On July 19, 2013, the Bar Council Malaysia released a press statement about the need to exercise caution when selecting law programmes in tertiary institutions and named Taylor's University as one of the institutions offering a homegrown law degree that's currently not recognised by the Legal Profession Qualifying Board (LPQB).
Following a closer review of the Taylor's University law programmes, Bar Council Malaysia issued another statement yesterday, July 24, 2013, confirming that Taylor's University does indeed offer pathways from its law programmes that culminate in law degrees conferred by UK universities that are recognised by LPQB.
I would like to thank Christopher Leong, the president and Steven Thiruneelakandan, the vice-president of the Bar Council Malaysia for their acknowledgement and timely clarification about the status of the courses that we offer.
The press statement is very clear and expressly lists down the options that students may pursue as well as the status of these options for purposes of the LPQB recognition.
We also offer herewith a further detailed clarification of the programme that is offered.
In the past 21 years, we have successfully taught more than 1,000 students, who have gone on to graduate from top UK universities. From 1992 to 2004, we successfully ran twinning programmes with the University of Sheffield and then with the University of Reading which saw its last intake in January 2012.
These programmes were and are fully recognised by the LPQB for purposes of legal practice in Malaysia.
Students who are currently transferring to the University of Reading in September 2013 need not be concerned about the recognition of the programme.
In 2010, when Taylor's became a full-fledged university, we offered our own Law programme and had our first intake of the Taylor's University Bachelor of Laws Programme in early 2012.
Through this programme, prospective students have two pathways to obtain their Bachelor of Laws degree. In the first pathway, students can opt to graduate with the degree which will see them spend all three years here at Taylor's University. Students who graduate on this pathway will not currently be able to practice law in the country as it is not recognised by the LPQB.
Based on the current practice, the institution will only be able to apply for the LPQB recognition for its law programme after the institution has obtained the full accreditation from the Malaysian Qualifications Agency (MQA) for the law programme.
To obtain this full accreditation for the law programme, the programme will have to be run on a provisional accreditation given by MQA and we will have to see our first cohort of students through to their final year of study (in 2014) on this provisionally accredited programme.
Therefore, we can only apply for an MQA accreditation for the law programme in 2014 and if that is successful, we can then apply for the LPQB recognition in the same year or later.
Taylor's University is bound by this current process and has to run its provisionally accredited law degree by MQA without the LPQB recognition for its first few cohorts of students until the application for recognition can be made and the recognition is given.
We are fully aware that the LPQB recognition is also subject to us satisfying the LPQB's applicable criteria.
We are clear and have always been forthcoming about the status of this pathway in that it is not recognised for legal practice. Information about this matter has always been published in all our prospectuses and included in information sharing sessions with prospective students and parents.
Our collaterals and all official documents to students also contain this fact expressly.
However, appreciating the fact that legal practice is not any more the only possible career option for law graduates these days, students who do opt to pursue and graduate with a Taylor's University Bachelor of Laws Degree can join the workforce in alternative careers in law.
While the programme is currently not recognised, it does not in any way mean that the necessary quality that's required of a law programme in the country is not met.
We have been and will remain fully committed to work with the LPQB and the Bar Council Malaysia for the necessary guidance and direction on the matter of recognition of the programme for legal practice.
The programme also allows students a second pathway. On this pathway, students may opt to articulate to one of our six articulation partners; namely, University of Manchester, University of Sheffield, Cardiff University, University of Leeds, University of Reading and University of the West of England.
If they choose this option, prospective students will need to complete either one or two years here at Taylor's before transferring to the UK to complete their degree with our articulation partners.
Students on this pathway will graduate with a law degree from the articulation partner of their choice.
As mentioned in the Bar Council's Press Statement of July 24, 2013, our six UK partner universities are currently in the LPQB's list of recognised UK universities for CLP purposes.
Graduates who have successfully completed their degrees in one of these Universities will therefore be eligible to sit for the Certificate of Legal Practice (CLP) Examination for purposes of legal practice in Malaysia.
In addition, these UK articulation pathways from Taylor's University are validated by the UK Joint Academic Stage Board (JASB), the body responsible for the validation and review of qualifying law degrees for the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) in the UK.
This validation was obtained in July 2011 before the programme commenced. Students who obtain the BPTC qualification can also return to practice law in Malaysia. The BPTC is currently deemed equivalent to the CLP examinations
In addition to clarifying the programme's status with LPQB, Taylor's Law School has always advised our prospective students of career paths available to them upon completion of their degree.
This is to ensure that students are fully aware of their options and can make informed decisions and career choices. We have, and will continue to be, transparent on this matter.
Once again, I would like to thank the Bar Council for its clarification and acknowledgement of the Programme that we offer.
This will indeed help allay any concerns that may be present in minds of the relevant parties.
Taylor's University and its Law School have always been transparent about its LPQB status, and I hope that this clarification will address the concerns of students, parents and any other relevant parties.
HARMAHINDER SINGH is dean of Taylor's Law School.