The RSU Faculty of Law is not afraid to take non-traditional paths
The Faculty of Law at Riga Stradiņš University (RSU) was founded in 2009 and is the newest faculty at the university. Currently, there are approximately 1,000 students and 26 doctoral students studying in the Faculty of Law, however it all started with just 40 students.
The teaching staff at the Faculty of Law are highly qualified specialists in the field of law, representing various fields of law. Guest lecturers from other Latvian and foreign universities are also involved in the study process.
Over the years, 1,508 students have graduated from the Faculty of Law, becoming lawyers, prosecutors, prosecutor assistants, attorneys, assistant attorneys, judges, judge assistants, attorneys-at-law, sworn notaries, sworn bailiffs in state and local government institutions, private and international organisations. Some of them are also teaching study courses at RSU and other universities, sharing their knowledge and professional experience with students.
The RSU Faculty of Law currently provides academic and professional Bachelor’s, Master’s and doctoral studies, as well as scientific work in the field of legal sciences. The Faculty of Law ensures an opportunity to master five study programmes:
- academic and professional Bachelor’s study programme in Law (full-time and part-time studies);
- academic and professional Master’s study programme in Law (full-time and part-time studies); and
- a doctoral study programme in Law.
Prof. Andrejs Vilks has been Dean of the Faculty of Law for nine years now.
How did you end up at RSU?
In 1998, Ilze Ostrovska, Dean of the RSU Faculty of European Studies, invited me to teach study courses such as Deviance Studies and Criminology to sociology students. At the time, I held the position of Director of the Centre of Criminological Research, was engaged in research, participated in conferences, was holding lectures, etc.
How and when did the idea originate that a Faculty of Law should be established at RSU?
Study programmes in law have been offered at RSU since 2004, when they were implemented at the Department of Sociology of the Faculty of European Studies.
With the number of study courses in law increasing and the interest of young people in studies in law growing, the management of the university decided that study programmes in this field were necessary. We started to develop these study programmes in 2004 which were licensed in 2005. I am referring here to a three-year-long academic Bachelor’s study programme and a year-and-a-half-long and two-year-long professional Master’s study programme. During the first year, we accepted 10 students in the Bachelor’s programme and approximately 30 students for Master’s studies. As it all developed, the Institute of Law was founded in 2007 and later the Faculty of Law – in 2009. I was elected the dean of the faculty.
2004. Dean of the RSU Faculty of European Studies, Andrejs Vilks together with colleagues from the Department of Sociology. Photo from RSU museum archive
When developing study programmes in law, were you mindful of the fact that many Latvian universities offered an option to study law?
No, as we saw two new specialisation opportunities which would be available only at RSU, i.e., medical and social law at the Bachelor’s and Master’s level. We have also developed an area of specialisation in police work. Studying law, students choose which field of law they will master in more depth, i.e., what their specialisation will be, for example, human rights, civil law, criminal law, administrative law, etc. We knew that medical and social law might be the areas exclusively offered at RSU, which would distinguish us from other universities. We had teaching staff who could give lectures and hold classes in medical law; at the time these study courses were not offered anywhere else. This is a unique area of specialisation!
What else has changed over these years?
Over the years increasingly more interest has been shown by those who wanted to study law in Master’s study programmes, but who had studied political science, public relations, journalism, etc. at the Bachelor’s studies level. Hence, we have developed an academic Master’s study programme in Law, for those without a Bachelor’s degree in Law. This programme was developed and licensed in 2008.
By the way, this programme has been completed by Prof. Anda Rožukalne, Dean of the RSU Faculty of Communication, Viktorija Ķēniņa, Lecturer in Biology and Microbiology at the RSU Faculty of Medicine, and many others with higher education, a Master’s or Doctor’s degree in another field of science. Knowledge in law is useful for everyone.
In 2010, we started to develop a doctoral study programme in Law. Since then, 15 doctoral theses have been defended in law at RSU.
We are always moving with the times. By flexibly responding to societal trends, teaching staff at the Faculty of Law develop study courses on civil protection, human security, use of electronic means of communication and databases.
Why should a young person choose to study at the RSU Faculty of Law?
Because RSU study programmes are of a high quality and ensure an opportunity to choose various areas of specialisation. Moreover, RSU has a highly positive atmosphere and a favourable, forthcoming attitude towards students — lecturers, cooperating with students, try to observe the wishes of students as much as possible. There is a rather liberal attitude, yet it does not mean that no attention is paid to quality.
What are the assets of the Faculty of Law?
The greatest asset of the Faculty of Law are its people, i.e., students, lecturers and support personnel, and great communication between them and RSU units.
Paraphrasing the title of the film Is It Easy to Be Young? — is it easy to be a dean?
As I have been working as dean for a second election period in a row now, which is drawing to a close, I know everything necessary for organising work in the faculty, and I would not like to say that being a dean is difficult, although the burden of responsibility remains, to a greater or lesser extent, the same. However, the dean must always strive to develop, see something new and implement it. For example, we opened a new field of studies at the faculty two years ago — internal security and civil protection. Last year, the new study programme Police Work was licensed.
It would be a challenge to think of a way to develop this study programme in Police Work. For example, how brain magnetic resonance and scanning can be used in police work to determine what a person is inclined to do and what he is capable of, etc. These are the so-called brain fingerprints. The brain retains everything a person has done. In some countries, these materials obtained as a result of scanning are used in court as evidence. This is an interesting field.
The Faculty of Law plans to cooperate with the RSU Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy, thinking of a way how colleagues from this department can get involved in the training of future police officers. Speaking of a socially psychological rehabilitation system, we are in the process of establishing forensics and police work rooms at RSU.
On 28th April 2011, the dean of the RSU Faculty of Law, Prof. Andrejs Vilks was awarded a certificate of honour from the International Anticriminal and Antiterrorist Committee as well as the Order of the "Knight of the Fatherland" in the RSU Senate Hall for actively involving the RSU Faculty of Law over a number of years in the undertaking and implementing of various international research and informative projects. Photo from RSU museum archive.
What are the future plans of the Faculty of Law?
In future, it would be good to use the information and resource bases from other study programmes and faculties at RSU, including medicine and public health, integrating them into study programmes at the Faculty of Law. I consider the fact that RSU offers studies not only in social sciences, but also in medicine and healthcare to be a great advantage, compared to other universities that offer studies in law.
RSU has a very good base to also develop aspects of programmes relating to the psycho-resocialisation of criminals, where the psyche of the criminal can be influenced. For the time being this is just an idea which could be used in educating of police officers and lawyers, yet we will continue to work and will gradually implement it.
There are many new things to work on and we should not be afraid to take extraordinary paths!