Increased UWI intake seen behind UG law students plight

A decision to increase the student intake of the University of the West Indies (UWI) without increasing the capacity of the Hugh Wooding Law School led to the decision to deny guaranteed placement to this year’s University of Guyana law graduates, Legal Affairs Minister Anil Nandlall has said.

“There is no space at all for Guyana’s students, nor any other students coming from campuses aside from campuses of the University of the West Indies,” Nandlall told Stabroek News during an interview on Friday evening.

Last week, the Government Information Agency (GINA) reported that UWI’s Council for Legal Education (CLE) recently took the decision that UG’s 2014 batch—made up of the top 25 graduates—would not be guaranteed any places at the institution. However, no explanation for the decision was offered until Nandlall’s disclosure on Friday.

Since the announcement, there has been speculation that local graduates will still be able to enter Hugh Wooding by sitting an entrance examination. But, Nandlall made it clear that any perception to the effect that an entrance examination can be used as an alternate path into Hugh Wooding is ill-conceived.

The other law schools in the Caribbean are the Norman Manley Law School in Jamaica and the Eugene Dupuch Law School in The Bahamas. But Nandlall explained that students from Guyana only have the option of attending the Eugene Dupuch Law School in The Bahamas owing to zoning stipulations. The high fees attached to pursuing the Law Education Certificate (LEC) at that school, however, may prove an impediment to many who consider this avenue.

On Wednesday, Nandlall had said that government has made interventions and the Caricom Heads of Government have agreed to discuss the matter when they meet today in St Vincent and the Grenadines. “I will spare no effort in resolving the recent decision,” Nandlall was quoted by GINA as saying.

While the fate of this year’s law graduates looks grim, there may be reason for students graduating in later years to breathe a sigh of relief. Nandlall told Stabroek News that the decision against automatic placements seems to only have been made to cater for this year.

The agreement between UG and CLE for UG’s students to gain automatic placements ended in December 2012 and new negotiations were to be held. It is unclear what has happened with these negotiations. Prior to the agreement, UG students had also encountered difficulties gaining access to Hugh Wooding since Guyana is not part of the CLE.

In the early aughts, then President Bharrat Jagdeo had proposed the establishment of a local law school during his chairmanship of Caricom. He had said then that it might be in the interest of Guyana to set up its own law school, given that Guyana was only allowed a quota of 25 students at the Hugh Wooding Law School under the collaborative tripartite agreement it had with the University of the West Indies (UWI) and the CLE.

Though the idea of having a law school in Guyana received widespread approval, even from the CLE, the lack of the requisite resources stymied its development. A plot of land had even been identified but it never went much further than that.

A senior government official, who only agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, suggested that the primary motivating factor behind Guyana’s decision to set up its own law school was the then issue between UWI and UG. He said that since the issue was resolved, the aspirations for a law school in Guyana soon dissipated as Guyana’s students recommenced their studies in Trinidad.

 

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