Worried law students set to write finals as Hugh Wooding limbo persists

Final-year law students of the University of Guyana (UG) remain worried about their prospects of entering the Hugh Wooding Law School for the 2014/2015 semester even as their final exams are slated to commence tomorrow.

Students who applied this year to sit the entrance examination are in no better position as they are yet to be issued their examination packages. Stabroek News understands that the entrance examination is slated to take place on July 2.

This newspaper spoke to a Council of Legal Education (CLE) officially recently who reiterated that the council will not meet again until September. The official, who asked to remain anonymous, further stated that efforts are being made in the meantime. The official declined to state the specific nature of these efforts.

Further, Stabroek News has received information which suggests that prospective students who applied to sit the entrance examinations this year may not be refunded the US$150 examination fee, and the US$15 Hugh Wooding application fee, if they are refused entry.

An official close to the law school had told this publication recently that getting into Hugh Wooding was always based on the availability of space, and the situation is no different on this occasion. Stabroek News is informed that no less than 40 students have applied to sit the entrance examination to get into Hugh Wooding for the 2014/2015 semester.

Cognizant of the non-refundable nature of the fees, students are worried. They are of the opinion that they should be refunded if they are refused since the decision was not as per normal procedure, but stemmed from the February decision. Asked about this, Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall said he believed the students have a case to argue, since the school’s acceptance of their fees created reasonable expectation of admission.

The Norman Manley law school in Jamaica handles applications for the entrance examinations, and when Stabroek News contacted the institution last month none of its officers could say definitively what would happen to students from Guyana who had applied to sit the entrance examination.

In February, the CLE took a decision to bar non-University of the West Indies law students from entering Hugh Wooding this year to study for their Legal Education Certifi-cates. The decision, the result of overcrowding at Hugh Wooding, meant the discontinuation of an agreement which allowed the top 25 law graduates of the UG entry into Hugh Wooding. Students looking to enter the school by writing the entrance examination are also barred as a result of the decision.

Intervention by the Guyana government saw the matter being put on the agenda of a recently concluded Caricom Heads meeting. Following the meeting a letter was sent to the CLE by Caricom Chairman Ralph Gonsalves asking that Guyana’s top 25 be accepted and that the provision of legal education in the Caribbean be reviewed.

The CLE is yet to respond to Gonsalves’ letter, although Nandlall says he anticipates a favourable outcome.

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