Distance learning and law degrees

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The noble profession of law has become a tool to earn money and exploit others, thanks to the flawed local mechanism of distance learning (e-learning) law degree programmes.

Distance learning has also created an anathematic division between regular students and those getting trained in foreign law degree programmes.

It is shocking to see how privileged kids can complete a law degree in three years under the name of external or distance learning law degree programme, while local law students have to complete it in 5 years. This is a clear discrimination, which has flared hatred between local and external law degree graduates in the legal market.

It is significant to consider that when a student obtains an external law degree, the degree does not mention ‘external law degree’, which leads Pakistan Bar Council to assume that the degree is being studied in the United Kingdom. For the purpose of registration, the same degree is submitted to the Pakistan Bar Council, which sends the degree to the University for the verification purposes.  Once the degree is verified from the institution, Pakistan Bar Council issues the license without having the knowledge of whether the degree is being taught in the local University or not. This is one of the major loop holes that allow these foreign investors to mint money by concealing the facts and deliberately keeping the local law bodies oblivious.

Growing legal markets around the globe, such as India and Singapore, have stopped recognising distance learning of Law degrees for the purpose of admission to the Bar. There are numerous commonalities among these jurisdictions and Pakistan. However, the foreign degree providers in Pakistan have since renamed themselves as International Programmes Instead of ‘External’ programmes; and they are ‘religiously’ sticking to their money-making gimmicks.

It is shocking to see how privileged kids can complete a law degree in three years under the name of distance learning, while local law students have to complete it in five years. This is a clear discrimination, which has flared hatred between local and external law degree graduates in the legal market

It is pertinent to mention here that there is a clear distinction between trade and profession. And when noble professions, such as inter alia profession of doctors and/or lawyers, are considered and treated as trade the downfall of any nation is inevitable.

There is no doubt that these degrees aspire to inculcate excellent doctrines and precedents of Law. However, the structure of these external degree(s) needs to be updated for the legal market of Pakistan. Currently, the external degree has compulsory module of EU Law whereas it should be designed to teach the laws in South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and/or Economic Cooperative Organisation countries, since the degree is being taught in the Asian countries, and not in the UK. Keeping in mind the current economic situation of Pakistan and China-Pakistan Economic Corridor the degree provider should also consider adding modules of Chinese laws in its academic curriculum. In order to have smooth trade with China, qualified arbitrators and mediators are in urgent need, thus mediation and arbitration courses should also be offered in external or distance learning programme for the students in Pakistan.

 

The external degree law courses need to be redesigned in a manner, which enhances drafting and advocacy skills of the student lawyers in Pakistan. There should be Bar Professional Training Courses for the legal market of Pakistan. Pakistani lawyers should be trained for Pakistani Civil and Criminal Procedures in Pakistan in order to serve the Honourable Courts of Pakistan. The legal industry should provide equal opportunities to all the candidates, especially to those who prove to be passionate about legal profession. The profession of law requires academic as well as practical training. Whereas distance learning law degree lacks practical and academic experience for the local legal market, which is why its existence has become questionable.

There is a need of improving the deliverance of external law degrees in Pakistan. There should be a proper check and balance on these foreign degree providers and their examination processes. They should not be left alone to generate revenue from Pakistan without contributing to our economy and especially in the legal market of Pakistan. All the distance learning education centres abroad should update their legal courses for Pakistan with the help of Pakistan Bar Council. In the interest of better legal education, external degree providers should be well connected with the legal research centres in Pakistan. It should be the responsibility of foreign institutions to plan court visits and arrange mooting competitions for the students they enrol in Pakistan.

In a nutshell, the external/distant learning degree can be an excellent platform for students studying in the United Kingdom who are familiar with their jurisdiction whereas for local legal market it is not coming out to be productive or favourable. It is high time that Pakistan Bar Council and the Government of Pakistan take strenuous measures to rescue the high-jacked foreign legal education system in Pakistan. The foreign law degrees clearly challenge the dignity of our local law degrees; the issue is still unaddressed at all forums in Pakistan.

The writer teaches External Law degree and practices as an Advocate High Court

Published in Daily Times, March 30th 2018.

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