Mon | Jul 22, 2019

UTech looks to law school September

Published:Wednesday | April 17, 2019 | 12:11 AMChristopher Serju/Gleaner Writer
Vasciannie

Principal of the University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech), Professor Stephen Vasciannie, has set his sights on opening the doors of a law school at the Papine, St Andrew, campus when the 2019-20 academic year gets under way in September.

He will be holding the Government to a commitment given by then Minister of Education Ruel Reid some 15 months ago.

“We have been asking for this for the last three years at least and the then minister came here in (December) 2017 and said Cabinet had approved it in principle. So we are just working out now how to convert the principle into the reality, and so we are optimistic that it can be done in September,” Professor Vasciannie told The Gleaner during the recent annual awards of the Faculty of Law.

For the faculty which this year marks its 10th anniversary, this facility is urgently needed to address the challenges reportedly faced by UTech law graduates when they try to matriculate to the Norman Manley Law School.

“Of course it’s a discriminatory situation,” the UTech principal responded to the question, “Is there discrimination against your students?”

He pointed to the fact that of the 700 law students who completed their Bachelor of Laws, or LLB, since the faculty was officially opened in 2008, some 500 are yet to complete their certificate to practise, due to circumstances well beyond their control.

“You do the LLB, which is three years normally, and then you do two years of law school. So in total it’s a five-year course of study. The people who have come to UTech have completed the three-year programme and they have to take an examination to get into the law school for the two-year programme, and this examination is notorious for producing very few people who get in, because there is limited space at Norman Manley Law School.

“So we are saying we can accommodate those people who have done the law degree and we are also prepared to take in persons who have done the law degree elsewhere. We are prepared to do that…”

LEVELLING PLAYING FIELD

In his address to the law students, Professor Vasciannie, who served as Principal of the Norman Manley Law School from 2008-2012, assured them that the UTech leadership remained committed to levelling the playing field for entry into the Norman Manley Law School, and with efforts to ensure equal opportunity for graduates from UTech, Jamaica to continue their legal training.

“It is without question unfair and untenable that in the approximately 10 years, Norman Manley Law School has accepted well below 30 per cent of UTech, Jamaica graduates. This means that more than 70 per cent of UTech graduates with law degrees have not been able to complete their studies.”