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Higher Certificate in Law 
90851  Higher Certificate in Law 
University of South Africa 
CHE - Council on Higher Education  HEQSF - Higher Education Qualifications Sub-framework 
Higher Certificate  Field 08 - Law, Military Science and Security  Justice in Society 
Undefined  120  Not Applicable  NQF Level 05  Regular-Provider-ELOAC 
Reregistered  SAQA 091/21  2021-07-01  2023-06-30 
2024-06-30   2027-06-30  

In all of the tables in this document, both the pre-2009 NQF Level and the NQF Level is shown. In the text (purpose statements, qualification rules, etc), any references to NQF Levels are to the pre-2009 levels unless specifically stated otherwise.  

This qualification does not replace any other qualification and is not replaced by any other qualification. 

The qualification will introduce learners to some of the foundational legal principles and legal practice by imparting systematic knowledge, skills and theoretical competence within the field to prepare them for more specialised training at a more advanced level.

The qualification also will develop graduates who will have sound knowledge and the confidence to apply their skills in contemporary society and to therefore enable further study in the institution, or even in other institutions within the NQF.

In this respect, the specific purpose is to:
  • Prepare learners for studies in the legal sector.
  • Improve learners' basic proficiency in the English language in order to study in the fields of law.
  • Improve learners' general computer skills, especially for business purposes.
  • Prepare learners for higher education in an open and distance learning environment.

    This qualification provides learners who do not meet the stipulated minimum university entrance requirements, an opportunity to gain access to qualifications offered in the institution. This qualification also addresses the workplace need for basic knowledge of legal issues.

    The majority of learners who aspire to this qualification are likely to be those already employed in a working environment in which certain legal skills are required. The qualification will, therefore, give them the opportunity to develop skills and acquire vital knowledge that is essential for successful execution of their duties.

    The qualification targets learners who do not comply with the minimum institutional admission requirements, to access a NQF Level 5 qualification which can then lead to Diploma or Degree studies. This, in turn, will provide access, mobility and progression within the NQF for such learners. 

    Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL):
    All admission through RPL will be in accordance with the principles laid down in the UNISA's RPL Policy.

    This qualification can be achieved in part through recognition of prior learning.

    The RPL office can supply full details of processes and procedures relating to the assessment and accreditation of learning from prior experiences. Evidence can be presented in a variety of forms, including international or previous local qualifications, reports, testimonials mentioning functions performed, work records, portfolios, videos of practice and performance records.

    All such evidence will be judged according to the general principles of assessment described in the notes to assessors. UNISA's lecturers will act as assessors for RPL purposes.

    Access to the Qualification:
    To gain access to this qualification learners require one of the following:
  • A National Senior Certificate (NSC) and the Language of Learning and Teaching.
  • An appropriate Further Education and Training Certificate (FETC).
    Learners who have attained the age of 23, have work experience and are competent in English (written and spoken) can access the qualification. 


    All 10 Modules at Level 5 are compulsory, totalling 120 Credits.
  • English for Academic Purposes, 12 Credits.
  • Social Dimensions of Justice, 12 Credits.
  • End-user Computing, 12 Credits.
  • Information Literacy, 12 Credits.
  • African Languages - beginner's modules (Basic language skills in isiXhosa/Sotho), 12 Credits.
  • Introduction to Criminal Law, 12 Credits.
  • Introduction to Law, 12 Credits.
  • Skills Course for Law Students, 12 Credits.
  • Introduction to Paralegal Studies, 12 Credits.
  • Citizenship Law, 12 Credits. 

    1. Demonstrate an informed understanding of the core areas of law.
    2. Communicate information reliably, accurately and coherently, using conventions appropriate to the context, including an understanding of and respect for conventions around intellectual property, copyright and plagiarism.
    3. Demonstrate the ability for further Higher Education studies in an open distance learning (ODL) environment in legal disciplines. 

    Associated Assessment Criteria for Exit Level Outcome 1:
  • Demonstrate an informed understanding of the key terms, concepts, facts, general principles, rules and theories of law.
  • Recognise an awareness of how knowledge or a knowledge system develops and evolves within the discipline is recognised.
  • Identify, evaluate and solve defined, routine and new problems within a familiar context.
  • Apply solutions based on relevant evidence and procedures or other forms of explanation appropriate to the legal system, demonstrating an understanding of the consequences.

