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Wits accused of ‘gatekeeping’

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The University of the Witwatersrand File photo: Motshwari Mofokeng

Johannesburg - The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) scrapped the four-year LLB degree to prevent blacks from entering the legal profession, the SA Students Congress (Sasco) claimed on Wednesday.

“The captains of the legal industry are becoming uncomfortable with the number of blacks entering the profession. Therefore a postgraduate LLB programme will ensure that access is limited,” Sasco said in a statement.

Two weeks ago Wits University announced it was discontinuing its undergraduate Bachelor of Laws degree (LLB) and replacing it with an LLB postgraduate programme.

“From 2015 all students with an interest in law will have to enrol in the postgraduate LLB programme which may take an additional two years for those who have completed the BA Laws or BCom Law,” the university said in a statement.

“In meetings with law firms and members of the Bar, one assessment was uniformly received Ä the four-year undergraduate LLB does not adequately prepare students for the legal profession.”

Sasco said the four-year LLB degree was necessary to improve the pace of transformation in the sector and reduce financial strain completing it placed on the black majority.

“It is common cause that the current state of the degree and the quality of graduates it produces leaves a lot to be desired,” it said.

“The quality of graduates in the current LLB curriculum do not have the requisite broad practical skills... It is also commonly acknowledged that the current quality of LLB graduates fall short in terms of ethics and general writing and drafting skills.”

Sasco said the Law Society of SA convened an LLB summit in 2013

where it agreed that the Council on Higher Education would have to review the degree. The review was set to be completed by June 30.

Wits University was pre-empting the process, Sasco said.

The postgraduate LLB would mean that many poor black and working class people would not have access to the legal profession because they would not be able to afford it, Sasco said.

“It is our worry that there is no synergy between the students that graduate with a LLB and the reality that reflects in the profession.

“These trends tell us that we have not achieved our objectives of transformation of the judiciary, including legal education.”

Sasco called on Wits to reverse its decision.

Sapa


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