Uni under fire over axed law program

An Illawarra solicitor has criticised the University of Wollongong's decision to axe its Professional Legal Training program, labelling the move a "shameful blow" to the region's law graduates.

Aaron Kernaghan, principal lawyer at Kernaghan and Associates, said the decision to scrap the postgraduate course was an insult to the Illawarra legal profession and its budding solicitors.

"Between myself and another colleague, we have employed seven graduates of both the faculty and the PLT [Professional Legal Training course] in the past three years alone; I suspect that graduate outcomes like that are important to prospective students," he said.

"My concern is that without a PLT course, the university will lose the place it occupies in the community ...

"To educate an Illawarra student in law then send them somewhere else for admission is to deprive the region of being 'pride of place' in the development of future practitioners."

The PLT is an additional course required by graduates wishing to practise law.

The University of Wollongong had offered the PLT for nearly 15 years, providing an alternative to Sydney courses, but announced plans to scrap the program at the end of last year, citing financial challenges.

Mr Kernaghan believed failing to offer the PLT would discourage students from enrolling in a law degree at the university, particularly if they are forced to study in one region and then work in another.

"It sends the basic message that you can get your degree in Wollongong but you'll still need to head off to Sydney to actually get qualified," he said.

"A PLT course trains students in day-to-day practice, so when they leave their degree they are not merely young people with big ideas; they are provided with the ability to get the job done for clients and ensure that the job is first rate.

"It occupies exactly the same status as an internship for medical practitioners; without it, Illawarra students will travel far to seek their qualifications and very possibly won't return."

UOW Dean of Law, Professor Warwick Gullett, told the Mercury that the faculty restructure had required staff to look at all aspects of the law school's operation.

"It's a very competitive market for offering this type of program and we have a very costly delivery model, so we have decided to refocus our energies and resources on the undergraduate law program," he said.

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