The University of the Free State Faculty of Law/Write Site intervention – Supporting broader access with the skills for success
Heeding the call for broader access to tertiary studies for previously disadvantaged students, the University of the Free State (UFS) is one of only a few institutions in the country that offer an extended, five-year Bachelor of Laws (LLB) programme. Its more lenient admission requirements and more manageable distribution of course work across five study years have put access to professional legal studies within reach of students who would not have otherwise qualified for admission. Beyond broader access, however, still lies the challenge of student success. It is a well-documented fact that modern-day students enter higher education ill-prepared for the demands of tertiary studies, and those entering the extended LLB are no exception. The gaps in their skills sets include a lack of academic writing skills, which are among the core competencies required of a law graduate. In an effort to address this challenge, the UFS Faculty of Law has established an innovative collaboration with the Write Site, a writing centre staffed by language specialists who offer students personalised assistance with their writing assignments. This is done as part of the module Legal Skills, one of the foundational modules presented exclusively for students in the extended LLB programme. This article provides the details of the intervention, including its results to date. It concludes that the Faculty of Law/ Write Site collaboration is a model worthy of emulation, teaching students not only to write well, but also to do well in their academic field. Recommendations for fine-tuning the intervention are proposed, including a call for this type of skills assistance to be offered across the curriculum, instead of in a once-off module only. Whilst the current climate of acute human resources and funding shortfalls in higher education may make this hard to achieve, the academic success of our students and the professional success of our future lawyers and other professionals are on the line.