Some of the University of Guyana (UG) law students who applied to sit the entrance examination to get into the Hugh Wooding Law School received letters from Norman Manley Law School this week indicating the receipt of their registration, and briefing them on details about the July 2nd examination.
This development has lifted the spirits of Guyana’s Hugh Wooding hopefuls, who, for weeks, have been despondent about their chances of writing the examination and being accepted into the law school. This stemmed from the decision taken in February by the Caribbean’s Council of Legal Education (CLE) to deny all applicants from non-University of the West Indies (UWI) law faculties access into Hugh Wooding.
The CLE had said that Hugh Wooding is beyond its capacity as is, and is expecting a torrent of law graduates from UWI’s three law faculties in Trinidad, Barbados and Jamaica, who, as per the CLE agreement, are guaranteed access upon graduating. As a result, a prior agreement to automatically grant entry to the top 25 performers of the UG law faculty was discontinued.
Students looking to enter Hugh Wooding this year include those who attained their LLBs in previous years, and those who are expecting to graduate this year. One final year student of UG’s law programme had told Stabroek News that many students, even those hoping to be part of the top 25, often applied to write the entrance examination before finding out their results. The move is more or less insurance, the student said, initiated in case a student does not fall in the top 25. These students however, had applied since the beginning of the year, and were becoming anxious after several months passed with no response from the relevant institution – the Norman Manley Law School. Though law graduates from Guyana are ‘zoned’ to attend Hugh Wooding to study for their Legal Education Certificate (LEC), Norman Manley handles matters pertaining to the entrance examination.
Stabroek News called Norman Manley several times last month and was informed that the packages, which are supposed to be sent to all students who applied to write the entrance examination, would be sent during the course of the month. Stabroek News called again at the end of April and was informed that all packages were shipped two weeks prior, although individuals in Guyana said they were still awaiting their packages.
Several individuals received letters from Norman Manley on Tuesday, however, and are significantly more hopeful that they were a few months ago. A letter seen by this newspaper, and which is dated April 14, informed a student that her application form and fees to sit the entrance examination had been received, and that she will sit said exam at a location in Guyana on Wednesday July 2.
The letter also apprised the student of her registration number, and instructed her to retrieve her syllabus, and the list of examination centres from the school’s website. There are however, several students who are still waiting on their letters, and at least one student who received his letter is still not entirely reassured of his prospects. According to Sherod Duncan, a final year law student, the pronouncement made by the CLE in February still fuels doubt.
There is also the fact that CLE Chairman, Jacqueline Samuels-Brown, had said that entrance to students who sit the entrance examination will depend entirely on the availability of space at Hugh Wooding. She said a decision will be made with regard to Guyana’s top students after Hugh Wooding ascertains how many students from UWI campuses exercise their right of matriculation into Hugh Wooding.
The law school remains stretched beyond its limit as it relates to physical capacity, human resources and teaching materials, and Samuels-Brown says this will remain the case until the relevant governments contribute capital towards expanding physical and other capacity. In the meantime, she said, students from Guyana still have the option of attending Eugene Dupuch Law School in the Bahamas, where the yearly tuition and living costs are much higher. Hugh Wooding was constructed to accommodate less than 200 students but currently caters to over 300. Several more hundred, from UWI’s various campuses, are expected to apply this year and current and former students from UWI’s campuses have priority status with regard to admission to Hugh Wooding.
It is expected that these and other matters will be discussed by Chairman of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Ralph Gonsalves and a CLE delegation when they meet in St Vincent and the Grenadines in July. Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall, who also plans to attend the meeting, had said that the CLE requested the meeting to discuss requests Gonsalves had made of the CLE. Following the discussion of the matter at the recent Caricom heads meeting, Gonsalves had asked the CLE to reverse its decision with regard to Guyana’s law graduates and review the provision of legal education in the Caribbean.