A comprehensive approach towards LLB curriculum review at a transforming law faculty in South Africa

Paper presented at the 2015 CLEA Conference in Glasgow

Hermanus Moolman
University of the Free State
South Africa

A Baccalaureus Legum (LLB) is the universal legal qualification for admission and enrolment as an advocate or attorney in South Africa. The democratisation of South Africa in 1994 and the transformation agenda of the new government gave rise to the desire of increasing the representation of black graduates in the legal profession. Political and symbolic factors beyond the control of legal educators gave birth to the reconceptualisation of legal education in 1996/7 and the traditional five-year LLB model was reduced to four years.

The four-year LLB was criticised from the onset and sixteen years down the line, some scholars perceive South African legal education to be facing a crisis. It is claimed that the four-year LLB does not provide enough time for the rigorous learning required by legal studies; has not met its transformational purpose; and has failed to provide practice-ready lawyers. Four-year LLB graduates tend to compartmentalise their knowledge, are unable to apply their knowledge to real life problems; and lack a proficiency in reading, writing and speaking English.

Although the shortening of the LLB with one year has been perceived as the scapegoat for most of the problems experienced in South African legal education, the Faculty of Law at the University of the Free State accepted its responsibility to address the problems in a curriculum that is responsive to the needs of the persons it serves. A decision was taken to revise the LLB curriculum at the institution by adopting a comprehensive, rather than a ‘piecemeal’ approach. This paper reports on the three phased approach towards curriculum review that is implemented at the UFS.

A range of focus group discussion with employers, alumni who completed the four-year LLB in the past five years, current LLB students, and law academics were completed in Phase One of the study. This was followed by a qualitative content analysis of selected national and international documents and the identification of a set of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that needs to be instilled in LLB graduates. Through a process of curriculum mapping, the attributes were mapped across appropriate modules, years and credits of the LLB and a draft curriculum framework is proposed at the end of the phase.

The second phase of the project entails a Delphi evaluation of the draft curriculum framework by a panel of experts over four rounds. The paper also addresses the development of the quantitative and qualitative survey instrument for the first round of the Delphi evaluation, setting up of the Delphi panel, data analysis, and role of the researcher and Curriculum Review Panel during the Delphi evaluation.
The last phase of the project involves the compilation of learning outcomes and the identification of learning activities and assessment methods and types that would support and ensure the development of the attributes that were mapped across the different modules of the curriculum framework.

The comprehensive approach towards curriculum review serves as a blue print that other universities can follow.

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