Legal education in crisis?

May 1st, 2017


Mapula Sedutla – Editor

The Council for Higher Education (CHE) released its outcomes of the National Review of the LLB qualification in April. The document sites four universities who were issued with a notice of withdrawal of accreditation if the quality of their programmes do not improve.

In 2012, the CHE and the South African Law Deans Association (SALDA), after extensive talks, reached an agreement to conduct a national review of the LLB programme. During the LLB Summit held in 2013, the General Council of the Bar (GCB) and the Law Society of South Africa (LSSA) also decided that a national review of the LLB programme should be conducted. The aim of the review was to strengthen the quality of legal education provision across South African universities.

Because of the type of issues raised, the LLB Summit also proposed that the standard development process should precede the start of the proposed national review of the LLB Programme. The threshold standard was envisaged to serve as a national benchmark against which all programmes leading to the LLB qualification would be measured.

The LLB Qualification Standard was developed by a working group of expert law academics, established by the CHE after consultation with SALDA. The draft Qualification Standard was published for public comment; this was accompanied by a series of consultation meetings, attended by stakeholders in the legal field. The finally approved version took into account comments and recommendations received from stakeholders in the legal field.

Since the standard was developed, long after the LLB programmes had been in existence, the CHE agreed that it would not be used as the primary benchmark for the national review. Universities were requested to identify any areas in their programmes, which currently do not meet the standard and to indicate plans for improvement together with proposed timelines for implementation.

The national review included all LLB programmes (whether first-degree integrated programmes or second-degree programmes following a BA (Law), BCom (Law), etcetera). It did not include the other such initial programmes, except insofar as credit for law-related modules/courses was transferred to the LLB programme and integrated with the LLB credit requirements.

The four universities who were issued with the notice of withdrawal of accreditation are North West University, Walter Sisulu University, University of South Africa and University of the Free State. While the universities are still accredited, if their accreditation is withdrawn it would mean that future lawyers would not be able to study law at the four universities if the institutions do not make the necessary changes.

A more extensive article on the matter will be published in forthcoming issues.

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

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