On Friday, October 19, 2018, the Zambia Institute of Advanced Legal Education (ZIALE) publicly released the results of its 2017-2018 Legal Practitioners’ Qualifying Examinations (LPQ Examinations). Due to the grave misinformation circulating on various media platforms about the performance of the University of Zambia (UNZA) School of Law students in those examinations, UNZA is taking this unprecedented step of publicly setting the record straight. We have conducted a statistical analysis of the released results which are independently verifiable and public facts. Further, this statement itself, is not intended to sensationalize the ZIALE examination results for any gain or advantage to UNZA or its School of Law, but simply to provide the general public and stakeholders with an accurate set of facts on which to base their perceptions. As will be evident from the facts presented in this statement, the UNZA School of Law was, by far, the strongest performer in the recently ended ZIALE examinations.
By the official count, approximately 379 students sat for the final ZIALE LPQ Examinations. The public may wish to know that out of this number (379), approximately only 28% were UNZA degree holders. Out of the 379 students attempting the examination for the first time, only three (3) students cleared all 10 courses. This translates to an overall pass rate of 0.8%. The fourth candidate mentioned in the press was not sitting the LPQ Examination for the first time. The public may also wish to know that one (1) of these three (3) “first-attempt passers” is a UNZA degree holder. Since 2013, UNZA has been running two Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) streams: a “general stream” at UNZA Great East Road Campus and a “commercial law stream”, in conjunction with the Zambia Centre for Accountancy Studies (ZCAS, now ZCAS University). Graduates from both streams receive University of Zambia (UNZA) law degrees. Therefore, the widely publicized news that no UNZA degree holder passed the examination is wholly untrue.
The foregoing notwithstanding, what has not been analyzed, is the performance of the remaining 376 students (99.2%) who did not clear all the 10 courses. This analysis will reveal the true picture of the performance of UNZA graduates. What is noteworthy here is that a staggering 92% of all candidates who passed 9 out of the 10 courses examined (that is to say, failed only one course) are UNZA degree holders. 86% of these students were drawn from our main stream and 6% were drawn from our commercial stream. When one statistically controls for UNZA’s modest ratio of the candidates (28 %), the 92% figure mentioned here is far higher. Further, without a single exception, all of the UNZA students that failed only one course, failed the exact same course. This may indicate that our students encountered a common problem in that particular course. Needless to say, we intend to analyze what problems the students may have encountered in order to make the necessary interventions that will assist our students perform better when they re-sit the course in December, 2018.
It is a well-known fact that for quite a while now, only a small percentage of students clear the ZIALE LPQ Examinations on their first attempt. Over the last few years, the percentages of candidates who clear the programme on first attempt have ranged from 0.8 % to 5% .What is not of public notoriety is that a far much higher percentage of candidates clear the ZIALE LPQ Examinations on the subsequent attempt, which typically occurs about two (2) months after the initial results are released. The true picture of any law school’s performance is therefore not in the small sliver of students that clear on the first attempt, which this time around, is 0.8%; but rather, in the number of students, from any given University, that are ultimately called to the Bar out of any given cohort. In this regard, no other University surpasses UNZA. With the strong performance of our students this year, we have no reason to believe that it will be any different with this cohort. It should be noted that when evaluating the final number of students sent to the Bar from a particular University, the ratio of candidates contributed to the class under consideration must be factored into the analysis.
While UNZA has always dominated the “first-attempt pass list”, we have never been content with the miniscule number of UNZA students that pass on first attempt. We also wish to note that ever since private universities gained admission to ZIALE in 2010, UNZA has always shared the “first-attempt passers” with other universities. This is therefore not the first time, by any stretch, that a non-UNZA student has passed the ZIALE LPQ Examinations on the first attempt. In fact, in 2011, which was the very first year that private university students were among the candidates examined, three (3) out of the eight (8) candidates that passed on the first attempt were non-UNZA degree holders. While this is the first time that UNZA has not dominated the “first- time passers” list, it must be noted that this is just by a single candidate.
In view of the foregoing, we reiterate that most of the information that has been circulated in the media and other communication platforms is therefore grossly distorted. We have absolutely no doubt that there are brilliant students in other universities. However, if one is to make global statements about the quality of a law programme, then those statements need to be based on an evaluation of the performance of 100% of the candidates examined and not just a miniscule 0.8%.
For seven (7) years straight (2011-2018), UNZA has recorded the best overall performance at ZIALE. This unrivaled performance must be understood in the context of the serious resource challenges plaguing all public universities. In spite of these debilitating challenges, the performance of our students at ZIALE has remained unrivaled. We attribute this solid performance to the resilience of our students, as well as to the first-rate academic staff which is the School of Law’s greatest asset. The Law School’s staff complement consists of eleven (11) PhD holders and four (4) soon-to-be PhD holders. Further, the Law School’s lecturers have been trained at some of the best Universities in the world. Moreover, 90% of these lecturers are called to the Bar in at least one jurisdiction. Collectively, UNZA Law School academic staff possess rich experience drawn from law practice, government, advocacy, as well as regional and international organizations of repute.
We would like to note the critical role that private universities play in the democratization of legal education in the country. Due to the entry of private players, the study of law has been liberalized and access to the profession has dramatically increased. This is something we are proud of and strongly support. Due to the serious challenges we have faced and continue to face, UNZA is unable to meet the growing demand for legal education. In this regard, we view private universities as partners and not as foes. Incidentally, not less than two (2) of the Law School’s four (4) strategic objectives address the democratization of legal education. First, the School of Law has as an objective – “to join in the building and development of the legal system in Zambia and generally, to make the resources of the School’s staff and students available for the welfare of the community.” Secondly, the School aims “to be prepared to offer, where these are desirable and required, law teaching resources for other institutions in Zambia”. Indeed, the UNZA School of Law stands ready to collaborate with other Law Schools in the interests of the development of quality legal education and in the development of our legal system as a whole. This notwithstanding, we strongly resist the gross distortion of our performance in the recently held ZIALE LPQ Examinations.
Finally, the UNZA School of Law is still, by far, the premier Law School in the country. It leads in research output. It leads in the education level and international standing of its teaching complement. It leads in the overall performance of its graduates at ZIALE. It leads in the provision of quality legal education. We also wish to state that despite the challenges faced by the UNZA School of Law remains committed to providing first class legal education, and to preparing its students for the legal realities of a globalized world.
Rodgers G. Phiri (Mr.)
THE UNIVERSITY OF ZAMBIA