Law degree from private college as good as from university, court rules
Law students who complete their studies at accredited private higher education institutions are as qualified to enter the legal profession as those from public universities.
The Pietermaritzburg high court on Friday declared that section 26(1)(a) of the Legal Practice Act was constitutionally invalid because it only allowed LLB graduates from public universities to enter the profession - and excluded students from private institutions from doing so.
The Independent Institute of Education (IIE) challenged the constitutionality of the section last year, following an inquiry by a parent of a Varsity College student to the KZN Law Society. Varsity College is a brand of the IIE, whose other brands include Vega and Rosebank College.
The society’s response was that only graduates from “universities” could be permitted to become candidate attorneys and therefore the IIE’s qualification would not be recognised for this purpose.
Acting judge Carol Sibiya said she could not find a rational basis for differentiating between LLB graduates from public and private institutions, particularly given that the Council on Higher Education (CHE) confirmed that there was no difference in the quality and outcomes of the IIE’s four-year LLB degree and those offered by public universities.
The IIE’s LLB degree was accredited by the CHE in 2017 and offered for the first time in 2018.