Uganda: poor marks for legal education move
According to Ugandan newspaper New Vision, recent official moves to discard the compulsory research element to bachelor’s degrees in law has led to a new generation of lawyers without the necessary skills to apply a wider understanding of the law to individual cases.
Stephen Mubiru, head of the research reforms and publications department at the Law Development Centre (LDC), which admits students to the bar, argues that ‘abandoning research at the undergraduate level has led to notable decline in the critical legal thinking ability of many lawyers at the postgraduate level’.
Previously, all undergraduates had to complete a research project, but university officials say that element was abolished because students obtained poor marks.
In the web site report, Mr Mubiru points to figures suggesting that only a small minority of students at the LDC pass bar exams. In 2009/10, only 36 of the 531 students sitting final exams were initially successful, with 144 failing completely. Additionally, many students drop out before taking the exams.
However, it has been suggested that is the result of a more general slackening of standards at the LDC, with more than 700 students a year now being admitted to a course originally intended for 120.
There have also been calls for changes to undergraduate law course admissions proceses. Following the instigation of pre-entry tests at the LDC, designed to gauge aptitude and legal values, an increase in results has been reported. It has been suggested that extending a harmonised admissions process across undergraduate law courses could further eliminate weak candidates.
Ill-equipped in South Africa
Elsewhere in African legal education, today a judge added his concerns to a debate that South African law graduates are also ill-equipped for the profession.
KwaZulu-Natal judge Achmat Jappie claims there has been a significant drop in standards since the five-year undergraduate law degree was reduced by a year in 1998.
According to IOL News, Judge Jappie said ‘the main problem is communication skills’, with graduates unable to formulate a coherent argument or communicate their points. The judge suggests making law a postgraduate course, only offered after students have gained an undergraduate degree developing language skills and critical thinking.