7 December 2017

South Africa: WSU Vows to Fight Back After LLB Accreditation Withdrawal

Walter Sisulu University (WSU) says it will not accept defeat after the Council for Higher Education (CHE) withdrew its Bachelor of Laws (LLB) programme accreditation.

The university has been confronted with some challenges that led to the council's decision to withdraw its accreditation.

Institution spokesperson Yonelwa Tukwayo told News24 on Wednesday that the university would not go down without a fight.

"We are not sitting back and taking the defeat," she said in a telephonic interview.

CHE revealed in November that three of the country's universities were set to lose their law qualification accreditation.

Following its National Review of the Bachelor of Laws (LLB) Programme - CHE said that the University of Limpopo, the University of Zululand and the University of Cape Town (UCT) - one of the world's top 100 law schools - had been informed that their accreditation would be withdrawn.

Without the CHE degree accreditation, a university cannot legally offer a qualification.

This means WSU cannot offer the programme anymore, and will have to re-apply for accreditation from scratch, with a new submission.

2018 intakes

The institution can still take in new students in 2018. However, it will not be able to do so in 2019.

Tukwayo said they have put measures in place to sort out some of the issues raised by the council.

She said one of the issues the council had raised was a lack of infrastructure.

"They are 100% correct. Our infrastructure is not up to standard [and] we are also underfunded and we sit with books full of debt. The other point is that we don't have enough professors."

She said the programme was offered in Mthatha in the Eastern Cape, which is a rural area, adding that it was difficult to get professors to work in the area.

"It would essentially downgrade them," she said.

A teach-out period

The council has given the institution a teach-out period which gives students who are enrolled in the programme five years to finish.

Tukwayo said the certificate would be valid, but that law would not be a strong programme going into the future.

The institutions have until May 2018 to respond to the concerns raised by the CHE.

Zincedile Tiya, of Tiya Pata Inc and president of the convocational Alumini at WSU, said they were ready to do everything in their power to "save" the LLB programme.

He said it was "sad that professors won't go to Mthatha because of potholes, road works and electricity that is always on and off".

Demoralising students

"The CHE is demoralising students coming into the university," he added.

Meanwhile, president of the Black Lawyers Association Lutendo Sigogo said they were concerned with the latest developments.

"This is a seriously concerning issue and we believe it talks to the management of the universities more than anything else."

He said "historically black universities" were being affected.

Sigogo said the decision to withdraw LLB programmes at certain universities gave students less credibility going into the work place and added that this could affect whether employers wanted to hire them or not.

Unquestionable qualifications

"To us, we feel that this announcement compromises them. Who will want to be associated with a lawyer who is coming from a university whose accreditation was questionable?"

UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said the institution was confident that it would be able to respond to the council's concerns and retain their accreditation and continue to improve on the "excellent programmes offered within the faculty, including the LLB programme".

Moholola said the faculty would submit its revised improvement plan within the next few months.

"We will certainly address the concerns raised in the CHE report and we look forward to further engagement with them to continue improving upon our excellent LLB programme."

'Alarmed' by the withdrawal notice

The institution's UCT law faculty Dean Penny Andrews previously said they were "alarmed" by the withdrawal notice.

Andrews said they had submitted a report to the CHE at the beginning of October and were only informed of the notice through the statement released on the council's website.

"We are shocked by this unilateral action on their part, without any engagement from their side," Andrews told News24 at the time.

She said the council had raised concerns about the institution's academic support for black law students and the success rate of black students in general.

"We addressed the council's concerns, but probably didn't address them in the form they would've [found] suitable."

Source: News24

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