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From Bush To Bench(mark): UWC Law Has Earned A Place On The Times Higher Education World University Rankings

Author: Jacques De Ville

The UWC Faculty of Law helped shape the foundations of a democratic South Africa, and is renowned for quality research, innovative ideas and excellent graduates - earning it a place in the Times Higher Education World University Subject Rankings 2021.

(Published - 4 November 2020)

The Faculty of Law at the University of the Western Cape is delighted about the Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings 2021 by Subject: Law. This is the first time that the UWC Law Faculty, which was established in 1979 as an independent faculty, appears in the subject rankings of any of the major university rankings.

The University of the Western Cape played an important role in cementing South Africa’s new democracy, and UWC Law alumni, students and staff have made their mark in the world, researching and debating, winning national and international awards and producing groundbreaking research - as well as providing legal advice to those who need it. This recognition is a welcome acknowledgement of this fact.

According to the rankings, the UWC Law Faculty appears with four other law faculties in the 201+ band (with UJ, UKZN, NWU and UNISA). The University Pretoria Faculty of Law appears in the 101-125 band, and the UCT Law Faculty and Wits School of Law appear in the 126-150 band. There are presently 17 law faculties in the country.

The criteria used by THE comprise (1) teaching, which includes reputation, student-staff ratio, and doctorates awarded; (2) research, which includes reputation, research income and research productivity; (3) Citations; (4) international outlook, which includes the percentage of international staff and students, and international collaboration; as well as (6) industry income.

Over the past few years, the Faculty has been working hard to offer the best possible law degree to undergraduate students, by redesigning the LLB curriculum in line with the standards prescribed by the Council on Higher Education (CHE). The national review of the LLB by the CHE also led to the establishment of new academic posts at the UWC Law Faculty, which contributed to a lower staff-student ratio. Through teaching relief funding provided by the University, the Faculty’s younger staff members have been assisted in completing their doctorates in a shorter period. At present, around 80% of the 50 permanent academic staff members hold a doctoral degree. The Faculty has furthermore been steadily growing its postgraduate numbers, at present standing at an 18% postgraduate ratio, including its doctoral student cohort, which now number around 80 students.

The Law Faculty has a strong research culture, both in academic departments and at the Dullah Omar Institute for Constitutional Law, Governance and Human Rights. Earlier this year, the Faculty received the UWC Research and Recognition gold award for the best Faculty based on research output per capita. Fourteen of the Faculty’s academic staff members currently have a National Research Foundation rating, which includes seven B ratings (internationally recognised academics). 

UWC Law is host to students from at least 20 countries on the African continent and beyond, as well as to academic staff from countries such as Zimbabwe, Malawi, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Uganda, and the Netherlands. Agreements have been concluded with many law faculties around the globe, to enable academic collaboration with international partners. 

The Faculty is in the process of establishing four Centres, the Centre for Legal Integration in Africa (CLIA), the Centre for Transformative Regulation of Work (Centrow), the Global Environmental Law Centre (Gelc), and the Centre for Transnational Criminal Justice, which will further increase its postgraduate numbers and strengthen the research culture within the Faculty.

The Faculty has furthermore been utilising social media platforms to communicate more regularly with its alumni, many of whom serve in the judiciary, government and parliament, or have achieved success in the business world, as well as to inform the wider world of its achievements.

The Law Faculty is fully committed to meeting the legal challenges of an increasingly complex and globalised world. Through engaged research, teaching and advocacy, the Institute currently supports processes in South Africa and the region to build inclusive, resilient states that are accountable to citizens and responsive to human rights.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on the activities of universities around the globe. UWC Law Faculty staff and students have however adapted well to emergency remote learning, and have made use, in inventive ways, of the opportunities offered by technology, for example, by turning traditional seminars into webinars, and continuing their collaboration with international partners, now online.

While the Faculty is proud of its achievements, much remains to be done. We strive to be one of the top law faculties in Africa, whilst continuing to serve the cause of justice in a wide variety of legal fields.  

Professor Jacques de Ville has spent more than 27 years at the University of the Western Cape (UWC) as a lecturer, senior lecturer, Associate Professor, Professor and Senior Professor within the Faculty of Law. He has served as Head of the Department of Public Law and Jurisprudence, as Co-Director of the Research Unit for Legal and Constitutional Interpretation, and Acting Dean of the faculty - and was  appointed as Dean of the Faculty of Law in 2018. 


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