No, I’m not coming off my blogging hiatus, but as I promised Catallaxy readers here, I’m filling you all in on ‘the huge commitment’ I have starting in September this year. Admittedly I did say October originally, but the details hadn’t been finalised at that point.
I also have an ulterior motive. After my farewell post went up, a raft of speculation flew around the MSM (some of it is summarised in this useful post over at LP) that the ‘huge commitment’ was a columnist’s gig at the Australian. Crikey’s effort is quoted over at LP. It turned out that The Age’s Lawrence Money had hopped in before Crikey, however, and made some snippy comments about bloggers to boot. No-one spoke to me before hitting the ground running with speculation.
This led to an afternoon of absolute madness at work. Trying to fend off media enquiries while organising a jury view in the midst of a murder trial was, ahem, entertaining. Things got rather comedic at one stage. Neither His Honour nor I could track down a copy of the Age and I finished up playing a lengthy game of telephone tennis with the Australian. When we finally synchronized, the offending article was nowhere to be found on the Age website (I’m sure it was there, but I had a bad dose of fumble fingers by that point), which meant the Australian’s Chris Merritt had to read it to me over the phone before I could comment.
The Australian ran two correcting pieces the next day. Chris Merritt’s was careful and accurate, while Amanda Meade decided to take some swipes at ‘inaccuracies in the blogosphere’, despite the fact that the story had started in the MSM. The Editor-in-Chief of the Australian, Chris Mitchell, even got dragged in for a quote. All the articles are now behind paid subscription firewalls, and aren’t particularly inspiring, so save your pennies.
However, what I couldn’t tell them – and can now tell you – is that I’ll be reading for the Bachelor of Civil Law at the University of Oxford in September. Since this is about as far as possible from a columnist’s gig as it’s possible to get, I thought I’d better let people know (especially as there are some folks out there who are still convinced I’ll be working for Rupert, regardless of Chris Merritt’s efforts).
Despite the name, Oxford’s BCL is not a qualification in European Civil Law (Roman Law, the Code Napoleon etc). It’s a common law qualification. This summary from Oxford’s Law School gives you an idea of what the course involves:
Among legal practitioners and legal academics alike, Oxford’s Bachelor of Civil Law (BCL) degree is the most highly esteemed masters-level qualification in the common law world. The BCL standard is higher than that required in a first law degree, such as a BA, LLB, or JD. This is reflected in more demanding classes, harder work, and tougher examination standards. Courses are not introductory and those who choose subjects in which they have no background at all should expect to invest heavily in independent preparation. The programme is emphatically a full-time residential commitment, running from mid-September to mid-July. It cannot be studied part-time, or by credit accumulation over more than one year, or by distance learning.
Only those with outstanding first law degrees from common law jurisdictions are admitted. Students are expected to analyse complex material critically and to consider it from different perspectives. Attention to legal puzzles is often combined with discussion of underlying policy problems, and you are expected to make your own contribution to the debate. In the seminars you are likely to find students from a range of jurisdictions and backgrounds. Many are attended by MJur as well as BCL students, and some by research students too. This diversity among contributors also helps to stimulate variety and depth in discussions.
If a BCL graduate gets good results, they are permitted to proceed to the research-based MPhil, which involves preparation of a thesis. You have to tell Oxford in advance that you plan to go onto the MPhil (as I have done), but they won’t let you move into the second year as of right. You have to do well first.
Of course I’m rather chuffed with this, as I’ll be able to pursue the scholarly interests I’ve flagged in various posts for Catallaxy – Hayekian evolutionary jurisprudence, media accountability and drug law reform – at a very high level, and with access to the best teachers and the best resources on the planet.