RANEPA IPACS Launches New Legal Liberal Arts Bachelor’s Program
Bulat Nazmutdinov, Director of the new Legal Liberal Arts Bachelor’s program of the Institute of Public Administration and Civil Service of the Presidential Academy, described the features of the program: the principles of education, future graduates’ work places and more.
– What are the learning principles of your program?
– “Legal Liberal Arts” is a very rich educational program that combines elements of a major (Law) and liberal arts. Along with the core subjects, we offer a large number of elective subjects, including non-legal disciplines, plus skills subjects. I admit that the content of the program is very difficult to master, but today’s students are very talented and hardworking. And my colleagues and I believe that through our joint efforts we can achieve something new and interesting not just in legal education, but also in the legal profession as a whole.
Key principles of training are emphasis on the relationship between theory and practice, active interaction with students: flipped lectures (it is productive with small number of students in the same year), the priority of the number of seminars over lectures, work with tutors who will help with the development of independent work skills, search for sources, formulation of topics for written works, as well as the election of core and additional specializations. We want to provide a good theoretical base and make sure that it does not remain only an abstraction. There will be practical sessions on key subjects, separate workshops on legal writing and other sessions on the basic skills of a lawyer.
– Where will the graduates of your program work?
– For those interested in law in the broader context of today’s world, the LLA program has much to offer. We see graduates of our program in three areas: the public sector (“public law” lawyers and the academic community), the corporate sector (in organizations and consulting) and the international, multilingual environment. The educational profiles at years 2–4 are based on these areas. And thanks to additional educational trajectories, it is possible to master other professions apart from law (in the field of journalism or international relations). As for the values of our graduates, I believe that we will try to develop not only an interest in the profession, but also an idea of ethical responsibility for one’s actions. The LLA program involves the creation of several small and, we hope, friendly study groups in which the training will take place.
– What are the minors in this program?
– Minor is an additional educational trajectory. The concept itself appeared abroad, in Russia it is actively used in the Higher School of Economics: a minor there occupies 1/12 of the volume of the four-year Bachelor’s degree program. In the case of LLA, however, it is about 1/6 of the curriculum, minors are implemented only in that program and not with other students in the Academy. These trajectories will be implemented by other structural divisions of the RANEPA. Specific disciplines will be taught by specially invited lecturers. The role of a major is twofold: either it is a non-core “outlet”, a physicist listens to lyricists, and a lawyer studies computer science, or it is an addition to the major (for example, global jurisprudence + international relations).
– How important is it for a modern law student to participate in extracurricular activities? In what way is this need expressed?
– I believe that extracurricular activities are important for students. It is creativity, organizing experience, and sports, of course. Creativity is breathing, without it the main job or study completely absorbs you, so that you cannot take a look around. Organizing experience gives you an understanding of responsibility for yourself and others. You understand that you cannot just say “I can't organize it, I can't do it, I don't have time”. We have to look for solutions, negotiate with people, build understanding. Sports are important for the body and for the training of the spirit: you have to take a punch, overcome your weaknesses through pain.
Extracurricular activities often form what is commonly referred to as soft skills. In my case, all these skills were formed at university: through the experience of organizing public debates, film club, participation in the “What? Where? When?” games, various tournaments and more.
– What inspired you personally to create this program?
– The program was formed gradually. Oleg Zaitsev and I, as well as our other colleagues, participated in discussions organized by Anna Sorokina in the Commission on Legal Education within the Association of Lawyers of Russia. We discussed flexible and rigid models of higher education there, the speakers talked about educational models in different countries, compared these systems, identified problems of modern legal education. And in 2020-2021 the program already took its shape. Its idea was in line with what my colleagues and I have been proposing over the recent years: in particular, we wanted to create an academic track, dedicated to academic research in law. It is a great symbiosis, and I really hope that a lot of things will work out for us.
– Is the individualization of education in law important? Because it would be more logical to create uniform conditions, which would meet the modern requirements of the law field?
– Legal education, along with medical education, traditionally contains a rigid core that is difficult to change, while other socio-humanitarian fields are more flexible. But even in legal education individualization is important: the number of compulsory legal disciplines, in my opinion, should be reduced. A four-year Bachelor’s degree program does not allow them to be studied to the extent necessary, it is important to expand electives. As part of our program, we complement this rigid core with three profiles; by choosing one of them, the student sets his or her educational trajectory in their senior years. Another choice is the minor. It can either complement the profile or provide an additional specialization not strictly related to the legal profile. In general, I am all for choice and individualization: the older the student, the more choice there should be.
– What are the advantages of your program compared to traditional law school programs?
– The benefits of the program are in the new approach to education. It is a very rich, unusually structured program that is difficult but very interesting to learn. We expect ambitious, strong, versatile students who will interact with a friendly team of motivated teachers. Individual approach to learning, combination of theory and practice, attention to modern processes – this is what we will try to present in the Legal Liberal Arts program.