More time in LLB case

2018-09-26 15:45
Judge allows new filings on issue of Varsity College accreditation.

Judge allows new filings on issue of Varsity College accreditation.

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A Pietermaritzburg high court judge has decided not to make any findings yet in a dispute between the KZN Law Society and Varsity College over its LLB degree.

Instead, Judge Piet Koen adjourned the application, brought by the college’s umbrella body The Independent Institute of Education, to a date to be arranged.

“I am very alive to the prejudice that the applicant [institute] complains of both in respect of itself and its students. That is regrettably unavoidable,” he said.

The adjournment is to give the institute an opportunity to amend its court papers if it wished and then to give proper notice so that interested parties can intervene. This is because a constitutional issue has been raised by the institute.

Initially it wanted the court to review and set aside the society’s decision not to recognise its LLB degree.

Judge Koen said the institute is registered and accredited in terms of the Higher Education Act and is the only private higher education institution accredited to offer the four-year Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree in South Africa.

In January the Council on Higher Education confirmed there is no difference in the quality or standards applicable to the institute’s degree compared to that offered at public universities.

These facts are not disputed, said the judge.

He added that about 200 students are registered with the institute for that degree.

In January this year a parent was told by the society, after inquiring, that Varsity College’s LLB degree would not suffice to enter students into articles of clerkship or to be admitted to the practice of an attorney.

The society said that according to the Attorneys Act, only students who studied at a university could be accepted.

Judge Koen added that the institute has not been designated as a “university” as defined in the Higher Education Act. The current definition of “university” in the act came into operation in September last year. Before that, “university” was defined simply as “any university established or declared as a university under this act”.

The judge said the society’s attitude is that it has to give effect to the “express wording” of the Attorneys Act.

It does not dispute the institution’s LLB or that it is indistinguishable from that offered by traditional public universities.

Judge Koen said the institute argues that the reference to “university” in the Attorneys Act must be interpreted in the context of the Higher Education Act to include it.

The judge said that while the institute presents a persuasive case for the words “of any university in the Republic” to be struck down and/or set aside as unconstitutional, his observation should not be seen as a definitive finding.

But it had influenced him to adjourn the application rather than dismissing it, he said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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