Wits law students left in limbo after financial aid and scholarship office suspends funding for LLB degrees.
Hundreds of Wits law students in the faculty of commerce, law and management face the risk of being unable to complete their legal studies following a decision by the university’s financial aid and scholarship office (Faso) to put LLB funding on hold.
The decision was taken at the start of the academic year while the university awaited a decision from NSFAS on whether this programme would be funded in the 2021 academic year. In a statement released by the scheme on February 22, universities were informed not to register any students on “legacy” qualifications such as BEd, BNurs and the LLB.
According to a Faso employee who spoke to Wits Vuvuzela on March 31, “NSFAS has not decided if the LLB will be funded in 2021. At this stage, the funding for the programme is still on hold.”
This decision has had far-reaching consequences because some LLB students have experienced difficulties in applying for their living and travelling allowances at the Faso office, while others have not been able to move into student accommodation.
Bontle Mogorosi, a final-year LLB student told Wits Vuvuzela that, “My 2020 fees have not been paid, I had to sign an acknowledgement of debt before I was even allowed to register. I don’t know if my fees will be paid this year. When we try calling for clarification there is no answer and when we email we get automated responses. I am not alone, two of my friends are experiencing the same issue.”
An additional group of students, who are completing BA and BCom law degrees in 2021, and were planning to study for LLB will also be affected by this decision, as many will either have to consider alternative courses of study or funding opportunities for 2022.
‘‘I am in my final-year of a BA law and I was looking forward to doing my LLB next year. I don’t know what the plan is right now, but we will have to wait and see,” said Nokukhanya Mhlungu.
The school of law is in negotiations with various law firms to obtain funding for students who are starting with the two-year LLB programme this year, according to a statement released by the school on March 30.
Adanma Yisa, the law school’s strategic partnerships manager, told Wits Vuvuzela that the school is also in talks with Dean of Students Jerome September to find ways to assist the affected LLB students.
“The Wits school of law continues to work with the public and private sector to secure bursary support for our students,” said Adanma. The school’s current funders include law firms and the Safety and Security Sector Education and Training Authority.
A database of students in need has been created and students should email Yisa to be considered for funding. The school will consider academic merit and financial need when making its decision.
Faso is planning to meet with NSFAS in early April to resolve the matter.
FEATURED IMAGE: Law school emblem. Photo: Ntando Ximba