By (Joyce) Tan Wai Wai
I am a final year LLB student with Unified Examination Certificate (UEC) qualification and I intend to sit for the Certificate in Legal Practice (CLP) examination.
For UK law degree holders, one must fulfil the following criteria in order to qualify as a candidate for the CLP examination: SPM (minimum 3 credits) and a recognised law degree and STPM or A-Levels.
The Legal Profession Qualifying Board (LPQB) decided in 2005 that the UEC would no longer be recognised as a qualification equivalent to SPM and STPM for the purpose of sitting for the CLP examination. An applicant who has a UEC is also required to possess a minimum of two principal passes at STPM or A-Level.
First, even after the decision in 2005, the UEC (already fraught with problems of recognition), has always been accepted as a qualification for CLP examinations. In other words, the decision was never enforced and previously UEC students were able to register for CLP. So, why now?
Second, UEC has been recognised by top universities around the world, but why is it not recognised by the LPQB?
Since the issue was highlighted a week ago, the United Chinese School Committees Association of Malaysia has urged the LPQB to give reasons for its decision, politicians from both sides of the divide have joined the debate, and ultra-Malay group Perkasa has threatened ‘war’ on the government if the UEC is recognised in this beloved country where we wave the 1Malaysia flag.
This ‘sudden enforcement’ not only affects prospective students but also current LLB students and LLB students who graduated this year and are sitting in their CLP classes, not knowing whether they can register for CLP or not.
Some people may say that it is all right to retake A-levels after you complete your LLB. For me, this absolutely makes no sense. Why would I retake a pre-university course when I’ve already completed my studies in university? Imagine the costs and time involved! Even if I wanted to retake A-levels after I finish my LLB, regulations bar me from doing so.
On a side note, not only are UEC students affected, so too are diploma and foundation-holders from private colleges.
The only other option besides CLP is the Bar Professional Training Course (BPTC) in the UK, which could range from RM80,000 to RM100,000, excluding travel and living expenses. But this option is only really available to those who can afford it. For the rest of us, we are at a dead end.
My request is for the LPQB to consult all stakeholders before enforcing the 2005 decision so that a proper implementation timeline can be put in place that is fair to all non-STPM and A-level law students.
Meanwhile, as a stopgap measure, ensure all existing non-STPM and UEC law students who intend to sit for the CLP exam will not be affected by the 2005 decision.
It is also clearly insufficient for LPQB to keep the regulations there, as it leaves the students in a limbo, not knowing when it may be enforced.
The application deadline for those who wish to sit for the coming CLP exams is Dec 31, 2017. I ask the LPQB to stop quibbling and let the students take their exams.
(Joyce) Tan Wai Wai is an FMT reader.
The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.