University of Papua New Guinea School of Law is the only law school in the Papua New Guinea. Offers only two programs. A four year Bachelors in Law program and a two year Diploma in Prosecution. The later is for people who are already employed and their line of work requires law enforcement. It’s main target is mainly employees in the law enforcement public agencies such as PNG Royal Constabulary (PNG Police), PNG Defence Force, PNG Correctional Services (CS), PNG Customs and etc. The former is for freshman selected through the National Grade 12 National Examination selection process.
Limited Student Quota and Academic Capacity at UPNG School of Law.
Although, UPNG School of Law is the only law school in the country, it has been under resourced in terms of academic staff and physical facilities. The school shares it’s office building with other academic school. Previously the building was shared with School of Business and Public Policy (SBPP) formally know as School of Business Administration (SBA). When SBA relocated to it’s new Australian Aid (AusAid) funded new facilities, the School of Humanities and Social Sciences (SHSS) moved over. A new building was constructed and formally opened by the Prime Minister in 2020 but it yet to be occupied and stands idle.
Limited Academic Staff and Low First Year Intake.
Lawyers are in high demand in the country and UPNG is unable to attract enough legal professionals to teach at the school. Only a handful of academics teach the courses under the two programs if offers. With the limited staffing and physical facilities, the School of Law maintains a low quota the first-year student intakes each year. It has the lowest student intake compared to the other three academic schools at UPNG. School of Natural and Physical Sciences (SNPS), School of Humanities and Social Sciences (SHSS) and School of Business and Public Policy (SBPP).
Since, it’s the only law school in the country, the demand from Grade 12 students is quite high. As a result, the school only takes top bracket of applicants with higher GPAs to fill in its limited intake quota. A lot of students who would have got selected misses out each year because of this situation.
`Need for PNG to Establish Another Law School
More lawyers are needed in the country now than ever before. As the world becomes more connected and business transactions occurs cross borders, need for specialized lawyers will continue to grow. Also, white collar crimes and instances of corrupt activities is taking place in every sectors of the economy. Politicians can pass laws, but it is the legal sector that does drafting of laws, prosecute the criminals and deliver justice to the general population.
PNG is economy is resource based. Export of oil, minerals, agriculture commodities involve complex legal requirements and PNG government will continue to rely heavily on foreign legal firms. The current Commission of Inquiry into UBS (Union Bank of Switzerland) government loans and recent Cocaine Drug burst and host of other events are beginning to reveal the weakness of the legal systems and its strength to deal with issues of great national interest.
As long the UPNG School of Law continues to maintain its current status quo, the country will continue to face shortages of lawyers, judges, magistrates and etc.
Therefore it is important the government of PNG seriously consider establishing new law schools in the campuses of other state and private universities in the country or give the much needed resources and academic manpower UPNG School of Law deserves.
The world is getting complicated and PNG’s legal systems must continue to raise it’s bar than becoming complacent .