A Wits University student has been arrested for the alleged rape of a fellow student. File photo: Motshwari Mofokeng

Johannesburg - The SA Attorneys Association (SAAA) on Monday welcomed the University of the Witwatersrand's decision to scrap the four-year LLB degree.

“There is general agreement that the current four-year LLB is not adequate,” chairperson Praveen Sham said in a statement.

“Many universities have to devote course time to the teaching of numeracy and literacy skills to first-year students,” he said.

He was responding to Wits University's announcement last month that 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 at the time.

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

Sham said numerous students take five or six years to complete the four-year degree.

“A structured five-year postgraduate course will prepare students better for the practice of law.”

He said, in the interests of the public, that standards should be continuously maintained and that constant efforts should be made to improve them.

“For this reason, we also welcome the proposed introduction of a course in Ethics in the curriculum,” said Sham.

Last week, the SA Students Congress (Sasco) said the university's decision to change the LLB degree would prevent blacks from entering the legal profession.

“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 at the time.

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, it said.

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 and called on Wits to reverse its decision.