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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The Road to Success Programme, launched by the Commerce, Law and Management (CLM) faculty, is focused on assisting students within the school with their academics and is looking to open the support programme to all undergraduate students at the university next year.
A new programme that has been successfully helping undergraduate students with their academics in the School of Commerce, Law and Management (CLM) may be expanded to all first-years next year.
The Road to Success Programme (RSP) was started in CLM in January this year. The programme has been used as a support structure to assist the faculty’s undergraduate students with their academics.
As lecturer for the RSP and course coordinator, Danie De Klerk drew up a timetable which includes a series of tutorial and one-on-one sessions to assist students who are academically “at risk”. The programme also accommodates passing students who wish to attend the classes as an added benefit.
The programme has 25 tutors who have been trained by CLM and the Counselling and Careers Development Unit (CCDU) to assist students with concepts which they find challenging, whether it be personal or academic.
THE ROAD TO SUCCESS: Danie De Klerk, coordinator of the Road to Success Programme, and Masego Modise, a Law tutor on the programme discuss how work is assessed in the Law School. Photo: Riante Naidoo.
De Klerk said that “Tutors are trained to identify a problem that is greater than just academic.”
De Klerk said that all first years in CLM were enrolled in the programme at the beginning of the year were taught “generic type skills” such as time management, studying skills, note taking etc. In the second semester, students who were “at risk,” or those who wished to attend voluntarily continued with the programme.
De Klerk said that in 2013, the university applied for development grant money from the department of education. The grants were received last year and have been used to fund such programmes within each faculty at the university.
He said other faculties refer to their support programmes as the “At Risk Programme,” however their faculty chose to name it the “Road to Success Programme” instead, as the term “at risk” is very negative and they wanted to use a motivational approach.
“Our take is unique,” he said. “We are the only ones with tutors, running a programme, focussing on the road to success.” They have taken their approach a step further by focusing on related aspects of a student’s life that can impact them academically.
“If a student is hungry, it’s difficult for them to pay attention to what’s going on in class and whether he or she passes or fails doesn’t matter,” De Klerk said.
“Literature shows that very seldom is it the academic aspect of their studies that is the problem,” he added. He identified food shortage, accommodation conditions and funding problems as the aspects that have directly impacted a student’s studies most severely.
“We are trying to resolve this,” he said.
The RSP also work closely with the CCDU to refer students for counselling if they sense a personal issue is impacting the student’s studies.
De Klerk said they have learnt a great deal in the nine months that the programme has been running and “are quite happy with where the programme is at the moment”.
“The programme is evolving,” he added, and said that they are opening their doors to all 5 200 undergraduate students next year.
“It’s a big thing, but we want the programme to be more than just the baseline of time management studies etc,” he said. “We want to see them graduating, which is what the whole programme is about.”
Water-soaked documents, some of them student records, cannot be used again. Pic: Akin Oyedele
Several Wits staff members arrived at work on Tuesday morning, September 4, to find their offices flooded and property destroyed.
The alleged vandals had blocked the basins in some bathrooms with toilet paper in the Chamber of Mines, Commerce, Law and Management (CLM), and FNB buildings, as well as the new science stadium and left the taps running. The tap water flooded offices and passageways overnight.
Water leaked through the roof and broke the ceilings of the CLM faculty offices. Marike Bosman, CLM faculty registrar, said original documents containing students’ marks were destroyed, as well as computers, printers and telephones.
Damp stacks of paper lay on her secretary’s table, and several boxes were moved outside, possibly to be disposed of.
Cleaning staff began work early on Tuesday in the different buildings and worked well into the day.
Bosman said the cost of repair was what upset her the most about the flood.
“Do you know how many students we could have sponsored with the money it will take to repair this?”
She said the faculty had made alternative arrangements to carry on as normal.
Acting vice-chancellor Prof Yunus Ballim said the Legal Office will coordinate insurance claims. He also indicated, via an email sent out to staff, that he was concerned about the security of buildings on campus.
Cleaning staff start to mop up after the vandalism. Pic: Akin Oyedele.
UPDATE: 12 September 2012 – Campus Control Investigations Manager Michael Mahada said investigations into the flood were underway, and declined to share any information regarding culprits or suspects.