UG students can be accommodated at Eugene Dupuch Law School

…Council of Legal Education to meet with stakeholders

THE Chairperson of the Council of Legal Education, Ms. Jacqueline Samuels-Browne, QC, has pronounced on the decision not to automatically place 25 University of Guyana Bachelor of Law (LLB) students at the Hugh Wooding Law School.

And, in her response on May 2, she stated that some UG graduates can be accommodated at the Eugene Dupuch Law School in Nassau Bahamas.

She said the Council would have to know, as soon as possible, how many UG graduates would be interested in attending that law school.
She said: “If the capacity constraints of the Hugh Wooding Law School and the Norman Manley Law School are to be addressed in a meaningful way, the law schools must receive capital injections to fund the expansion of the physical plants and the full-time staff complement as a matter of urgency.

“We have no sources of significant funding other than from the contributing governments, and I would certainly invite the governments to give immediate and positive consideration to this pressing need.”

Samuels-Browne added that the automatic admission is something that may have to be revisited, particularly as the quota system on which it was premised has been effectively abandoned.
She said, “The Hugh Wooding Law School has reiterated that, until we know how many graduates of the University of the West Indies will exercise their right to seek admission to that law school, it cannot be determined how many additional students can be accommodated.

“As you know, they have priority over other applicants. This is one of the matters which may have to be revisited, particularly as the quota system on which it was premised has been effectively abandoned.”

The automatic admission was an arrangement that existed under a collaborative agreement between the University of the West Indies, the Council of Legal Education, and UG. The agreement has expired, and has not been renewed for the year 2014.
The Chairperson of the Council has since requested a meeting with a delegation from the Council and Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.

A letter from Dr. Gonsalves, the Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), had prompted the response from the Chairperson at the beginning of April.

The Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM recently concluded its 25th Inter-Sessional Meeting, held on March 10 and 11 in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, where President Donald Ramotar raised the matter.

Discussion on the issue resulted in Gonsalves sending a letter to the Chairman of the Council of Legal Education, which said: “This matter is of grave concern to Heads of Government, as it effectively results in Guyanese students having no access to the law schools, notwithstanding that they would have entered the UG Programme in the expectation that at least the top 25 graduates were entitled to automatic admission.

“It is also of tremendous concern that, in the current scenario, admission to the practice of Law in the CLE member countries is restricted to the graduates of one institution.

“The implications of the decision by the Council and the law schools are far-reaching in terms of the provision of legal education services and access to the legal profession, in the context of liberalisation of trade in services, and in a Community which has established a single market and free movement of service providers and skilled nationals.

“…I write, as Chair of the Conference, to request that the Council accommodates the automatic admission of the top 25 Guyanese graduates for the academic year 2014-2015. I also draw to your attention that the Conference, representing the Heads of Government of the parties to the CLE Agreement, has mandated that the Council completes a thorough review of legal education in the Community before the next academic year, to resolve the deeper issues concerning legal education, including access and the role and function of the Council of Legal Education.”

Guyana’s Attorney-General and Minister of Legal Affairs, Anil Nandlall, in a statement, indicated that President Donald Ramotar has already made contact with Gonsalves and requested an early meeting.

He said, “Arrangements are currently being made for that meeting to take place at the earliest possible day in June 2014.”

The Government of Guyana will be represented at that meeting by the AG, by an executive member of the Council of Legal Education of the West Indies, and by personnel from the University of Guyana.

Nandlall said, “The Government remains committed to pursue most resolutely every possible avenue, and resort to every option available in order to protect the welfare of our students and the future of the law programme at the University of Guyana.
“…the Government continues in its effort to seek a resolution of the impasse affecting the University of Guyana law students from gaining access into the Hugh Wooding Law School, Trinidad.”

The 2014/2015 academic year will start on September 15, 2014. Prior to the start of the school year, the Admissions Board Examinations are scheduled for June, 2014, and the Admissions Board meeting is slated for August, 2014.

(By Vanessa Narine)