File picture: Independent Media
File picture: Independent Media

ConCourt ruling gives VC graduates get greenlight to practice law

By Bongani Nkosi Time of article published Dec 12, 2019

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Johannesburg - Teaching of the Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree in the country is no longer an exclusive right of public universities, thanks to a groundbreaking ruling by the Constitutional Court.

On Wednesday, the court delivered a majority judgment that confirmed the unconstitutionality of the KwaZulu-Natal Law Society’s decision to not register LLB graduates from Varsity College for attorney articles.

The grounds for KZN Law Society’s decision was that Varsity College, a private college owned by the Independent Institute of Education (IIE), was not a university, as stipulated by the Higher Education Act.

This threatened the prospects of 400 students enrolled in Varsity College’s LLB programme from becoming lawyers after completing their studies.

The IIE became alarmed after a parent of a student learnt with shock from the KZN Law Society that Varsity College’s LLB did not meet the requirements for admission into the field.

The KZN Law Society maintained its position that it only recognised LLB graduates from public universities.

The group resorted to the courts to battle it out with the law society, and the matter was put to rest yesterday, when the Constitutional Court ruled in the institution’s favour.

In a unanimous judgment penned by Chief Justice Mogoeng Mogoeng, the apex court ruled that it was “absurd” to deny Varsity College a university status.

Justice Mogoeng pointed out that the institution was duly registered with the state. It has also been accredited to offer and confer a four-year LLB degree on its graduates, he said.

“It is common cause that its LLB programme meets the same requirements and standards set for public universities,” said Justice Mogoeng.

“All these considerations point to no other conclusion but that a registered independent higher institution of learning, like the institute, whose character and programmes meet the constitutional and statutory requirements of an equivalent public institution is a ‘university’.

“To conclude otherwise would amount to putting form over substance. And it would give rise to an absurdity and injustice as everything about the institute demonstrates beyond doubt that it is a university.”

The Star

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