Saturday, 30 January 2010

University Education: Real World Careers

Are we in danger of believing that everything can be taught in Universities and away from the real world? University courses and formal training are increasingly replacing apprenticeship, articles or what you will as a method of training. Certainly the UK has in the past 30 years developed an IP academia to be proud of. Its birth derives from the contraceptive pill and the philanthropy of its inventor Dr Herchel Smith. Patents made him more money than he could enjoy and it has gone back to Queen Mary University of London and Cambridge to create centres of Intellectual Property learning. UCL aims to compete too. Follow those links for their events pages. The Cambridge one is particularly good.
Continuing Professional Development requirements ensure in-service professionals flock to their doors to attend impressive lecture programmes.
What concerns me is that the feedback loop is not complete. All this education is not working its way through to the client. There is a danger it gets parked in some "academic" part of the brain while the day to day work of the IP professional goes on unaffected.  Many patent agents I have spoken too perceive the collection of CPD as a chore and not something to enhance their client work. Why are they so jaundiced. With such an attitude there is no enthusiasm to listen actively and contribute to the debate. Academia needs to engage with the points collectors and find out what could get them to respond.

Worse still, there are no jobs for the graduate students being trained in IP today. They will move away from the field disillusioned. A fascination with the intricacies of copyright law and policy cannot be monetised into chargeable hours or pay the rent.

Our professional bodies have not paid much attention to the ranks of the unemployed trainees. Do we not owe those who are capable of qualification some support. After all when the grandfathers die business may want some applied IP skills.

Tell me why I am wrong.


  1. My brain is having some difficulty in joining these dots...

    1. It takes years for professionals to get used to a new regime of doing CPD. When the Law Society introduced CPD, they allowed old solicitors to avoid it for several years. When I started a Bristows, a number of the partners didn't even have degrees, as they qualified before that was a compulsory requirement.

    2. Having practically-focussed CPD courses depends on finding people willing to provide them. Perhaps universities (in some cases subsidised by bequests) are dominant in patent CPD provision because commercial providers don't think there will be rich pickings in a niche area. Isn't it inevitable that a course run by a university will have a strong academic flavour? Having said that, I have had plenty of patent agents on my courses on drafting IP agreements (eg those run by Management Forum), which are very practically-focussed.

    3. I am not sure what you mean by "some support". Do you mean bursaries and scholarships for students, funded by CIPA?

  2. Thanks for your contribution Mark.
    Surprisingly - even before CPD - the patent profession was well served by conference providers - including Management Forum. At that time even CIPA customarily provided monthly informative lectures as part of the general meetings. CPD has not, then, been the motivation for those who attend the courses.
    I am not complaining about the University offerings either - quite the reverse.