Under-pressure prof resigns

2008-11-24 00:00

UNIVERSITY of KwaZulu-Natal law professor and dean of the law faculty Michael Cowling is to take early retirement after questions were raised last week over his academic credentials from the University of Cambridge.

In a statement released yesterday, Cowling said that after discussions with the university administration, he applied for and was granted permission to take early retirement, in terms of current retirement rules.

“It is my view that this course of action is in the best interests of all the parties involved,” he said.

While Cowling has claimed to have an LLM (Cantab) and a M.Phil (Cantab), Cambridge records show that in fact he holds an LLB and a graduate diploma in international law.

While an application to have his LLB upgraded to an LLM is currently under way in terms of a Cambridge rule that allows candidates who received their LLB prior to 1982 to apply for an upgrade to the LLM, Cambridge University confirmed last week that such a process does not apply in the case of moving from a graduate diploma to the M.Phil.

The Witness has established that the man who blew the whistle on Cowling is faculty colleague Dr Cephas Lumina.

When approached for comment, Lumina said the discovery of the discrepancy in Cowling’s qualifications came as a shock to him.

Lumina, based in Durban, is currently involved in a CCMA case against the university concerning his contention that he was unfairly overlooked for promotion to an associate professorship by a committee constituted and led by Cowling.

Lumina said that establishing the academic credentials of his colleague was material to his bid to prove that he was unfairly denied promotion, since the university’s academic promotions policy requires that an applicant for promotion be evaluated in the light of the qualifications of their colleagues in the same faculty.

Among Lumina’s qualifications are a Ph.D. in International Human Rights Law from Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia and an LLM in International Human Rights Law from the University of Essex.

He is also an advocate of the High Court of Zambia and currently serves as the independent expert of the United Nations Human Rights Council on foreign debt and human rights.

Lumina denied investigating the qualifications of each member of the promotions committee, which is claimed in this weekend’s Sunday Times report.

He said both the law faculty and the university registrar refused his request to provide him with an official record of the qualifications and research output of all faculty of law academic staff, including Cowling’s. He had no option but to approach Cambridge where Cowling, the main witness in the CCMA case, studied.

Lumina said he felt “duty-bound” to refer the matter to the university authorities.

Cowling said yesterday that a further statement will be forthcoming to place the events leading to his retirement into context.

“I am in the process of collecting the information necessary to do so, but this is proving to be a time-consuming process as it relates to events that occurred more than 25 years ago.”

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