THE North West University (NWU) has welcomed recommendations by the Council for Higher Education (CHE) to re-accredit its Bachelor of Law (LLB) degree.
The university was among four other tertiary institutions whose law degrees had been threatened with withdrawal of accreditation earlier this year. Other universities affected included, University of South Africa (Unisa), Walter Sisulu University and the University of Free State. In the case of NWU, the CHE raised a number of issues pertaining to inequalities between the two sites of delivery, the Mahikeng and Potchefstroom campuses.
In a statement, CHE said: “There is significant evidence of inequity between the two sites of delivery, in terms of access, provision of curriculum delivery, teaching, learning and assessment, the profiles of staff in respect of seniority, qualifications and scholarly reputation, the quality assurance of the programme, articulation between the sites, infrastructure and other learning resources.
“Institutional restructuring aimed at addressing such issues has not yet manifested itself in the faculty of law. “There is a lack of substantive integration, in the programme as a whole as well as on the Potchefstroom campus, between students of different racial groups and a sense of alienation felt by students of particular groups.
“Relatively low admission requirements are not, throughout the programme, supplemented with adequate student support.” Institutions were given until October to submit plans on how they were going to make sure the LLB programme meets the criteria set. While others were given a lifeline, Walter Sisulu University was not so lucky and the programme was put on hold for prospective students until further notice.
However, the outcome of the review process for NWU was revised from “notice of withdrawal” to “re-accreditation subject to meeting specified conditions”, a development welcomed by the university management.
NWU vice-chancellor Prof Dan Kgwadi thanked all those involved in the review process, particularly staff from the faculty of law.“From the onset we had a dedicated team addressing the identified shortcomings,” Kgwadi said. “I am confident that the NWU will through addressing the issues as identified by the CHE, ensure that we deliver an even better LLB degree, not only to the benefit of our students, but also to that of the country,” he said.
“Our position has always been that the strategy that we are now implementing is poised to address the concerns raised by the CHE, a strategy of positioning the NWU as a unitary institution of superior academic excellence, with a commitment to social justice.” The university said it has submitted an improvement plan and strategy on October 6.
The plan also included progress made since the review panel site visit last year. The university said the HEQC was satisfied that the plan addressed the concerns expressed towards full accreditation and some shortcomings within the capacity of the institution that can be remedied within a reasonable period were identified.
The HEQC requires the submission of a progress report by October 30 next year, after which a follow-up site visit will be conducted on a date to be determined by the CHE and the institution. The CHE said in its feedback that it is apparent from the evidence presented in the university improvement plan that most of the concerns which dealt mainly with the inequity between campuses, lack of substantive integration and low admission requirements coupled with inadequate student support, are already being addressed.
“The plan is detailed and is supported by extensive evidence. There is also commitment to further investigate more avenues to address these concerns in the near future. “It appears that the institution engaged with all the relevant stakeholders when dealing with these concerns and recommendations,” CHE said.
The feedback further commends the efforts made by the faculty of law to hold key workshops, to review some of its law modules, to add other key modules as recommended by the HEQC, to consult its key stakeholders extensively across all campuses and to seek the necessary approval and commitment from the executive management.