Semester Abroad in South Africa

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University of the Witwatersrand School of Law, Johannesburg


The University of the Witwatersrand (Wits) is located in Johannesburg, a vibrant, culturally diverse and leading commercial city in South Africa. The history of Wits is inextricably linked with mining, scholarship excellence, and political and civic activism. With a current student population of 25,000 and more than 100,000 graduates in its 85-year history, Wits will continue to make its mark both nationally and internationally.

Founded in 1922, Wits's Oliver Schreiner School of Law has built a reputation as South Africa's premier center for legal education. Wits’s outstanding academic reputation and sustained stance against social injustice has earned it the respect of the international community and has attracted international students and researchers. The School of Law has particular strengths in constitutional law, environmental law, administrative law, and public interest law, among other areas. Wits is home to a number of strong clinics and research centers, including the Wits Law Clinic, the Centre for Applied Legal Studies, and the Mandela Institute, which focuses on law and global economic policy. It is also home to the South African Journal on Human Rights, the most cited legal publication in South Africa.

Wits is proud to have some of South Africa’s pre-eminent legal academics on its teaching staff. Members of staff have acted as advisors and consultants to government departments, international organizations, and business in the private sector. Two of the prominent legal journals in South Africa, the South African Law Journal and the South African Journal on Human Rights, are edited by members of the academic staff.

The culturally diverse student body, comprising 1,300 undergraduate LL.B. students and 270 post-graduate students, is represented by a vibrant Law Students’ Council.

Illustrious alumni include Nelson Mandela, first President of democratic South Africa; Advocate George Bizos SC, one of the world’s top human rights lawyers; Justice Arthur Chaskalson, former President of the Constitutional Court of South Africa (1994-2001) and former Chief Justice (2001-2005); and Advocate Pansy Tlakula, Chief Electoral Officer for the Independent Electoral Commission.

Location

The School of Law is located on Wits’s West Campus, in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. Its close proximity to the Constitutional Court of South Africa makes Wits an ideal location to study the fascinating constitutional law issues particular to South Africa. Visiting students will find many attractions on campus in the form of natural history and medical museums, galleries, theaters and other performance spaces, and a planetarium. There are also over one hundred student organizations and societies, ranging in interests from politics and debate to scuba diving. Off campus, the city of Johannesburg offers a wide variety of restaurants and nightclubs, markets and museums, and all the other trappings of a cosmopolitan city.

Course Offerings and Credits

HLS J.D. students studying at Wits for a semester are able to choose from a wide range of LL.B. and LL.M. courses that include specializations in commercial law, communications law, company law, environmental law, human rights law, labor law, public international law, public law, regulatory law, pensions law, and health law. Generally, Wits requests that exchange students take at least one LL.B. course to help better integrate them into Wits’s social and academic environment.

LL.M. courses meet once a week on weekday evenings, from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m., or on Saturday mornings. The number of times per week LL.B. courses meet varies; LL.B. lectures are 45 minutes each and could be held once per week for a “double lecture” (i.e., two 45-minute lectures combined in one meeting for a total of 1.5 hours), or twice per week (45 minutes per meeting). 

General information on the LL.B. or LL.M. programs is also available from Slindo Shamase, Law School Administrative Manager.

Course loads will vary from student to student. HLS students may receive a total of 10 to 12 ungraded classroom credits in relation to work done through the semester abroad program.  Please see the HLS semester abroad webpage for more information about course requirements and semester abroad credit calculations.

Language Proficiency

All courses and exams are conducted in English; study materials are also all in English.

Academic Calendar

The academic year is divided into two semesters. Current term dates are available here.

Application Process and Timeline

Students interested in the Wits exchange program should follow the semester abroad application process described on the HLS semester abroad webpage.

The HLS International Legal Studies staff will inform approved students if there are any additional application materials to complete.

The exchange agreement with Wits stipulates that one HLS JD student may study at Wits each year. HLS may recommend more than one candidate but ultimately selections will be made by Wits.

Housing

Accommodations for exchange students are generally arranged at the International House. Students need to apply well in advance on the relevant application form, available by request from Gita Patel, Services Manager in the Wits International Office. Ms. Patel can be contacted by email: gita.patel@wits.ac.za. 

Contact Information

For further information, please contact either Sara Zucker at (617) 495-9030 / szucker@law.harvard.edu or Alicia Clemente at (617) 496-8732 / aclemente@law.harvard.edu.

Last modified: April 17, 2014

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