The Study of International Law in Foreign Law Schools: A Brief History

In my last post I provided a short history on international legal education in the United States. This time I offer the global equivalent: a (very) rough sense for the evolution of law school study requirements in a number of foreign countries, based on a combination of two UNESCO surveys from the mid-twentieth century and my recent research on contemporary practice.

Here are the results:

Compulsory Training in International Law

Country 1967 1973 2015
Finland Yes Yes Yes
France Yes Yes ~50%
Italy Yes Yes Yes
“Latin America” Yes Yes Yes
USSR Yes Yes Yes (Russia)
Bulgaria Yes Yes
Hungary Yes Yes Yes
Romania Yes Yes
Yugoslavia Yes Yes Yes (successor states)
Nigeria No No No
Norway No No Yes
Sweden No No Yes
Denmark No No Yes
Egypt Yes Yes Yes
Germany No (West) ~50%
India ~50% ~50% 100%
Japan No No No
Sri Lanka No ~50%
UK 48% 3%
USA “Very few law schools” “Very few law schools” 4%

A couple of things stand out. First, current law school training requirements have been in place for decades in a majority of the states surveyed. Assuming no deviation from the rules in place in 1973, every person who has studied to become a lawyer in Bulgaria, Egypt, Finland, Hungary, Italy, “Latin America,” Romania, Russia, and Yugoslavia and its successor states over the past forty years has taken at least one course on international law. On the flip side, compulsory training has been uncommon or non-existent over the same period in Japan, Nigeria, and the United States.

Second, most of the significant change has been in the direction of more international legal education. Law schools in Scandinavian states did not require their students to study international law in the 1960s and 1970s, but appear to now. Only 50% of Indian law schools mandated an international course up through 1973, but 100% have the requirement today. Germany and Sri Lanka appear to have experienced similar shifts. The biggest exception to this trend is the UK, where nearly 50% of universities compelled their law students to study international law in 1967 but only 3% do today.

This evidence suggests not only that the level of general knowledge of international law has varied cross-nationally in recent decades, but also that knowledge has varied over time within a number of states. Are there any foreign policy consequences? I would argue yes.

Sources

Rene-Jean Dupuy & Gyorgy Haraszti, The University Teaching of Social Sciences: International Law (1967)

Rene-Jean Dupuy & Gregory Tunkin, Comparability of Degrees and Diplomas in International Law (1973)

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