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The EDELnet Grad School

The European Distance Education in Law Network (EDELNet) has taken important steps towards the development and implementation of a comprehensive concept for the internationalization of distant legal education in Europe and beyond. With specific regard to PhD level education, the EDELNet Strategic Partnership has developed an ambitious programme of teaching and training activities under the umbrella of the EDELNet Graduate School.[1]

Internationalization has become a crucial requirement for high quality legal education.[2] The need for internationalizing legal teaching and research is related to both changes in the structure and possibilities of international litigation and the challenges that current social and political developments are posing to the legal systems of liberal democracies in the world. National jurisdictions have been partially bypassed by international mechanisms of dispute resolution in relation to vital economic relations, like international commercial and investment arbitration. The use of rules of private international law that allow important disputes to be adjudicated in countries different from those where disputes arise is on the rise. The jurisdiction of international courts and the extraterritorial jurisdiction of some state courts can also play a quasi-constitutional role in the protection of fundamental rights, especially in Europe. Moreover, the market of legal services is becoming increasingly adjusted to the legal culture and practices of dominant world-wide service providers. Finally, in the face of the grand social, political and cultural challenges that Western societies are currently experiencing, the dominant European legal education model is still trapped within the parochial walls of nation state-centered legal thinking often unable to adequately respond to problems of security, health, migrations, economic justice and the environment which escape the shrinking boundaries of the sovereign state.

Legal education, however, is suitable per se for internationalization and can easily be re-oriented to this end. First, a sizable number of the areas of research and subjects already taught in traditional programs across liberal democratic countries is either international in nature or has an important cross-border component, e.g. private international law, public international law, legal philosophy, human rights, EU-law, comparative legal studies, etc. This allows a direct and meaningful internationalization of teaching and research in those areas. Moreover, at the specific level of PhD training, the use of basically equivalent methods and theories of legal research across Western countries, especially in Continental Europe, and the demand for similar skills from PhD candidates make the internationalization of doctorate training a viable and necessary task. Hurdles related to habit, tradition and protectionist attitudes towards national markets of legal services should not be confused with technical difficulties.

[1] The EDELNet was formally established as a Strategic Partnership in 2014, but the Faculties of Law of the Partner Universities have been working together since 2008. Article 2(2) of the EDELNet Partnership Agreement provides that, regarding doctorate legal education, the Partners shall strive to develop a common doctorate training programme including the joint development and offer of training modules, short learning programmes, peer tutoring, co-supervision, mobility of staff and students, scientific networking and the opportunity for PhD students who participate in the programme to obtain a Diploma Supplement. The Partnership collaboration on the PhD level also encompasses research cooperation, the application for external funding and “all other activities that serve the purpose of the partnership and the exchange of scholarly productivity for the benefit of students and teaching staff in their faculties/schools” (article 2(2) m).

[2] Stephan Hobe & Barbara Dauner-Lieb, “Ist die Juristenausbildung in Deutschland Zukunftsfähig?”, Forschung und Lehre 04/2018, S. 226, retrieved 5.12.2018