Fiona Cownie studied English Language and Literature at Bristol University, graduating with 2.1 honours, after which she trained to be a primary school teacher at the College of Ripon and York St John, gaining a Merit in her teaching diploma. She taught in Nottinghamshire for three years before leaving to read Law at Leicester University. She graduated with First Class Honours and gained an AHRC scholarship to read for an LL.M. at the LSE. After graduating from the LSE, she trained as a barrister and was called to Lincoln’s Inn. She did 18 months’ pupillage, 12 months in Chancery chambers (11 Old Square and 12 New Square) and 6 months at Brick Court Chambers, one of the leading commercial sets in London. In 1987 Fiona Cownie was appointed to a lectureship at Leicester University. She was promoted to Senior Lecturer in 1997 and left in 2003 to take up the Hugh Bevan Chair of Law at the University of Hull. She was appointed to a Chair in Law at Keele in 2006. From 2013 to 2017 Professor Cownie was the Pro Vice Chancellor (Education and Student Experience) at Keele.
Research and scholarship
Fiona Cownie is an expert in the field of legal education. Her published work includes work on the purpose of the law school and on relationships between the academic study of law and vocational training as required by the legal professions. It also includes analysis of the ways in which law is taught, especially arguments about the importance of educational theory and philosophy to legal education. Professor Cownie has made a major contribution to debates about the academic staff who work in law schools; she has carried out extensive empirical research in this area, both in the U.K. and in Canada, and has written a monograph and a series of articles exploring different aspects of legal academic life.
Professor Cownie is currently engaged in researching the professional life of Claire Palley, the first woman to be appointed to a Chair in Law in the United Kingdom. A brief overview of Professor Palley’s life can be found at https://womenslegallandmarks.com/claire-palley/ and https://first100years.org.uk/claire-palley-the-u-k-s-first-female-law-professor/
Fiona Cownie is an interdisciplinary socio-legal scholar. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. She is also a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London and a Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
Fiona Cownie is active in a number of professional associations. She is a former President of the Society of Legal Scholars and of the European Law Faculties Association, and a former Vice-Chair of the Socio-Legal Studies Association. In 2014 she was awarded the Annual Recognition Award by the Association of Law Teachers for her contribution to legal education and in 2018 was jointly awarded the Socio-Legal Studies Association Annual Prize for Contributions to the Socio-Legal Community.
From 1994-2000 Professor Cownie held a part-time judicial appointment in the Special Educational Needs Tribunal, and from 2004-2010 was a member of the Judicial Studies Board Advisory Council.