"Hats off to ruling that private college graduates can practise law" - Prof George Devenish

llb degree

I refer to the report in the Mercury, February 26, “Private college graduates’ can practise law”. Reference was made to a judgement of the Pietermaritzburg High Court ruling in favour of the Independent Institute of Education (IIE) relating to the status of its LLB degree.

On Friday last week acting Judge Carol Sibiya held that students in the process of obtaining the IIE’s LLB degree at Varsity Colleges are qualified to enter the legal profession after graduation.

In her judgement, Judge Sibiya, declared section 26 (1) of the Legal Practice Act unconstitutional, inso-far as it allows LLB graduates from public universities to enter the legal profession but precludes students from private institutions. This judgment, based on the cardinal right to equality, still has to be ratified by the Constitutional Court and Justice Minister Michael Masutha, who will be obliged to alter the offending sections of the act.

The IIE, and in particular Varsity Colleges and their leadership, deserve to be congratulated on this constitutional and legal victory. I, as a retired emeritus professor of UKZN and one of the drafters of the interim constitution in 1993, have been associated with both Varsity College at Durban North and Westville. When I retired from UKZN these two Varsity Colleges welcomed me as a law teacher in, inter alia, constitutional law and human rights.

From the moment I entered the precincts of the Durban branches of Varsity College, I was impressed by the excellence in administration, teaching and mentoring of students.

I was also impressed with the quality of the leadership of the colleges. In every respect they maintain high standards of excellence.

From my personal experience at the two colleges I taught at, I am of the opinion that the IIE, involving Varsity Colleges both in Durban and elsewhere, have a singular contribution to make in tertiary education.

From patience to kindness and even humility, the list of virtues that you will gain from being a teacher are endless. It’s a journey that you take with your students and one that will change you as a person.

Prof George Devenish