Wed | Nov 22, 2017

Reid eyeing changes to gain entrance to Norman Manley law school

Published:Saturday | October 28, 2017 | 12:00 AMSyranno Baines
Ruel Reid

The Government will be engaging in discussions with stakeholders to resolve issues surrounding entrance to the Norman Manley Law School (NMLS), located at the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies (UWI).

Education Minister Ruel Reid said that Cabinet is in agreement that the current mode of admission to the law school should end, as it is not equitable and was also discriminatory.

To this end, Reid is to work with the Attorney General, the Minister of Justice, the General Legal Council and the University of the West Indies (UWI) to give effect to the directive.

Permanent secretary in the education ministry, Dean-Roy Bernard, has also been instructed by Reid to begin consultations as soon as possible.

"The intent is to make the same criteria (for entry apply to all graduates, irrespective of the university it was obtained). Everybody will go through the same prism to access the Norman Manley Law School," he said while addressing the 30th anniversary awards luncheon of the University Council of Jamaica (UCJ), at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston on Thursday.

 

UNFAIR AND EXPENSIVE

 

This announcement comes against the backdrop of UCJ granting accreditation to the Bachelor of Laws (LLB) programme offered by the University of Technology (UTech).

Students have voiced concerns regarding the entry process to the regional institution, which has been deemed unfair and expensive.

The decision, which was formally communicated to UTech's president Professor Stephen Vasciannie earlier this month, is seen as a major step towards the establishment of a law school at the tertiary institution.

However, achieving it will require prior changes to the Agreement Establishing the Council of Legal Education, in force since 1971, and involving several Caribbean territories, as well as UWI and the University of Guyana.

As it stands, NMLS has a monopoly on the grant of the Certificate of Legal Education for law students in Jamaica.

UWI graduates with an LLB degree gain automatic entry into the law school programme. This is facilitated by Article Three of the Treaty of Chaguaramas. Students earning LLB degrees from other institutions must sit an entrance test and earn a passing grade,which does not guarantee admission, a move Vascianne had previously labelled as discriminatory.

"Our basic request is that the Government of Jamaica put an end to a system of law-school training that discriminates against University of Technology, Jamaica students," said Vasciannie.

While this year sees 22 graduates of UTech's LLB programme gaining entrance to NMLS on the basis of the entrance examination, Vascianne stated that previous years have seen fewer than 10 students being admitted.

syranno.baines@gleanerjm.com