The Council on Higher Education, a statutory body responsible for advising the Minister of Higher Education and Training on policy, is in discussion with the SA Law Deans’ Association about a review of the LLB degree, which has been criticised for many years for its failure to prepare graduates adequately for the profession.
“We have started initial discussions with the deans of law on [the need for] a national review of the LLB. If we were to make a decision, we will start planning the national review next year and it would only start in late 2014,” the CEO of the council Ahmed Essop said.
He said that the review would look at the quality of the qualification.
“We will visit institutions that offer the qualification [and] assesswhether it meets the required standard.
“The standard is determined by peers. For this review we will bring together an appropriate group of academics with expertise on the LLB to say that this is what constitutes an appropriate LLB or this is what we expect to find in the degree.”
Essop said, as with the MBA degree and education qualifications assessed several years ago, universities offering programmes that do not meet the required standard would face loss of accreditation or the imposition of conditions.
“We will send a panel to each institution to assess what it is doing and, if the panels find that the quality of the programme on offer is not appropriate, for whatever reasons, such as they don’t have the staff for the qualification, we can disaccredit the programme or we can set conditions,” he said.
“If we disaccredit the programme then the institution can no longer offer it.”
He said a survey of the effectiveness of the LLB degree in 2009 was of limited value and the report on the results of the survey was of such poor quality that it could not be published.
The survey was made after employers and academics raised concerns about the LLB degree.
Last week the Law Society of SA said that, though it did not want to create the impression that all law graduates were incapable, tests by the University of Cape Town and the University of South Africa had found an “alarming deficiency” in numeracy and literacy [among graduates].
The society was responding to a survey by PPS, a financial services provider, which found that 69% of the 500 attorneys it interviewed were concerned that the LLB law degree did not sufficiently prepare young graduates to enter, and succeed in, the legal profession.
Essop denied that reviews of qualifications such as this were always prompted by complaints.
“We are currently planning a national review of the social work qualification.”