Wissenschaftsrat in Wonderland

Had the German Wissenschaftsrat hired an advertising agency to extol the virtues and challenges of German legal education at the dawn of the 21st century, the publicist could hardly have done a more positive job than the Wissenschaftsrat itself. Its report signals that all is remarkably well with the state of legal education and research in Germany: there are more chairs than ever, and those chairs attract more research funding than ever before. German legal scholarship is internationalizing, and coming to terms with the increasing juridification of society and deformalization of law. All is great.

Of course, all could be greater still. There are still challenges ahead. Legal education could be more international still; it could be more interdisciplinary still; it could pay still greater attention to the foundational disciplines (legal history, legal philosophy, legal sociology et cetera). But by and large, things are fine, and the recommendations of the Wissenschaftsrat are all very sensible. Indeed, I share them, and have written so already a decade or so ago. Its diagnosis too seems, by and large, accurate – at least it is supported by the numbers, copiously supplied in many charts and tables.

To me, the most gratifying aspect of the report is to see an academic policy body devote quite a bit of attention to legal education, for over the last number of years, teaching has been treated with some disdain. At least in Finland, in my own workplace, such disdain is visible in several ways. A first is that to the extent that teaching is discussed, it is in simplistic and cosmetic terms: the teacher using Powerpoint slides is almost by definition better than the one who does not, and the teacher who makes readings available is better than the teacher who sends his or her students to the library to find those same materials ...

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