The 25 University of Guyana law students who had been in limbo over the decision of the Council of Legal Education (CLE) not to permit them or graduates from other non-UWI campuses admission to enter the Hugh Wooding Law School (HWLS) can now rest easier.
A teleconference convened at the Caricom Secretariat yesterday under the aegis of Caricom Chairman, Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, Ralph Gonsalves saw a decision being taken to have the top 25 students from UG admitted to HWLS as had been the standing procedure. Sources say this arrangement will only be for this academic year and the CLE expects that firm action will be taken by Caricom countries to have the facilities at HWLS expanded.
Guyana’s Attorney General Anil Nandlall was present at the teleconference together with the Head of the Department of Law at the University of Guyana. The Heads of the regional law schools and CLE Chairman Jacqueline Samuels-Brown also participated in the teleconference.
During a meeting of CARICOM heads in March, the matter of the CLE’s decision was discussed, which resulted in a letter being dispatched from Gonsalves to the CLE. In his letter, the Chairman asked the CLE to cancel a decision it made in February to discontinue an agreement with the University of Guyana (UG) which, in prior years, saw UG’s top 25 law graduates enjoy automatic entry into Hugh Wooding Law School to study for their Legal Education Certificates (LEC).
Gonsalves also called for a review of the provision of legal education in the Caribbean to ensure that the system was offering the best results. Nandlall had predicted a favourable outcome, since the request was made by CARICOM’s Chairman. Instead, the CLE responded saying that UG students would be considered based in the availability of space at Hugh Wooding. This was not much of a deviation from the CLE’s initial stance, since the availability of space at Hugh Wooding prompted its decision in the first place. This time around though, the CLE said Hugh Wooding must first see how many law graduates from the University of the West Indies’ (UWI) three law faculties decide to exercise their right of automatic entry into Hugh Wooding. According to the CLE Act, UWI students have priority placement at the school.
In light of the continuing impasse, it was then agreed that representatives of the CLE would meet with CARICOM Chairman Gonsalves on July 31st in St Vincent to discuss the council’s decision to deny law graduates from Guyana and other non-UWI campuses admission to HWLS. The teleconference yesterday replaced this meeting.
Hugh Wooding has a capacity of under 200 but more than 300 students are currently enrolled at the law school. Further, several hundreds more are expected to apply this year. Samuels-Brown has said that the only resolution to the capacity issue is expansion of Hugh Wooding’s physical capacity and full-time staff complement. According to Nandlall, the Government of Guyana would be willing to contribute to such an endeavour.