Law students protest Annual Entrance Exam

first_imgThe Association of Caribbean Students for Equal Access to the Legal Profession (ACSEAL); the University of Guyana’s (UG) Law Society; and the University of Technology’s (UTech) Students’ Union, Jamaica; are yet again calling on the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and the Council of Legal Education (CLE) to urgently address the concerns of law students and other conscientious Caricom citizens across the Region who are concerned about the transparency and fairness of the CLE Annual Entrance Examinations.In 2015, it was reported that of the 400-plus “non-UWI [law] students who sat the entrance examination for a chance to be enrolled at the Norman Manley Law School [in Jamaica], the Institution only admitted seven for the 2015/2016 academic year”. A similar outcome was manifested in 2017, when only seven non-UWI law graduates gained entrance to the Hugh Wooding Law School in Trinidad.To gain a passing grade at the entrance examinations, candidates are required to obtain at least 40 per cent in each of the courses examined: contract, criminal, equity, property and tort; but in 2015, only 17 of the 400-plus candidates in Jamaica obtained a “pass” in all core courses.Since March 2016, ACSEAL has adamantly criticised the entrance examination procedure, citing the absence of a detailed body of regulations governing the examinations; the lack of review or query procedure; the absence of any model answers or examiners’ reports; and the fact that examination results for all candidates are not released simultaneously, as contributory factors to the “apathy and drastic decline in student confidence regarding the law school admission process”.President of the UG Law Society, Delonté De Clou, noted that “Guyanese students face a unique issue in relation to the exorbitant fees which relegate us to second class students who are burdened by onerous fees. A push for a law school locally will be less financially onerous on local students. As such, the University of Guyana Law Society supports ACSEAL’s efforts to shine a light on the problematic practices that exists in relation to entry, the issue of expense, as well as the push for transparency in relation to the entrance exam”.De Clou’s sentiments were echoed by the Vice President of the UG Law Society, Josephine Tapp, who stated, “no process with the ramifications that these exams have on persons’ futures should have the administrative and procedural improprieties that are apparent in the present exam process.“As students of law, we are taught the importance of procedural fairness – of which transparency is a cornerstone – and we believe these rules should translate into the examination that our colleagues are asked to sit. As such, we are committed to: working with ACSEAL to criticise the discrepancies of what is now a discriminatory system that routinely sees a 90 per cent failure rate (while UWI students are granted automatic entry); to highlight the need for a merit-based system of admission; and the need for the establishment of a law school in Guyana,” Tapp added.The 2018 session for the annual law school entrance examinations is carded for July 4 and is expected to be conducted in more than 10 Caricom Member States.Legal education in the English-speaking Caribbean, is mainly governed by a 1971 treaty which established the Caricom Council of Legal Education (CLE). In order to become a lawyer, one must first complete a Bachelor’s Degree in Law (LLB) at a University recognised by the treaty; and then, obtain a Legal Education Certificate (LEC) from one of the law schools in the Region: the Hugh Wooding, Eugene Dupuch or Norman Manley Law School.However, since 1997, the CLE has adopted an interpretation of the 1971 treaty, which imposed an entrance examination on non-UWI LLB holders to access the law schools. Every year, hundreds of non-UWI law graduates across the Caribbean pay the non-refundable examination fee (US$150) with no guarantee that success will result in admission, since their admission is based on the availability of spaces after all UWI LLB graduates have been automatically accommodated.The exclusive, preferential and automatic access to the Region’s law schools, afforded to UWI law graduates, has been criticised from as early as 1998. Trinidad and Tobago’s 1998 Cabinet-appointed ‘Task Force to Consider Legal Education in the Caribbean’ recommended: “the introduction of an admission policy based on a merit system, as opposed to an automatic entry exclusively for UWI graduates”.The Caricom Secretary General in July 2017 responding to a question posed to him on behalf of ACSEAL at a Social Media Interactive event in Grenada, stated that he had “received advice that the admission policy of the [CLE] in giving priority to UWI students is discriminatory and ought to be addressed”. Meanwhile, the Governments of Guyana and Jamaica have expressed intentions of establishing more law schools in their respective countries to address the problem of space provision. The CLE is yet to approve the establishment of these law schools.last_img read more