Centre for Legal Education

We are trying to gauge the wellbeing or distress of our undergraduates in law and another subject area in academic year 2016-17. Certainly we know that there are high levels of distress amongst young people in the UK, distress that is putting pressure on NHS mental health services for children and young people. We know that student support services in our University are facing unprecedented levels of demand. We know that law students in the USA have been found to suffer damage when they study law. We know students in Australia have worrying levels of distress. However, we know relatively little about law students in the UK.

We plan to use questionnaires that have been used in the USA, so that we generate data that can be used for comparative purposes – we should expect differences as the USA Law School is a three year post-graduate programme, and we will be looking at a three year undergraduate programme. Therefore, our undergraduates will tend to be younger, less indebted, and less committed to a legal services career.

Another reason for choosing these instruments is that they try to look at issues of both wellbeing and distress, and these two ideas are not antonyms of each other. Hopefully, we can approach a measure of flourishing: or how well our undergraduates are doing.

We are going to administer the surveys twice to two groups. Once in induction week and once early in the second term (September and January). We are doing it twice to find out if students are doing better or worse as they progress through their first year. We are going to use two student groups to try and find out if the different disciplines make any difference.

We want to be able to repeat this process in different Universities in academic year 2017-18. We want to know if Russell Group university students and post-1992 University students are similar when they start, and if they are affected in similar ways by the study of law. We want to know if students in London are faring better or worse than in the provinces.

We want to be able to repeat this process with different comparison groups. We want to know if engineers are doing better than English students (as has been found by one study in Australia). We want to know if law students are doing better or worse than other students. We want to know if the type of students who study law are usually doing better or worse than students from other disciplines when they start their legal studies.

The more differences we can explore the stronger our data base and the more insights we can hope to derive from the data.

To do this we will need funding and partners. If you are interested in our research, or interested in joining the project at your institution, or interested in joining a bid for funding, then please contact Graham at graham.ferris@ntu.ac.uk and put the words “Wellbeing Project” on the subject line.

Graham Ferris and Rowena Hill Nottingham Trent University