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Walter Sisulu University Admits Weaknesses In Law Faculty

"We submitted an improvement plan that we felt was solid."

17/11/2017 14:38 SAST | Updated 17/11/2017 14:38 SAST
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The Walter Sisulu University (WSU) believes that, despite having had its accreditation for the LLB programme withdrawn, the improvement plan submitted to the Council on Higher Education (CHE) was sufficient.

"We submitted an improvement plan that we felt was solid, and spoke to the plans to improve the offering," said WSU spokesperson Yonela Tukwayo.

This comes after a decision by the council's review board that the university will no longer be offering the LLB programme after 2018. It was also revealed that the University of Limpopo (UL), University of Zululand (UniZulu) and the University of Cape Town (UCT) still have to convince the council to continue allowing them to offer the course.

WSU does acknowledge it shortfalls, which include insufficient senior academics in the law faculty, as well as inadequate infrastructure. Tukwayo explained that the WSU was working on rectifying these problems.

"Our challenge in recruiting is that Mthatha is a rural town, and it is difficult to recruit top academics from big cities to a rural town," Tukwayo admitted.

She said the university had a skills-development grant that would advance staff members. "Many staff have registered for master's and PhD programmes," she said.

The department of higher education will also be assisting the institution with infrustructure improvements.

"The department of higher education and training had committed a Historically Disadvantaged Institutions (HDI) grant of R183-million to WSU to improve infrastructure. As soon as the grant is received, we will work on refurbishing lecture halls and teaching tools," Tukwayo said.

Also Read: Some SA Universities May Have Their Law Accreditation Withdrawn

However, UCT has challenged the education council, saying that its "law faculty is surprised and concerned by the outcome of the national review".

In a statement titled "UCT Law Faculty Challenges Alarmist CHE Report And Is Confident Of Retaining LLB Accreditation", the university lists its accolades, which contest the findings in the review.

"As a global top-100 law school and as the top law school in South Africa, we note that our graduates are in high demand from law firms across the country, and the findings are at odds with the performance of our graduates," the institution said.

The university also believes the process could have been "managed with greater sensitivity", because the review has not been completed yet, and premature rumours of potential lost accreditation only tarnish its impeccable reputation.

"The releasing of this information needlessly places the institution in a bad light", according to the university.

UCT, UniZulu and UL will be expected to respond to the concerns raised by the board by May 2018.

UCT is confident that it will be able to convince the CHE review board to allow it to retain its accreditation.

"The faculty is confident that we will be able to respond to the concerns raised, and retain our accreditation and continue to improve upon the excellent programmes offered within the faculty, including the LLB programme," UCT's statement said.

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

The CHE is yet to respond to HuffPost.