By NICHOLAS OPOLOT and AGATHA MUHAISE
Uganda Christian University’s (UCU’s) law degree holders have been officially accredited to apply for the bar course in England and Wales. This means that law graduates of UCU meet the standards required for one to apply for a bar course in the United Kingdom (UK) and become barristers (equivalent to an advocate in Uganda), in the UK.
The news came after Hope Atuhaire, an alumnus of the university who graduated in 2015, was accepted to sit for the bar course after a significant struggle. UCU is now the first private university in Uganda to be recognized by the UK Bar Standards Board.
The British Bar Standards Board is in charge of regulating barristers and specialised legal services businesses in England and Wales.
“The student contacted me saying she had completed her master’s in Coventry University, UK, and wanted to apply for the bar in the UK. The bar in the UK is equivalent to the Law Development Centre in Uganda. However, they were hesitant to accept her because they had not recognized the LLB from UCU. They only priorly recognised the LLB from Makerere University,” said Dr Anthony Kakooza, the dean of the Faculty of Law at UCU.
“They needed to verify our law programme to see if it meets their set criteria,” he added.
As the authority in charge, he contacted the UK Bar Society, which asked him to submit the UCU law curriculum and all the necessary documentation like the summary of the credit hours, contact hours, among others, that pertain to the university’s Bachelor of Laws. Once this was assessed and passed, they would not only admit her but also all other future students from UCU who qualify.
“I communicated with the UK Bar Standards Board in early February. But since then, I neither heard from the student nor the board until March 12, when I received a message from another alumnus Sylvia Kayondo who sent me a picture of Atuhaire’s certificate of academic standing,” he added.
The document indicated that the student had been assessed as eligible to undertake the Common Professional Examination (CPE) or Approved Graduate Diploma in Law Course by virtue of having obtained an LLB for Uganda Christian University, which is an acceptable standard.
Kakooza also confirmed that before this, no UCU student was ever able to practise law in the UK. Atuhaire is the first UCU student to be allowed to sit for the UK bar course. However, they have been able to sit for bar courses and practised in other countries like Nigeria since 2015, South Africa, and Rwanda.
He attributed the milestone to the influx of international students at the university, who want to go back home and practise after obtaining a law degree at UCU.
“This global recognition increases marketability of UCU’s law faculty courses. It is a big plus for us in the sense that it widens our market. Graduates tend to get constrained when LDC shuts the door on them. They should know that there are other places to practice as long as it is a common world setting,” Kakooza said.
Mr. Francis Gimara, the president of the Uganda Law Society, congratulated UCU upon this achievement and looked forward to the fruits it would yield for the good of the law community.
“That is a confirmation of the high standards of the UCU law degree. I would like to congratulate the staff and leadership of the faculty for this important milestone. It means more opportunities for the graduates to be part of the British barristers. We look forward to working with more lawyers that can practise both in Uganda and in the UK,” he said during a phone conversation with The Standard.
Attached are PDF of official documents
A Hope scanned COAS (PDF DOC HERE)
A Hope scanned decision letter (PDF DOC HERE)