Posted on April 26, 2018
In many ways, the Faculty of Law at the University of Pretoria experienced a remarkably successful year in 2017. The Faculty conferred no less than 35 doctorates and 179 master’s degrees at the three graduation ceremonies in September and December 2017 and April 2018, held for students who fulfilled the requirements for their respective degrees during the 2017-academic year.
This success builds on other notable achievements of the Faculty over the past year. In 2017, it was announced that the UP Faculty of Law was one of just three law schools in South Africa that received full accreditation for its LLB-degree from the Council for Higher Education. In addition, the Faculty was ranked as the top law school in Africa in terms of the Times Higher Education rankings. Earlier this year, the Faculty moot team finished fifth in the prestigious Philip C Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition in which more than 600 teams from universities across the globe participate. Now the Faculty has also shown that it is a hotbed for innovative research across various legal disciplines with the record number of postgraduate degrees conferred in one academic year.
What makes this achievement remarkable, is the fact that postgraduate research involves assessment by experts from other institutions. The number of postgraduate degrees conferred is therefore not only a reflection of hard work and dedication by the academic staff and postgraduate students in the Faculty, but also an acknowledgement by independent subject experts, that the research done by postgraduate students at the Faculty is of a high standard.
To obtain a doctoral degree at the Faculty of Law requires at least three years of intensive research on a relevant topic under supervision of a law professor. The candidate must submit a research proposal which is evaluated by a panel of experts. Once the proposal is accepted, the candidate conducts research and must produce a thesis of approximately 80,000 words in which the research findings are explained. In the process, the candidate must make a novel contribution to the discipline concerned. The thesis is then evaluated by one examiner from within the Faculty other than the supervisor, as well as at least two external subject experts, of which at least one must be attached to a university in another country. Only when all of the experts agree that the thesis is of the standard required and contributes to the existing body of knowledge in the field, will the degree be conferred on the candidate. Similarly, study towards a master’s degree usually takes at least two years and a dissertation for a master’s degree is examined by one internal and at least one external examiner.
Because evaluation by external examiners is such a significant part of the assessment for postgraduate studies, the throughput of postgraduate students is often used as an indicator of research excellence at a university. The number of doctorates and masters’ degrees conferred by the UP Faculty of Law in the 2017-academic year highlights why the Faculty is regarded as the leading law school in Africa and one of the top 100 law schools globally according to the Times Higher Education rankings.
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