issue I wish to focus on in this Comment relates to the German Council of Science and Humanities’ recommendation that German law schools should aim to encourage more involvement of foreign professors in teaching at German law schools, as part of a sustained attempt to stimulate more engagement with comparative, international and transnational legal developments. Since I have seen attempts at first hand to do something similar in Michigan and Oxford (and more distantly at New York University), I thought it might be helpful to intervene on this aspect of the Report’s recommendations.

As background to the points I make in this brief intervention, I should say that I have for most of my academic career taught comparative human rights at the graduate level (among other subjects) at the University of Oxford, before taking up a Chair at Queen’s University, Belfast. I have never taught at a German Law school but in Oxford (and Michigan, where I also teach) I have been fortunate to have counted German law students, usually at least two or three each year, among those who participated in my seminars. These German students have overwhelmingly been of the highest intellectual quality and were a credit to German legal education in the rigour and clarity of their analysis.

They frequently commented, however, on what they perceived to be the relative absence of contextual analysis, critical perspective, small-group discussion, and interdisciplinary engagement in their German legal education, compared to what they were being exposed to in Oxford or Michigan. Obviously, I have no evidence whether this is a valid criticism, but given these comments, the core recommendations of this Report by the German Council of Science and Humanities (to introduce contextual materials to a greater extent, and to have fewer lectures and more small group discussions, for example) came as little surprise ...

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