CHE releases full LLB review

June 1st, 2017

Mapula Sedutla – Editor

The Council on Higher Education (CHE) has released the full report on the National Review of the Bachelor of Laws programme. The 358 page report, which was circulated by Parliament, details the mechanism used to review the 17 institutions that offer the LLB degree in South Africa. The report, inter alia, provides reasoning behind the CHE’s decision to furnish four universities with a notice of withdrawal of accreditation if the quality of their LLB programme does not improve.

The four universities – North-West University, Walter Sisulu University, University of South Africa and University of the Free State – were given until early October to report on progress made and to explain what plans will be made for the future (see p 10). Below are the reasons specified by the CHE for the notice of withdrawal of accreditations.

North-West University

  • There is significant evidence of inequity between the two sites of delivery, in terms of access; provision of curriculum delivery, teaching, learning and assessment; the profiles of staff in respect of seniority, qualifications and scholarly reputation; the quality assurance of the programme; articulation between the sites; infrastructure; and other learning resources. Institutional restructuring aimed at addressing such issues has not yet manifested itself in the faculty of law.
  • There is a lack of substantive integration, in the programme as a whole as well as on the Potchefstroom campus, between students of different racial groups, and a sense of alienation felt by students of particular groups.
  • Relatively low admission requirements are not, throughout the programme, supplemented with adequate student support.

Walter Sisulu University

  • The programme fails to demonstrate adequate vertical alignment across years of study, or progression through advancing levels of complexity. The content of many modules is not fit for the purpose of educating a well-rounded law graduate, and there is little evidence of any recent updating of content and related case law.
  • There is a lack in the programme of adequate senior staff members to provide it with academic leadership and ensure quality. The majority of staff members have the LLB as highest qualification. The programme lacks an adequate workload model to ensure equitable and effective teaching and assessment across the programme.
  • There are few development opportunities available for administrative staff in the faculty.
  • Teaching and learning resources are inadequate, impacting negatively on the achievement of the intended outcomes of the qualification.
  • There is inadequate alignment between the curriculum, teaching, learning and assessment. Evidence of assessment provides little indication of attention to the development of critical engagement, analysis and problem-solving skills. Formative assessment feedback is irregular, and student course evaluations are not done consistently.
  • The programme lacks formal structures that would enable effective programme coordination and leadership. There is little evidence of collaboration in the development and delivery of the programme. This affects staff morale, indicated by non-delivery or re-scheduling of lectures that disrupts students’ planning and organisation.
  • Student attrition rate is high, and the on-time graduation rate is low, yet there is little evidence of formal tracking and monitoring of student performance with a view to improvement.

University of South Africa

  • There are fundamental flaws in curriculum design. The flaws include problems relating to modular sequence, its alignment with the required vertical progression and logical increase in complexity in terms of the National Qualification Framework (NQF) levels, the credit allocation, the distinctive demands of a distance mode of tuition, and the purpose of the qualification and required graduate attributes as set out in the LLB Standard (including the need for inclusion of sufficient non-law modules).
  • There is a lack of clarity on how policies for teaching, learning and assessment are aligned with the distance mode of tuition, and what mechanisms exist for quality assurance of assessment and feedback to students.
  • There are instances of study guides that are poorly composed, and do not adequately meet the needs of students and the expected level of the modules.
  • The flexible admission policy is not augmented by adequate student support, and identification and monitoring of at-risk students.

University of the Free State

  • There needs to be evidence indicating how the curriculum will be modified to ensure coherence, adequate vertical progression, achievement of the NQF exit level, and alignment with the principles and graduate attributes established in the LLB Standard. At the same time, the number and allocation of credits need to be reviewed.
  • The faculty needs a strategic plan, aligned with the institutional plan that includes its relationship with a teaching and learning plan that is aligned with the aim of achieving the graduate attributes.
  • A staff development plan is required that addresses the need for greater staff diversity. There should also be a plan for adequate allocation of administrative staffing resources.
  • Systems need to be in place to ensure effective academic, as opposed or in addition to administrative, leadership and coordination of the programme.
  • The faculty should provide evidence of equitable provision of teaching, learning and assessment for students enrolled for the distance mode of tuition.
  • The faculty must produce a teach-out plan for students enrolled with Varsity College. It should include the institution’s plan for supervision of quality assurance as it affects those students.
  • Meanwhile, the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) expressed serious concerns that it has not been consulted on the process since 2015, although the LSSA was asked for input in the standards-drafting process of the review. The LSSA questioned the CHE’s decision not to include the legal profession in its review. The LSSA has offered its support and its commitment to law faculties, which may require input and assistance from the attorneys’ profession to ensure their LLB degrees achieve full accreditation by the CHE (see p 19).

This article was first published in De Rebus in 2017 (June) DR 3.