    Associated Assessment Criteria for Exit Level Outcome 2:
  • Use academic writing skills to produce well-written and communicative documentation.
  • Interpret and respond to texts in writing in a range of contexts.

    Associated Assessment Criteria for Exit Level Outcome 3:
  • Demonstrate general computer skills.
  • Select and apply standard methods, procedures or techniques are within legal disciplines and plan and manage an implementation process within a well-defined, familiar and supported environment.
  • Take into account and apply prescribed organisational and professional ethical codes of conduct, values and practices applicable to legal disciplines.
  • Gather information from a range of sources and basic processes of analysis, synthesis and evaluation are applied to that information.
  • Reflect upon critical self-assessment.
  • Demonstrate an awareness of ethical behaviour and continued personal development in the field of law is demonstrated.
  • Demonstrated an understanding of a range of familiar and new contexts within different systems.

    Integrated Assessment:
    For award of the qualification, a student must achieve each of the compulsory modules and must demonstrate the ability to engage in these fields covered by the modules in an integrative way, dealing with divergent and "random" demands related to these work operations, effectively. Evidence is required that the student is able to achieve the purpose of the qualification as a whole at the time of the award of the qualification.

    Assessors should assess and give credit for the evidence of learning that has already been acquired through formal, informal and non-formal learning and experience. 

    This qualification and the component modules have been compared with the trends, findings and curricula of mainly European universities, such as the:
  • Higher Certificate in Legal Studies offered by the Dublin Business School in Ireland.
  • Higher Certificate in Legal Studies, offered by the Institute of Technology, Carlow, Ireland.
  • Higher Certificate in Legal Studies, offered by Bournemouth Business School, International, Dorset, United Kingdom.

    Although generally this qualification and its component modules compare favourably with their international counterparts, emphasis is continuously being placed on removing the current Eurocentric bias in order to Africanise and align the course offerings in accordance with UNISA's transformation policy.

    The International Comparability reveals similarity in terms of the following elements of the programmes.

    Philosophy, Aims and objectives of the Programme:
  • The intention to introduce students to some of the foundational legal principles and legal practice with the intention to prepare candidates for studies in the world of law, to improve candidates' basic proficiency in the English language in order to study in the fields of law; improve candidates' general computer skills, especially for business purposes; and to prepare candidates for further higher education opportunities.

    Course Content:
  • Similarities were found in the emphasis placed on communication skills which are embedded in the following modules; English for academic purposes, Language and Communication Skills. Similarities were also found in terms of fundamental principles of Law in modules such as Social Dimensions of Justice, Skills course for law students, Citizenship, Public Participation and Democracy Introduction to law and Introduction to criminal law. Furthermore, the development of research skills compares favourably with modules offered such as the Information literacy and research literacy for law.

  • Similarities were found in the approach to introduce students to some of the foundational legal principles and legal practice and prepare students for further studies in Law.

    Teaching and Assessment:
  • Similarities were found in terms of aspects such as independent and e-learning as well as integrated assessment including formative assessment (assignments), summative assessment (formal examinations) and continuous assessment.

    In Dublin Business School, the Higher Certificate in Legal Studies reveals the following similarities:
    The philosophy of this programme is to provide students with an appropriate base of relevant study in the area of law.

    The aims of the programme are:
  • To develop the students intellectual capacity and their practical skills in analysing legal problems.
  • To provide students with a sound theoretical framework and a comprehensive perspective of the legal system.
  • To give the students an appreciation of how the different sources of law interrelate.
  • To give an appreciation of how the international legal system operates.
  • To prepare students for entry to professional courses.

    The objectives of the Higher Certificate in Legal Studies are that on graduation students will have:
  • A clear understanding of the fundamental principles of the branches of law dealt with on the syllabus.
  • Be able to identify, analyse and find solutions to legal problems.
  • Be able to express opinions on legal issues with conciseness and clarity.
  • Be able to assist in the management and function of a legal practice.
  • Have a clear understanding of the fundamental rights and duties of the State and of individuals.
  • Understand the sources and regulatory framework of EU law and its impact on domestic law.
  • An ability to express legal terms in a manner that is understood by all.

    Students are aware of employer expectations on graduating, enhances their communication skills and time management while positioning the student for academic development during the course of their studies.

