Johannesburg – Four universities are at risk of losing their accreditation for the Bachelor of Laws (LLB) qualification if the quality of their programmes does not improve, the Council on Higher Education (CHE) said on Thursday.
The four universities are the North West University, the Walter Sisulu University, University of South Africa and the University of the Free State.
Although the universities are still accredited, this essentially means that South Africans will not be able to study law at the said universities if the institutions don’t make the necessary changes.
The council conducted a national review of the qualification.
Director of the council’s national standards and review unit Olivia Mokgatle said the council found various issues related to staffing, the curriculum, teaching and learning assessment.
“Where there were issues, we issued a notice of withdrawal of accreditation because the issues threatened the quality of the programme and were putting the programme at risk,” she said.
‘Get their house in order’
Mokgatle said the universities were sent letters Friday, April 7.
“Essentially if the issues are not fixed, you cannot study law there.”
She said some of the issues could be corrected over short and long timeframes.
“This is basically a warning to the universities to get their house in order.”
She said South Africans could still apply and be enrolled at the universities because they were still accredited.
“All the universities have been given until the first week of October to submit a progress report on what progress they have made and plans for the future.
“If we are not satisfied, we will have to review the decision.”
Standard development process
In a communique on the outcomes of the national review of the qualification sent out on Wednesday, the council said it and the South Africa Law Deans Association [Salda] deliberated extensively over whether the council should undertake a national review of the qualification.
An agreement was reached that a national review of the LLB programme would be appropriate to strengthen the quality of legal education provision across South African universities.
“Given the nature of the issues raised, the LLB Summit  proposed that the standard development process should precede the start of the proposed national review of the LLB programme.
“The threshold standard was envisaged to serve as a national benchmark against which all programmes leading to the LLB qualification would be measured. Development of the LLB qualification standard was developed by a working group of expert law academics, established by the CHE after consultation with Salda.”
The draft qualification standard was then published for public comment.
“Institutions were requested, as part of the national review, to identify any areas in their programmes which, currently, do not meet the standard, and to indicate plans for improvement together with proposed timelines for implementation.”
The national review included all LLB programmes whether first-degree integrated programmes or second-degree programmes following a BA (Law), BCom (Law), etc.
Institutions were given an opportunity to make representations within 21 days of receipt of the draft report and additional evidence was provided to support claims already made, clarify existing claims, but not used to introduce new claims.
The final decision on the matter was made on March 30.
Universities that met the standard include:
- Nelson Mandela University
- University of Johannesburg
- University of Venda
- University of Limpopo
- Rhodes University
- University of Zululand
- University of the Western Cape
- University of Cape Town
- University of Stellenbosch
- University of Witwatersrand
- University of Fort Hare
- University of KwaZulu-Natal
- University of Pretoria
“All improvement plans and progress reports received will be evaluated and the HEQC [Higher Education Quality Committee] may, at its discretion and for good reason, request follow-up site visits,” the council said.