A unique Masters course in resolving conflict and disputes has been launched at the University of South Wales (USW), giving Wales a much-needed, fresh approach to avoiding costly court battles.
The MSc in Dispute Resolution is recognised by the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators (CIArb) to Fellowship status, meaning USW is currently the only university in Wales with this recognition.
CIArb is one of the world’s leading expert bodies on arbitration and alternative dispute resolution (ADR), which are highly effective alternatives to the court process.
Traditional litigation methods are time-consuming and expensive for organisations that need to go to court. The patent battles between technology firms Apple, Google and Samsung have cost millions of pounds and resulted in a lot of commercially sensitive information concerning forthcoming products and supply chains becoming public knowledge.
Arbitration and ADR offer organisations and businesses across all sectors, including health, police, construction and other commercial organisations, the opportunity to take control of their dispute and to resolve matters privately and cost effectively.
For this reason, the Welsh and UK governments are encouraging organisations to go down the ADR and arbitration route, which involves both sides submitting their respective claims to a chosen qualified arbitrator or ADR practitioner.
Annie McCartney is the course leader; a construction lawyer by profession, she is one of only three women in Wales to hold Fellowship status of the CIArb. She says of the course:
“The opportunity to gain vital skills and knowledge in this area will give organisations on both sides of the bridge a much-needed edge in remaining profitable.
“The advantage of arbitration and ADR is that, unlike costly court litigation, organisations can continue to work together after a dispute has been resolved, meaning that business relationships that have developed over many years can continue.
“It also can also avoid costly and lengthy litigation and ensure commercially sensitive information is kept confidential.”
The postgraduate students who have signed up for this first year hail from a diverse range of public and private organisations, including doctors, lawyers, construction professionals and the police, and the intention is to embrace all sectors as disputes occur everywhere.
The teaching team is a mixture of highly-qualified academics and practitioners, including Professor Mair Coombes Davies, a well-known arbitrator, architect and barrister; Professor Robert Shawyer, a solicitor specialising in construction disputes; and Professor Gareth Thomas, a dentist and solicitor by profession who will concentrate on medical disputes.
The team is complemented by ex-Chairman of the CIArb, Professor Geoffrey Beresford-Hartwell who will be concentrating on the ethical requirements of arbitration.
To mark the launch of the Masters course, USW invited Ken Fields, a retired judge and arbitrator from Arizona, to act as chairman in the mock international arbitration being filmed for students.
Dean of the Faculty of Computing, Engineering and Science, Dr Rhobert Lewis, is excited about the addition of this ground-breaking course in a Welsh university and says:
“The University of South Wales is pioneering a new way for Welsh organisations to retain their competitive advantage in challenging market places. After a year of full-time study, business people should be able to think more creatively about handling commercial disputes in a more cost-effective and non-adversarial manner.”