UnAccredited and UnAccepted Law students rationally convicted or blissfully naïve?
THE EDITOR, Sir: It appears to be the era of voicing discontent with the accreditation status - or lack thereof - of many programmes offered by our nation's tertiary institutions.
However, the most interesting chronicle of all is the tale of three schools: the gallantry of one that defied all odds and set sail on an ocean they had never traversed before; 'The Highly Favoured'; and squashed in the middle, the innocent bystander trying to make the best of a bad situation.
The schools in reference are the University of Technology (UTech), University of the West Indies (UWI) and the Norman Manley Law School. In January 2009, UTech embarked on a journey to start a law programme. The considerably low fees, coupled with an evening stream that fosters the attendance of persons for whom terminating their employment was not an option, were the biggest pull factors, as many of these persons had a hopeless expectation that their dreams to one day practise as attorneys-at-law would never metamorphose into a reality.
Five years later, the programme remains unaccredited, and the majority of graduates unable to secure a space at the Norman Manley Law School.
The law school is built to accommodate approximately 150 students. They have put their best efforts forward to accommodate as many students as possible, but they can only do so much and no more. The chances of UTech law graduates - or graduates from anywhere else for that matter - getting into the law school are very slim, notwithstanding that an applicant may have passed the mandatory entrance examination that all non-UWI law graduates have to take. This is exacerbated by the fact that the number of law graduates from UWI has increased twofold.
The Norman Manley Law School is an affiliate of the Council of Legal Education and not of UWI as is widely misconceived. Their only connection is seen in Article 3 of the Council of Legal Education Act (1974), which provides that UWI graduates are eligible for automatic admission into the law school, a privilege enjoyed solely by UWI.
I hold firm to the belief that man and events must be judged by the standards of the era in which they occur. It has been 40 years since the passage of the Council of Legal Education Act; Jamaica has evolved and grown as a country. Therefore, if there are two institutions and both are subsidised by the Jamaican Government and caters to Jamaican nationals, a privilege should not be extended to one group but withheld from the other.
The time is nigh for the amendment of the act. Every person who holds a LLB degree, whether or not they are a UWI graduate, should be made to sit the Norman Manley Law School Entrance Examination. There will still be space issues, but at the very least, there will be a level playing field and everyone will be given a fair chance to earn their position at the law school.
After all, is there any empirical data that suggests that those persons with UWI LLBs perform better at the law school than those persons with UTech LLBs? I wonder, do persons with UWI, Cave Hill, LLBs perform better than those persons with UWI, Mona, LLBs? I am yet to see the reason the act cannot be amended to meet our current situation.
… Then again, probably I should adopt the course of our little green friend who we have all grown to love and adore. With that said, into my green overall I slip and retract to my little corner sipping my tea, "Ahh, I've never tasted Lipton this good !"
Norman Manley Law School