Four-year LLB limbo

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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Politics students petition against pension

RETIRE OR NOT?: Gillian Renshaw (left) and Odwa Abraham in her offi ce at the Politics department. Photo: Valerie Robinson

RETIRE OR NOT?: Gillian Renshaw (left) and Odwa Abraham in her offi ce at the Politics department. Photo: Valerie Robinson

A popular secretary in the Politics department will be forced into retirement at this end month over the protests of students.

Odwa Abraham, a former politics student, said he and other students, along with a lecturer, started a petition to protest the compulsory retirement of secretary Gillian Renshaw.

Renshaw is being forced into retirement because she has reached the mandatory departure age for administrative staff of 65.

Abraham, who is now postgraduate LLB student, said the organisers of the petition were told their demand would be reviewed. However, they were never informed of the outcome of the petition.

“Our issue is here our [petition] was disregarded, it was ignored” said Abraham. “How does the university deal with such issues. What happens in the case where we students want the person to stay?”

He added that according to his knowledge there were two petitions. One started by the students which was signed by over 90% of the third-year politics class, and another by the lecturers and other staff members of the department.

The head of the Politics department, Prof Daryl Glaser, said Renshaw could continue in her job if the university allowed it.

“She’d be able and willing to continue if retirement rules allowed. The petition attests to her popularity,” Glaser said.

He said that an effort was to try and keep Renshaw but this only secured a few extra months after which the university insisted she retire. Renshaw’s contract ends at the end of this month, no replacement has been hired yet.

“She’d be able and willing to continue if retirement rules allowed. The petition attests to her popularity.”

Renshaw has been working for the Politics department since July 2009. She told Wits Vuvuzela that she was very flattered by the initiative.

She was not involved in organising the petition. However, she said that if the students were organising a petition, it must be done properly.

“If they were going to do it they must send it through the right channels,” Renshaw said.

She added that while the university has rules of retirement, she feels it should be an individual’s choice whether on not they want to stay on for another year.

Another former Politics student, Bheki Temba, said Renshaw does not only fulfil her administrative duties but supports the students academically and emotionally as well. She knows every student’s name from their first year. Temba said Renshaw even supported him when his grandfather passed away.

Abraham said Renshaw keeps the department going and would even advise students on which courses to take.

A posting for Renshaw’s job is advertised on Wits’ website with interviews for a replacement are already being set up.