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The New Jews: bias against Asian Americans at Ivy League universities is exposed, and although the statistics are alarming, the picture is far more complex than it first seems. (Note that in New South Wales, we are fortunate enough to have the impartial Universities Admissions Centre to manage university admissions.)

29 Aug 2008 | No comments

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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