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JILT 1996 (1) - Mark Gould - Comments

The Second BILETA Report
into Information Technology and Legal Education

Comment from
Mark Gould

Faculty of Law
University of Bristol

I have a few comments, which refer primarily to the cost of implementing the standards suggested in the report.

If we assume a law school not unlike that at Bristol, with an intake of 200 undergraduate students per year, plus 70 LLM students and a total of 20 research students, my calculation of the number of machines required is 46 if they are used for word-processing, or 69 if it is intended that Iolis be used heavily. Assuming a per machine expenditure of 1750 pounds, and a four-year life expectancy, the annual cost for student machines will be between 20,000 and 30,000 pounds.

In addition to these, there will need to be some spending on machines for members of staff. On the same assumptions as before, and with a staff of 40 lecturers, a department will need to allocate another 17,500 pounds for equipment purchases. Unfortunately, HEFCE (and therefore the University) only allocates 30,000 of our budget to capital expenditure - from which we also have to fund furniture and (curiously, but apparently incontrovertibly) the recurring cost of computer maintenance contracts. It is inevitable that in order to fund even the lower figures (about 37,500 pounds) we will have to dip into our own pockets - and I haven't even added in the machines used by secretarial, administrative and support staff.

However, the spending doesn't stop there. Jackson 2 refers (and rightly so) to the need for training. I have some doubt as to whether this training is best offered within a law department, or whether it should be part of a general educational package offered centrally and to all students in the University. However, if we assume that some training is necessary, someone has to pay for it. There are two ways of costing this.

The first is the cheap method. If we assume that each student can be adequately trained in three sessions of three hours, and in a group of 12 students, our entire student body could be trained in 208 hours per year. If we get a part-time tutor in on our normal rates (about 25 pounds per hour, I gather), the annual training cost could be kept down to just over 5,000 pounds per year. Our computing service has just costed commercial training rates, in order to show us how they earn their keep, and came up with a rate of 250 pounds per person per day. To send each student on a day's course would therefore cost nearly 70,000 pounds per year. (Obviously I'm not suggesting this as a course of action, but it indicates the scale of training which is envisaged. Presumably, if we train our students properly, we will be saving their future employers 65,000 pounds collectively.)

Staff would also have to be trained, but even if we ignore this cost, and the costs of hardware and software maintenance and licensing, and the IT costs of non-lecturing members of staff, the total cost of Jackson 2 is between 42,000 and 52,000 pounds per annum.

I'm not sure I can defend that.

Date of publication: 7 May 1996

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