UG students await word on Hugh Wooding placements

University of Guyana (UG) final year law students are awaiting word on their prospects of completing their studies at the Hugh Wooding Law School, as government seeks a reversal of a decision to suspend the long established practice of guaranteeing entry to the top graduates.

Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall revealed the decision made by the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Council of Legal Education (CLE) last Wednesday and he vowed that government will do all it can to reverse it. He disclosed that the Caricom Heads of Government had agreed to discuss the situation when they meet in St Vincent for a two-day meeting, which started yesterday.

Up to press time last evening, Nandlall, who is part of the delegation representing Guyana at the meetings, could not be reached to say if the matter had been discussed, and what those discussions produced.

In the meantime, members of UG’s prospective graduating law class of 2014 were yet to be informed by the law faculty that they might have to make alternative arrangements when they graduate at the end of this semester.

Nandlall, when asked why the students had not yet been officially briefed on the situation, said that if the students were to be briefed then the responsibility would fall on UG’s administration.

When contacted, the Head of UG’s law department Sheldon McDonald told Stabroek News that the issue is in a state of flux and that there is nothing definite to tell the students. He noted the decision taken by the CLE and pointed to the fact that Guyana’s move to challenge that decision has led to an agreement by Caricom Heads to discuss the matter either yesterday or today. He maintained that pronouncing on the issue at this stage would only feed the uncertainties which exist.

Students are not surprisingly anxious. One final-year law student told this newspaper that she and her friends had been hearing rumours about the possibility of not being placed at Hugh Wooding for a couple of months now. Even some of the lecturers, she said, would occasionally allude to the possibility that such a decision would be taken.

However, the student said that the law department is yet to officially address the student body on the matter.

Several other students explained that they were not aware that such a decision was possible until they started seeing news reports. Yet another student said that she was under the impression that students could still gain entry into Hugh Wooding by writing the entrance exam, and was notably put out to learn that access into Hugh Wooding for 2014, if the decision stands, will only be granted to students from UWI’s campuses.

Another prospective 2014 graduate said he is already contemplating his options.

The student said that if the decision stands he may go on to pursue his Masters, since the only other option of obtaining a Legal Education Certi-ficate lies in the Bahamas—a destination far too far beyond his reach because of the costs attached to study there.

For around two decades now, an agreement between UG and the CLE has allowed Guyana’s 25 top-performing law students to gain automatic admittance into the Hugh Wooding Law School, while others have been able to write an entrance exam to determine their admittance.

The initial agreement expired in 2012, after which, Nandlall said, a new agreement that would last until 2013 was struck. He told Stabroek News that new negotiations were to be held in 2014 to determine the way forward but that these talks had not yet taken place.

The revelation of the decision against automatic placement for Guyana’s graduates came on the heels government announ-cing that it was working on increasing the number of top-performing students who would be granted automatic access to Hugh Wooding upon graduating from UG from 25 to 35.

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