Sydney or UNSW law school?

There are few things that law students at Sydney University and at UNSW will defend more passionately: the quality of their respective institutions – just which law school is better?

I don’t profess to have the answer to this question, because it is unfair for me to answer this question when I have only attended one of them (Sydney). However, surely, a recourse to statistics would provide us with an objective answer?

And with statistics, UNSW has proclaimed themselves the King of Law Schools in Australia. They claim:

The Faculty of Law at the University of New South Wales in Sydney leads all Australian universities for the quality of learning and teaching law. This is the second consecutive year the Faculty of Law, together with UNSW Australian School of Business, has achieved the top ranking in the business, law and economics cluster.

This claim is followed by a bunch of graphs that show that UNSW scores higher on a number of metrics, including “overall satisfaction”, “generic skills” and “good teaching” as measured by the Group of Eight. So far, this is all very convincing evidence that UNSW is better, right?

As Daniel pointed out when we were perusing these graphs together, there is a fundamental flaw with the statistics as presented. Where would they obtain measurements for metrics such “overall satisfaction” from? From their graduates of course. Unless they performed some kind of normalisation between the different universities, the outcome is liable to be affected by, for example, the difference between what Sydney and UNSW law students expect from their courses (maybe Sydney students just demand more?) or bias arising from the pride that students have in their own institution.

Clearly, statistics are one factor to consider in your choice of law school or university. However, it would be a mistake to base your decision merely on these statistics, or other statistics such as the proportion of graduates in full-time employment after a year (maybe more students from a particular university went into post-graduate study?). There is more to university than that. You need to consider the experience outside the classroom, in the form of clubs and societies and extracurricular activities. There is also a difference in culture that you need to consider. This was best highlighted for me when I watched the UNSW Law Revue last year; their jokes weren’t funny to me for the most part, yet all the UNSW-ers seemed to enjoy it; I put it down to a difference in culture.

So what do I think? I certainly don’t regret choosing Sydney University (for both my science and law degrees). I enjoy the intellectualism that pervades the place, although law students at Sydney tend to be more competitive than I find optimal.

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  1. GT’s avatar

    Yo, I’m doing the JD at USYD. It is in the first year and I have to say it is not going well at all. The intensive mode is not winning any fans. Right now I’d say UNSW is clearly better if you choose the JD. They are more cutting edge and have their act together better although they still have work to do like cutting down class numbers. That said there are some good things about USYD but check it out first.

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    1. RL’s avatar

      Thanks for that info. Hard to get a sense what the JD programs are really like from all the uni propaganda on their websites! I’m from Melb but I applied for UNSW and USyd as well as Melb JDs for next year, cos I’ve been thinking for a while I’d like a change of scene in Sydney. And I just got an offer from UNSW, so your advice is helpful! But I’ve heard rave reviews about the Melb JD so I’m waiting til I hear back about that before making any decisions…

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    2. LB’s avatar

      Hey GT, and anyone else – i’m still tossing up between USyd and UNSW for my tax law masters. Any deciding factors?

      Why isn’t the intensive mode at Syd very good?

      Thanks guys!

      Reply

    3. JN’s avatar

      I have done a few subjects of the tax law masters program at usyd and my experience so far has been good and the lecturers are insightful.

      In terms of usyd v unsw, I’m not too sure if there is a major point of difference. Both universities seem to have developed a specialised tax law subjects in their masters program.

      The only caveat I would make however is to assess whether you will get any benefit out from doing the tax kaw masters. Generally, the tax masters are conducted at a specialised level, meaning that the students are assumed to have a relevant level of understanding if Australian tax law or relevant experience. Certainly I have found that I was able to get more from doing masters in tax having worked in a tax practice for a year before I started masters. Although I don’t think it is a prerequisite of the uni to have this experience before they accept your enrolment, but personally the experience helped me in getting the most out of it.

      If your are looking to do the masters in tax course to build up a basic understanding of the Aust tax system, the masters of tax courses at both universities are not the best option as a lot of the subjects focuses on specific and specialised areas of yax.law.and often than not, tailored to those alteady in practice.

      There are other options if you want to get a basic understanding. I think the tax institute of australia runs a diploma or certificate programs on it. I suggest you have a look on theor website if that is what you are after.

      I hope this helps!

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    4. LB’s avatar

      Hi there, I’ve been working in tax for some years now and am now specializing in international corporate tax. Both universities cater for these and I like unsw flexible study arrangements which would be great when working ridiculous hours, but not sure if u Syds subjects are better etc – more googling is needed! Haha. Have you done any of the intensive courses? thanks for your help

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      1. LB’s avatar

        Also i couldn’t really imagine anyone doing a masters in this field who hasn’t already worked in the industry for some time or doesnt have a basic understanding of australian tax law, and To be honest you need a more than a basic understanding to really be able to get a lot of out a masters (well that’s how I see it)- don’t think I’ll bother with the tax institute at this stage. Deal with masters first! One thing at a time…

        If you have any opinion on course structure / content / practicality / study arrangemnts (ie you have a lecture but miss it due to deadlines etc how they cater for that etc) that would. Be great! Thanks heaps

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      2. RL’s avatar

        Thanks for that info. Hard to get a sense what the JD programs are really like from all the uni propaganda on their websites! I\’m from Melb but I applied for UNSW and USyd as well as Melb JDs for next year, cos I\’ve been thinking for a while I\’d like a change of scene in Sydney. And I just got an offer from UNSW, so your advice is helpful! But I\’ve heard rave reviews about the Melb JD so I\’m waiting til I hear back about that before making any decisions…

        Reply

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