The UWC Law Faculty received the welcome news on June 14 that its LLB degree has been fully accredited by the Council on Higher Education (CHE). The LLB programmes of 11 of the 17 law schools/faculties in the country have now received full accreditation.
The process of accreditation of the LLB degree programmes offered at South African law schools and faculties started in 2012 with an agreement between the SA Law Deans Association (Salda) and the CHE on the need for a national review of the LLB programme.
This was because of the “crisis” in legal education, that is, the perceived lack of the required skills of many law students entering the legal profession.
The CHE consequently drafted an LLB Qualification Standard between 2013 and 2015 with the assistance of a working group comprising of law academics. All law schools and faculties were reviewed by the CHE between 2015 and 2017 according to this standard.
Although the UWC Law Faculty received in large part a positive report from the CHE in 2017, it was inter alia asked to review its LLB curriculum. to draft a strategic plan for the faculty, to draft faculty policies on blended learning (how to combine traditional teaching methods with technology) and on student assessment, and to look at the qualities and abilities which students should attain during their studies (the so-called graduate attributes).
In the latter respect, the CHE review emphasised the importance of graduating law students with the required critical thinking, research and professional skills.
In January this year, the Law Faculty established three committees to ensure compliance with these and other requirements by May 10.
The Law Faculty’s Improvement Plan (a 200-page document, if one includes all the annexures) which received the endorsement of the CHE includes a strategic plan for the next five years which captures the vision of the faculty as follows: The Faculty of Law is committed to being a prominent law faculty, renowned nationally and internationally for its high- quality research publications, specifically in certain niche areas, for its innovative ideas, for developing graduates within the minimum prescribed time who are committed to social justice and are furthermore well-qualified, workplace-ready, technologically equipped and have adaptive expertise for the 21st century, as well as for its extensive social engagement.
The history of the UWC Law Faculty starts with the establishment in 1960 of the University College of the Western Cape as a constituent college of the University of South Africa. A Department of Law was established in the Faculty of Arts and Philosophy in 1970, which presented the BA (law) and LLB degrees.
A B.Com (law) degree was at the time presented by the Department of Commerce. In 1973 the Faculty of Commerce and Law was established, and the Law Faculty became an independent one on January 1, 1979.
Over the past 40 years the Law Faculty has grown significantly in a number of ways. The faculty today has approximately 2 200 students (which includes about 220 masters and 50 doctoral students) as well as 104 staff members, 44 of whom are academics appointed permanently. Former Deputy Chief Justice Dikgang Moseneke joined the faculty in 2017 as Extraordinary Professor.
In 2017, the faculty’s academic staff published seven books (as author or editor), 20 chapters in books, and 55 journal articles. The faculty currently has 13 scholars who have received a rating from the National Research Foundation, seven of whom are B-rated, that is, scholars with international recognition for the quality of their research.
The faculty is host to a number of units that specialise in different fields of law.
The biggest of these is the Dullah Omar Institute for Constitutional Law, Governance and Human Rights, which in turn hosts a chair (a SA Research Chairs Initiative Chair in Multilevel Government, Law and Policy) as well as a number of projects such as Children’s Rights, the Applied Constitutional Studies Laboratory, Socio-Economic Rights, the Women and Democracy Initiative, and Africa Criminal Justice Reform.
The institute offers a number of LLM modules and programmes in collaboration with the Law Faculty, and graduates a number of doctoral students each year.
The Dullah Omar Institute was established in 1990 as the Community Law Centre, through funding provided by the Ford Foundation.
Dullah Omar, who was at the time a human rights lawyer, was its first director.
Working together with people like Albie Sachs, Brigitte Mbandla, Bulelani Ngcuka and Kader Asmal, Omar and the centre played a major role in the negotiations that led to the adoption of the 1993 interim constitution and the establishment of a democratic South Africa.
Sachs, who later became a judge in the Constitutional Court, has been quoted as saying that during the constitutional negotiations, the Community Law Centre was “the engine room of the intellectual foundation for the new constitution”.
Sachs still regularly presents lectures and seminars at UWC. Based on the experience of the centre in the early 1990s, staff members of the institute today assist countries around the world in the drafting of their constitutions.
The Social Law Project offers a continuous education programme as well as a postgraduate diploma in labour law. Its focus is on marginalised workers and in this regard it has, for example, done important research on domestic workers. It is currently involved in a project on Decent Work in the Digital Platform Economy.
The SA-German Centre for Transnational Criminal Justice is the result of a collaboration between UWC’s Law Faculty and the Law Faculty at Humboldt University, Berlin.
The collaboration started in 1995, and over the past 10 years the centre has graduated more than 100 Master’s students and 10 doctorates.
The students and alumni of this programme are currently in Berlin for a summer school, public lectures and a conference.
The faculty, furthermore, has specialised postgraduate programmes in international trade, business and investment law, labour law, environmental law, human rights and in economic crimes.
The faculty, moreover, hosts two summer/winter schools in collaboration with the University of Missouri and Howard University.
Some of the most prominent alumni of the faculty are Mohamed Navsa and Stevan Majiedt, who are judges in the Supreme Court of Appeal, as well as Patricia Goliath who is now an acting judge in the Constitutional Court.
In 2017 the faculty admitted 280 students to its four-year programme and 100 to the five-year programme. Not all matriculants who receive the required number of points (37 and 32 points respectively) can therefore be admitted, but only the best applicants on merit. Applications for the 2019 LLB degree programmes are currently open until the end of September .
* De Ville is is the acting Dean of Law at the University of the Western Cape. He is the author of a number of publications in the area of public law, including Constitutional and Statutory Interpretation and Judicial Review of Administrative Action in South Africa.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.