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Economy

Students face pre-varsity tests for law courses

Attorney-General Githu Muigai.file photo | nmg
Attorney-General Githu Muigai.file photo | nmg 

Students wishing to pursue law degree programmes will first have to be subjected to pre-university assessments, if a proposal by a taskforce is adopted by the government.

A report by a taskforce on legal sector reforms chaired by prominent lawyer Fred Ojiambo says the content of the pre-university assessment will be determined by universities as a criteria for admission to the LL.B Programme.

“The aforementioned test shall be administered by universities at their discretion. The Council of Legal Education will undertake a study on the model of pre-university assessment currently undertaken at Makerere University in Uganda, Riara and Strathmore universities in Kenya and report on the findings of the study to the Attorney-General,” recommends the taskforce.

This follows mass failure of students in the Bar examinations and the move is aimed at ensuring that only those who are qualified pursue the programme.

The report indicates that between 2009 to 2016, 16,086 students  sat for bar examinations that  was  administered by the Council of Legal Education (CLE), however,  it is only 7,530 who passed while 8,549 failed, translating to 53 per cent failure.

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Kenyatta University produced the highest number of failures at 30 per cent of the 8, 540 or 2, 564, Moi University (22 per cent) and University of Nairobi Parkland campus (20 per cent).

“Unfortunately, while the number of graduates has increased, there have been concerns about deterioration in the quality, professional capacity, and competence of these graduates as they transition into practitioners. This decline has in turn been attributed to the decline in quality and standards of training and apprenticeship,” says the report.

It adds that on average, there was  a 21 per cent increase per annum in the enrolment of students into bar programme between 2009 and 2016. “There is a relationship between the increased enrolment and fail rate. As the number of students enrolled in the LL.B programme increases, the failure rate similarly increases,” adds the report.

The findings, which have been under discussion in Mombasa for the last one week, note that the proliferation of universities offering undergraduate law degree programmes has not been matched by a corresponding increase in qualified faculty members teaching at universities.

“Currently, most law schools lack professors of law and have to settle for persons with Masters qualifications to deliver their programmes. Regrettably, in some campuses, there are some lecturers who do not even hold the minimum qualifications required to teach law.  In some cases, even where the faculty is possessed of requisite qualifications and expertise, such staff are deployed in irrelevant disciplines rendering the expertise ineffectual,” it adds.

The taskforce is also  cautioning  against the Commission of University Education (CUE) taking over the accreditation of law programmes in universities.

It points out that the Universities (Amendment) Act 2016, effectively curtails the central role of Council of Legal Education in regulating standards and quality assurance in the education and sectoral professional practice in Kenya.

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