    Awareness of transferable skills and their applicability in 'real-life' situations, projects undertaken and how they are applied in different circumstances so that students can take ownership of your own career management. Students will be able to develop realistic career plans and initiate and sustain professional networks and relationships to encourage opportunities for employment and internships. Students will present themselves and their skills, attributes, experiences and qualifications, through effective job applications, Curriculum vitae (CVs), interviews and voluntary activities. This will enable students to develop the necessary skills to compete effectively for a broad range of employment, postgraduate study options and innovative opportunities available to them and further develop lifelong learning and continuous professional development.

    Because of the broad spectrum of subjects studied, career opportunities for those who progress to the Bachelor's Degree (BA) in Legal Studies and the Bachelor of Laws (Hons) are numerous. The wide-ranging nature of knowledge and skills gained by such graduates makes them an attractive proposition for any prospective employer. Graduates have the opportunity to add value for both employers and themselves on a daily basis.

    They can test theories, apply concepts and undertake practical project work. Many will pursue a professional legal qualification either as solicitors (Law Society) or barristers (Kings Inns). Others may wish to professionally qualify outside the jurisdiction in England & Wales or indeed the US. Graduates may also pursue Legal Executive qualifications through the Institute of Legal Executives. Students wishing to pursue further qualifications can proceed to postgraduate programmes up to Masters Level or beyond. Regardless of students' career choices, students' legal training is certain to provide prospective employers or institutions of further study with a solid platform from which to recruit.

    The Higher Certificate in Legal Studies is taught mainly through lectures and tutorials, with students taking responsibility for a significant amount of study outside scheduled class times. Assessment takes a variety of forms, including essays and individual and group assignments and of course formal examinations. The majority of subjects are assessed through a combination of coursework and examination.

    In the Institute of Technology, Carlow, Ireland the Higher Certificate in Legal Studies reveals the following similarities:
  • This programme in Legal Studies will equip students with a broad knowledge of the Irish legal system and of the fundamental legal principles and subjects. There are two broad themes running through the course: Law and transferable Business Skills. Students will take modules on the core law subjects of Constitutional Law, Criminal Law, the Law of Torts, Contract Law, Land Law and Legal Research and Communications. In addition, the programme also provides some non-law subjects that are designed to improve students IT, communications and office management skills and these business modules include: Information Technology; Management; Accounting; Marketing and Human Resources Management. This programme provides the core stream of law modules combined with transferable business skills, providing graduates with a wide choice of options for a diverse range of careers or further study. Modules in legal research and writing provide students with the skills required by this discipline for independent learning and research.

    Graduates of the Higher Certificate programme have many diverse career options available including legal roles such as legal executive, law clerk or legal secretary. There are also a range of diverse careers available in many sectors such as the Gardai, Defence Forces; government agencies; banking; property management; insurance; taxation; accounting; retail management and many others.

    Lectures - communication of knowledge and ideas from the lecturer to the student. Problem Solving Exercises - student will work as part of a team and will work together to resolve various legal scenarios. Class Discussion/Debate - Students will be encouraged to actively participate in the class sessions which will develop their analytical and communication skills. E-Learning - It is envisaged that the module will be supported with on-line learning materials. Self-Direct Independent Learning - the emphasis on independent learning will develop a strong and autonomous work and learning practices.

    In the Bournemouth Business School United Kingdom (UK), the Higher Certificate in Legal Studies reveals the following similarities:
    Vocational courses in Legal Studies enable students to study certain concepts and learn specific English communication skills associated with careers in law and legal services.

    The course also includes professional skills, which provide practice in the business communication skills relevant to students' professional lives after study. 

    This qualification allows for both horizontal and vertical articulation possibilities.

    Horizonal Articulation:
    This qualification articulates horizontally with other cognate Higher Certificates such as Office Administration and Human Resources at Level 5.

    Vertical Articulation:
    This qualification articulates vertically at Level 6 with cognate Advanced Certificates in areas such as Administration and Human Resources and with Diplomas in:
  • Law.
  • Labour Law.
  • Corporate Law. 





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    1. University of South Africa 

    All qualifications and part qualifications submitted for public comment, or registered on the National Qualifications Framework, are public property. Thus, the only payment that can be made for them is for service and reproduction: it is illegal to sell this material for profit. If the material is reproduced or quoted, the South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) should be acknowledged as the source.