We, the current students of the Legal Theory & Socio-legal Studies master programme, were recently informed of the bad news that our master programme will cease to exist as from next academic year. Due to financial imperatives, the faculty board of Erasmus School of Law has decided that our programme is unsustainable. In this letter, we want to express our discontent with this decision and argue that our programme deserves to be continued.
A programme is not only characterised by its economic value, but even more so by its ability to be a contribution to the academic world. Not many universities offer an interdisciplinary programme focused on legal methods and academic research, which makes this programme attractive for many students in the Netherlands as well as abroad.
Moreover, many of our courses focus on progressive social and philosophical theories, which is especially unique in the field of law. This is even more important since the only alternative is the programme in Leiden, which places itself quite on the opposite side of the political spectrum. By discontinuing our programme, Erasmus School of Law loses a programme that could have become a beacon for both Dutch and international law students interested in the theoretical and social study of law.
Master’s degree in Legal Theory discontinued, to the disappointment of students
Due to low student numbers and poor financial yield, the Master’s degree in Legal…
Furthermore, the decision to discontinue our programme is a reflection of policies adopted in recent years that are solely aimed at economic efficiency. Since 2013, students have criticised the university as a ‘biscuit factory’ that urges them to graduate as soon as possible in comparable curricula with little room for broader interests. Moreover, the government’s structural budget transfers from the humanities and social sciences to beta and technical sciences will be effectuated at the EUR as from the next academic year, which will possibly cause more programmes to be cancelled. By substantiating the decision on financial grounds, it is being sold as a rational, calculated judgement, but of course it is not. It symbolises the above-mentioned development and merely shows that the EUR values large-scale and monotonous education over academic freedom and a diversity of programmes.
On top of that, the decision to terminate our programme happened so rapidly that neither staff nor students were prepared for it and it was done without taking important concerns of the Faculty Council as well as the Programme Committee into account. In fact, the website of the university has stated since last December that the master would not be offered next year and all information was deleted before the Faculty Council was able to discuss the decision. It is important for the Dean to listen to these concerns, not only of the respective bodies but also of her students and staff.
In the four years that the Legal Theory & Socio-legal Studies programme existed, it grew from one to fourteen students. This makes us confident that our programme would continue to grow, and it is unclear to us why this did not convince the Dean of the economic value of our programme. We believe that the Board has not properly reflected upon the arguments and therefore we urge it to follow its own decision-making procedure in order to make a properly reflected decision.