Media reports about the Council of Higher Education (CHE) review process have given the impression that the University of Cape Town is in peril of losing accreditation for the LLB degree. This conclusion is misleading and alarmist. It overlooks the importance of the relationship between universities and the CHE in ensuring that South African law faculties maintain high standards.
This is all the more important in times of change such as the entire higher education sector is experiencing now, with the need to accelerate transformation, get a commitment from government about financial support and respond to the pressing needs of our society by pursuing socially responsive research and teaching that will prepare students to take up positions of leadership in the future.
First, let me point out that accreditation for the LLB degree has not been withdrawn from the UCT Faculty of Law and this is not likely to happen. We have until May 2018 to address the concerns highlighted by the CHE and we are confident we can do so well within that deadline. UCT has every intention of responding to the points raised by the CHE. I have reassured current and incoming students to the UCT Faculty of Law that they will graduate with an accredited degree.
At the same time, there is room for improvement, not just in the Faculty of Law but also at an institutional level. UCT, like other South African universities, is grappling with important questions of transformation, including how we decolonise curricula and how we improve the ability of students from disadvantaged communities to succeed in a highly demanding degree programme. As an institution, UCT is seeking to bring holistic change through a central approach that will influence how different faculties address transformation issues. The Law Faculty is working within this wider structure.
The UCT Law Faculty has strict admissions standards; just to be admitted is a noteworthy achievement. Yet our throughput rates present a challenge. UCT data reflects three separate streams of LLB students:
1. The cohort of combined stream students (BA, B Com, B Soc Sc) who complete a law major in their primary degree, followed by a two-year graduate LLB, has consistently achieved an excellent throughput rate of 79.7% graduating on time (in five years) and 85.6% of all students who enroll obtain their degree.