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Four-year LLB limbo

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Nomvelo Chalumbira
September01/ 2017

THE WITS SCHOOL of Law remains uncertain on whether it will offer the four-year undergraduate Bachelor of Law (LLB) degree in 2019, but the school is already advertising the study stream on its study page on the university’s website.

 

GHOST OF FOUR-YEAR LLB: Wits School of Law to stand their ground on offering the two and three-year LLB stream.  Photo: Nomvelo Chalumbira

 

In 2014, Wits discontinued the straight four-year LLB programme and returned to the traditional two or three-year programme, where students choose to either complete an undergraduate BA (Law) or a BCom (Law) or after completing any other first degree, could embark on an LLB.

Earlier this year, the Council of Higher Education (CHE) released a national review of how to standardise and strengthen the quality of legal education and the LLB degree.
Until the final report is released, the CHE is recommending all universities also to offer the straight four-year LLB programme.

Admissions and career development officer Wanda Ndlozi said, “There is a possibility we will be accepting students for the four-year LLB (in 2019), we are waiting for the final feedback from the CHE report at the end of October. “The two or three-year LLB stream makes you more marketable to employers.”

Dean of Commerce, Law and Management, Professor Imraan Valodia said, “We will see what the CHE says but we still believe that the two or three-year postgraduate programme is
the best. We are going to engage the CHE. We wouldn’t have made the decision to remove the straight LLB on a whim. The four-year LLB training provides a narrow set of skills for the kind of lawyers we need in South Africa.

“All firms employing law students say that they’d rather employ students with a broad set of skills and [who have] done the longer programmes. It’s better in the long-term for one’s career as a lawyer and professional training,” said Valodia.

Law School Council (LSC) chairperson, Mpendulo Mfeka, said, “The LSC would welcome the return of the straight four-year LLB degree. Not everyone has enough money to study an LLB for five or six years doing two degrees. [Also] not everyone qualifies for NSFAS, so those who don’t qualify for NSFAS but want to become lawyers are disadvantaged.”

“[However], we see the need for the BA and BCom Law and want them to remain. Someone who has studied a BA or BCom Law is not the same as someone who studied a straight LLB because their thinking isn’t confined within the law doctrines only,” said Mfeka.

Second-year BA Law student, Reshoketswe Masitenyane, said that she initially wanted to study the four-year LLB stream. However, the BA Law route has broadened her legal training.

“The BA degree complements law pretty well. In addition to the law courses [I do] international relations and politics. You have to do a lot of research and write really long essays, essentially [I’m] walking away with a better grasp of the world and improved writing skills. Now I see the importance of the [BA] undergrad. Choosing the BA was a better alternative for me,” said Masitenyane.

 

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Nomvelo Chalumbira