The USAID New Justice Program recognizes the critical importance and key role of modern legal education in enhancing the quality of the corps of judges, lawyers, and prosecutors to ensure the proper functioning of legal system, strengthening the rule of law and the effective fight against corruption.
To achieve this goal, the USAID New Justice Program is closely working with the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Science and Education, the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Legal Policy, the National Agency for Higher Quality Assurance, and the Working Group on Legal Education Reform of the Legal Reform Commission under the President of Ukraine, law schools of various universities in different regions of the country, professional associations of lawyers and law students, the Association of Law Clinics of Ukraine, and other civil society organizations concerned by the state of legal education in Ukraine. The Program’s long-term international partners in this area are the Office of the OSCE Project Co-ordinator in Ukraine and the EU Project “Pravo-Justice”.
In improving the quality of legal education, the USAID New Justice Program focuses its efforts on supporting and facilitating the processes of:
- developing, discussing, and approving the national program for the development of legal education, standards of legal education, improvement of licensing requirements for higher education institutions and requirements for accreditation of educational programs;
- nurturing the culture and values of high-quality education through introducing the mechanisms for ensuring its quality, enhancing academic integrity, deploying a system for monitoring the quality of education and applying interactive teaching methods;
- reorientation of law schools to teaching students professional values and skills required to practice law.
With the support of the USAID New Justice Program, its partners are developing and implementing a number of initiatives, projects and documents aimed at modernizing legal education in Ukraine, in particular, the Concept for Legal Education Development in Ukraine, national standards for bachelor’s and master’s degrees in law, policy and procedures for legal education quality assurance units, requirements for the content of the academic integrity system in law schools, various practice-oriented projects through the use of court trial broadcasts in teaching law, etc.
For example, international experts engaged by the Program in cooperation with Ukrainian colleagues developed and tested the Methodology for External Independent, On-site Assessment of Legal Education Quality, the Tools for Evaluation of the Quality of Legal Clinics in Ukraine, the Innovative (Model) Curriculum for the Study of Law, the Modern Legal Education Toolkit, as well as innovative syllabi and methodological materials in professional responsibility of lawyers, the rule of law, legal innovations, prevention and fighting corruption, gender equality and women’s rights, legal clinical education, mediation and other issues.
Leading professional associations of lawyers, including the National Bar Association of Ukraine, the Association of Lawyers of Ukraine, and the Association of Advocates of Ukraine have joined separate Program’s initiatives and throughout 2016-2019 established their internal units on legal education and are actively involved in public discussions and organize thematic events to advance legal education reform.
In Ukraine, for a number of reasons, the legal education system still does not adequately prepare graduates for successful professional careers in a competitive, globalized environment as well as for the proper performance of the functions and responsibilities of legal professionals in a democratic society.
Favorable regulatory framework plays an important role in enabling a comprehensive legal education reform. In 2014, the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the Law on Higher Education and in 2019 amended, for the first time envisaging tighter requirements for providers of educational services to ensure the quality of education in training programs for the regulated professions, including legal profession.
With the USAID support, the Ministry of Education and Science in 2016 conducted as an experiment, and in 2017 introduced as mandatory the Nationwide Independent Unified Entrance Examination for the Master’s Degree Program in Law (Specialty 081), and in 2018 – for International law (Specialty 293). This ensured fair, standardized, transparent, and corruption-free admission testing to determine the applicants’ level of knowledge in the key legal disciplines, to verify their ability of critical, analytical and logical thinking, as well as the level of their command of a foreign language.
In 2018, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine adopted a decision on the introduction of the Unified State Qualification Exam at the end of master programs per the specialties of key public importance, including the Specialty of Law and the Specialty of International Law. In 2019, the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine has created a working group to prepare for the implementation of such an exam. The USAID New Justice Program provides expert support to this working group to ensure the successful implementation of this exam.
In response to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the USAID New Justice Program supports a number of law schools in their efforts to transition to distance learning, externship, and exams under the quarantine.