The University of Guy-ana’s top 25 performing law graduates this year have been guaranteed places at the Hugh Wooding Law School (HWLS) for the coming semester, after months of being in limbo due to a decision by the Council of Legal Education (CLE) against accepting admissions from non-UWI campuses. “The top 25 students will be able to attend Hugh Wooding for 2014 (to study for their Legal Education Certificates (LECs))…25 seats are guaranteed,” Presidential Advisor on Governance Gail Teixeira yesterday told Stabroek News, following a teleconference between representatives of the CLE and Caricom Chairman Ralph Gonsalves on Monday.
Teixeira also revealed that a decision was taken to reserve an additional 10 spaces for UG’s top international students so that they can study for their Legal Education Certifi-cates where they are zoned.
Sources say that this arrangement is a temporary solution to the issue while considerations are made for the expansion of HWLS’ physical capacity and its human and material resources
Gonsalves, prompted by the Guyana government, had written to the CLE asking for a reversal of the decision and a review of the legal education offered in the Caribbean. In response to Gonsalves’ letter CLE Chairman Jacqueline Samuels-Brown wrote a letter requesting a meeting.
Stabroek News understands that Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall was also privy to the teleconference together with the Head of the Department of Law at the University of Guyana. The Heads of the regional law schools also participated in the teleconference.
In February the CLE decided that an arrangement which for years allowed UG’s top 25 law graduates automatic entry into HWLS would be discontinued. The decision was not taken because Guyana does not make financial contributions to the law school as some thought, but because the school is already operating beyond its capacity.
Samuels-Brown has said that the school has over 300 students although it was built for less than 200. She also said that the school is anticipating several hundred students from the various law faculties of the University of West Indies (UWI) around the Caribbean in the coming semester. These students all have priority status for automatic entry into the law school since Trinidad and Tobago, unlike Guyana, still contributes to the economic upkeep of the law school.
At one point, after the February decision, Samuels-Brown had said that the automatic placement of students from Guyana would depend on how many spaces are left after the enrolment of students from UWI’s law faculties.
Samuels-Brown has said that the only lasting solution to the issue is the expansion of HWLS which can be made possible if the states which benefit from the school commit to providing the needed finances. Nandlall has told Stabroek News that the government of Guyana would be willing to finance such an initiative.
Meanwhile, some of the students who expect to graduate this year can rest easier. For months they have been wracked by uncertainty but this decision provides some amount of reprieve.
One final year student said, “It puts my heart at ease… It’s welcoming to know that they have now decided not to renege on the original arrangement. We came into third year with the understanding that there was an agreement so to have that pulled was mentally destabilising. Now, I can breathe a sigh of relief.”
Sherrod Duncan, a final year student who has been particularly vocal about the issue, says that he is more than grateful to the government of Guyana for making the necessary intervention which made this decision possible.
At the same time, Duncan says he is worried about the students who will be graduating in later years. Noting that situations similar to this one has developed over the years, he said he is looking to hear that a long term solution is developed. “I am concerned about a long-term solution to the problem so that future law students will not have to be fighting this battle,” he told Stabroek News.” The top 25 performers will be known in July, when the final exam grades are made available.
But even as students wait, many have applied to sit the entrance examination as it is impossible to know which students will make the cut. The entrance examination will take place on July 2nd.