Professor Caroline Fennell, School of Law

Caroline Fennell, Professor of Law

Caroline Fennell, Professor of Law

College: Business & Law

School: Law

Research Interests: Law of evidence, criminal justice and terrorism


What first attracted you to your academic discipline?

Debating (in secondary school), an inclination towards considering issues from a number of perspectives, frankly being somewhat argumentative and contrarian - and always interested in (and maybe articulating) the 'other' point of view.  A love of reading and writing did not hurt!

How were you drawn to your current research interests?

This is easier - I feel an affinity for and an empathy with those who are considered 'other', outsiders or different.  My reaction is to question the ready classification of those seen as pariahs by the world at large, and it is in that context that our commitment to our value system is truly challenged.  I have (what I see as) a healthy disregard for the consensus and always worry about 'common understandings' and group think.  Hence criminal law, evidence and the underbelly of the system in crisis is an obvious fit!

What professional achievements do you consider particularly rewarding?

Being Professor of Law and during my time as Dean being able to influence and change the experience of students studying law - in particular opening up the curriculum to clinical programmes exploring the realities of the practice of our 'lived' law.  Developing the PhD programme in Law so that that level of visible engagement in research both attracted international scholars to UCC and facilitated good students pursuing doctoral studies in UCC.  As Head of College being able to work with colleagues on the borders of disciplines or emerging from research to introduce new programmes changing the portfolio of courses offered and so indirectly influence students' lives.

As Registrar I have relished the opportunity to initiate a University-wide discussion on academic strategy and the high-level principles underlying our curriculum.  This is now central to the University Strategic Plan, and has facilitated an ideas-based process to enable new perspectives on modules and programmes take shape!

Have you had professional role models? What impact did they have on you?

Yes.  Mentors have shown me in their scholarship and professional achievements how to be rigorous and aim for the highest standards; a sense of humility, as the most impressive people are often the most understated; and a commitment to public engagement and to challenging the status quo whether through radicalising the curriculum and/or the academy.

What aspects of your work do you find most rewarding?

Postgraduate supervision or teaching as I love that moment which Delbanco describes best as that 'mysterious third force' in a classroom when an idea crosses an invisible interval between the mind of the teacher and that of the student - that never gets old!

Getting people with a common interest in a room to work together on a project, programme proposal or plan - everyone coming at the issue from a slightly different perspective - not quite knowing what will emerge - but getting a result - that can be a fascinating experience.

Change projects - such as leading the University to the Athena SWAN bronze award and establishing the Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Unit.

Any details you wish to share about how being female has impacted upon your career (positively or negatively)?

An understanding of a perspective from the margins and the importance of that point of view.

Academic careers present specific challenges in achieving balance, whether between research, teaching and administration, or in work/life balance. What advice might you give a student/younger colleague/your 18-year old self?

Do what you enjoy and are interested in - then it is never work!  Take time to reflect and keep cool - things will work out.

Athena SWAN

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