The recent move by the Council of Legal Education (CLE) to deny the top twenty-five Guyanese graduates of the University of Guyana’s law programme automatic entry to the Hugh Wooding Law School (HWLS) is one that has many students uncertain about their future. The CLE cites the priority given to UWI graduates which has caused overcrowding at HWLS as the reasoning behind their decision. The anticipated intake of UWI graduates is expected to be larger than the capacity of the school. Thus, University of Guyana graduates as well as other HWLS hopefuls cannot be accommodated should there be no space available.
It is rather unfortunate that this is what the situation has come to. However, I cannot lie. Considering all that the CLE has cited in its defence, one can comprehend the reasoning behind this issue. Where the error lies, is in the creation of an expectation for UG law graduates to be able to attend the HWLS and the late notice given regarding obstacles in their paths to completing legal education at HWLS. The Eugene Dupuch Law School has been announced as a second option for our students. However, tuition there costs significantly more. The emergence of these issues is something that cannot be ignored. There must be a solution that can be employed to provide consistent legal education unhindered by constraints and limitations that leave students at a disadvantage. This solution, in my humblest opinion, would be for the Government of Guyana to establish a local law school.
In 2002, this idea was first harnessed and approved, but later shelved. The time is now for a long-term fix to this problem, which is rumoured to have been a persistent thorn in our side for years. This long-term solution can provide for our students as well as for foreign students. Clearly, there is a hunger for legal education. The intake at the University of Guyana’s law department has significantly increased. The expansion of the UWI law programmes also indicates this growing interest. The overcrowding at HWLS itself is evidence enough to indicate that there is an appetite for legal education in the region. Therefore, the establishment of a law school here would not just be a solution to the limitations placed on Guyanese law graduates, but a feasible investment in providing education to many students. It is a move that would attract more foreign revenue as well as add to the local economy.
It was mentioned that the CLE is “a creature of Caricom.” As a student, learning about the origins of Caricom and its objectives, I found that it stood for the promotion of regional integration and unity among member states to be more economically, politically and socially viable. It is rather unfortunate, that this ‘product’ of such a movement, would allow such a disadvantage to Guyanese students, as well as other students. The principles of equality of opportunity in access to higher learning and regional development are not considered here in this situation. It is no lie that Guyana has a strong tradition of academic excellence in the field of law with its lawyers and students. The move to establish a law school in Guyana is an opportunity for us to continue this progress and let excellence reign. It is a move that would prevent the injustice meted out against our students should they be left out in the cold. Most obviously the law school cannot be established within the next few weeks so that our current final year students can benefit, but the move to establish a law school in Guyana is one which can serve as a permanent remedy to the dilemma which plagues our students this year. It is one which would restore hope in relation to the dreams and aspirations of young law students waiting for their shot at a sound legal education.
University of Guyana Law Society