The Law Development Centre (LDC) has urged the Law Council to launch an inquiry into the authenticity of certain first degrees awarded by Ugandan universities. This move aims to ensure the production of high-quality lawyers for the country.
Concerns have arisen over the alleged lack of focus among students pursuing their initial degrees in law, as some individuals reportedly excel in the postgraduate diploma in legal practice at LDC despite a questionable performance during their intensive nine-month training period.
In Uganda, the customary practice involves graduates obtaining a Bachelor of Laws from any university and then undergoing a mandatory nine-month training at LDC before being eligible for enrollment to the bar as advocates.
Annet Karungi, the Head of the Bar Course at the Law Development Centre, disclosed this information while addressing the Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Committee. During the session, she was prompted to clarify why certain students, despite having paid for the course, were not admitted to the Centre.
“I think we have observed that the pattern in the last academic years is really not necessarily the best, and many of them (students) actually end up clogging the system, repeating various subjects. So it is something we have shared with the Law Council, and we are hopeful as a regulator, they will take it up and address it at the time of regulation and accreditation of the law Schools,” said Karungi.
Karungi denied allegations that the LDC declined to admit some students, saying there is no student who paid for the 2023/24 academic year intake and wasn’t admitted. She said that for the current cohort, the LDC received more than 3000 applicants, and because of the limited facilities, all these students couldn’t be taken on.
“In the process of admission, we realised that something is coming up, but I believe the Law Council will handle it. You find that applicants from certain Universities, almost the entire class, have a first-class or upper second class, so we have to devise a fair method of admission, and we decided to take on 60% from each University. So what we did, ranking from the first to 60%, we took on the top most from each University, the rest were admitted and given offer letters for the next academic year, which is really guaranteed,” added Karungi.
She was responding to Committee Chairperson, Robinah Rwakoojo, who asked officials from LDC who had appeared to defend their 2024/25 national budget framework paper to explain complaints raised by some students.
Rwakoojo, who is also the MP for Gomba West, said that some students were calling their Members of Parliament complaining about being left out by the LDC despite having the requisite marks from their respective universities.
“Is it that you don’t have a system that is properly marked out, and somebody knows whether they are going to participate during that financial year or not? Because there is the understanding of the students themselves, but for the parent, it is very confusing and very painful. Somebody knows they paid money for their children, but they don’t understand what happens. So you need to come up with better procedures on how things are to be done so that I know I am not enrolled for this year, so I don’t bother, but where there is so much uncertainty, it becomes a bit disturbing,” remarked Rwakoojo.
John Bosco Okiror, MP for Usuk County, also said that there is a need for a deeper analysis of the grades that are given to students of law in all universities so that only those who are capable are admitted to the LDC.
“She (Karungi) is saying there are some Universities where you find so many first-class students. For me, that statement isn’t small. It speaks volumes, and it is very dangerous. It goes into whether the institution is accredited and if they have the requisite manpower and people able to teach. It is worrying because if you are already worried that these people might not be genuine,” said Okiror.
The same sentiments were shared by Yusuf Mutembuli, MP for Bunyole East, who also asked, “After getting these first classes and so on, because at the end of the day, at LDC, you are in a position to know whether these are genuine, at the end of the day when you assess them, do you realise that these are First class are genuine or are just awarded?”
This comes at a time when the government of Nigeria has threatened not to accept degrees that the West African nations’ nationals attain from some universities on the continent, including some in Uganda.