Law prof’s degrees questioned

2008-11-18 00:00

THE dean of the UKZN Faculty of Law, Professor Mike Cowling, is caught up in a storm over his qualifications from the University of Cambridge.

In a communiqué dated November 17 and circulated by e-mail to staff and students of the University of KwaZulu-Natal, vice-chancellor Malegapuru Makgoba announced that Cambridge records “indicate that Professor Cowling does not hold the LLM (Cantab) and M. Phil (Cantab) degrees as he [Cowling] claims”.

Makgoba said the long-serving Cowling has, with the approval of the university, been given a period of three weeks to “address the issues with Cambridge University and thereafter to provide the university with a comprehensive response”.

“The university takes an exceptionally serious view of this matter, which has the potential of undermining the university’s reputation and academic integrity. The university recognises the importance of acting expeditiously and fairly, having regard to the interests of both the university and Professor Cowling,” Makgoba said.

In response to a series of written questions from The Witness, a university spokesperson said no further comment could be forthcoming as the matter is sub judice.

The questions are about how the alleged problem with Cowling’s qualifications was identified; why it was considered necessary to release a communiqué before its resolution and what the possible consequences for Cowling are if he is shown to have intentionally or otherwise misrepresented his qualifications.

Cowling declined to comment other than to say that a process is under way to address the issue.

At the time of going to press, the University of Cambridge’s offices of external affairs and communications could only confirm that their records reflect that Cowling holds an LLB and a graduate diploma. Communications assistant Steve Scheja-Terry said that while the difference between the LLB and the LLM is “merely technical”, he is awaiting further information regarding the M. Phil/graduate diploma.

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