The National University of Singapore, like most other universities, provides its students with an option to pick between a general LLM or an LLM with a specialization in a particular subject. On the whole, the university offers six specializations in the following fields:
Asian Legal Studies
Corporate & Financial Services Law
Intellectual Property & TechnologyLaw
International Arbitration & Dispute Resolution
International & Comparative Law
In addition to these six specializations, the university also offers "a specialized LLM in International Business Law which is taught at NUS in Singapore and the East China University of Political Science and Law in Shanghai."
How can you apply for a general LLM?
According to Harsh Mahaseth, an LLM graduate of NUS with a specialisation in Asian Legal Studies, there are two ways to opt for a general LLM. The first way would be to opt for a general LLM at the time of your admission.
In the second method, NUS provides a certain degree of academic freedom to its students by allowing them to initially pick a specialization and to then drop the specialisation and become a general LLM candidate.
Advantage of a specialization
Every specialization at NUS has certain course listings. For instance, NUS offers around ten courses under the specialization for Asian Legal Studies each semester, including courses such as China and International Arbitration, International Law and Asia and ASEAN Law and Policy. Similarly, each of the other five specializations also have different courses on offer.
At the beginning of each semester of the LLM program, all students in the LLM cohort are required to bid for these courses. However, since the total number of students who can opt for any given course is capped, students with a specialization in a particular subject will be given preference while bidding for the courses for that specialization, over general LLM candidates and students with a specialization in other subjects.
Consequently, having a specialization puts you in a better position when bidding for courses. As Harsh explains, it all boils down to getting priority when you want to study some courses over others, a benefit that is not available to general LLM candidates.
Benefits of an LLM without a specialization
Conversely, choosing a specialization may also restrict the type of courses you can opt for in the LLM program.
For example - students in the LLM cohort are required to complete 40-44 credits during the course of the program. General LLM candidates can pick courses across specializations, and are not bound by any compulsory coursework requirements. Such students can therefore study a diverse range of subjects during the program. Theoretically, one can pick subjects across all six specializations to fulfil the credit requirement during the two semesters at NUS.
On the other hand, students choosing a specialized LLM are required to choose courses of at least 24 credits from their specialization. Since each course carries roughly 3-5 credits, one would ordinarily have 4-5 courses in each semester, out of which 3 courses would have to be chosen from one's specialization. In turn, this may have the effect of limiting one's exposure to different courses on offer at NUS.
On the whole, however, a general advantage of the LLM program at NUS is that LLM candidates are not confined to courses offered by the law department. This in turn allows students to take up any course offered at the university. For instance - an LLM candidate can potentially opt for a course from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy or a course from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.
The choice between a general and a specialized LLM boils down to one's preferences, as both options provide academic freedom to students in their own right.