Law students should face a stringent English test and have their degree programmes extended from three to four years, according to a government-commissioned report on legal education reforms. The consultants also recommended the current one-year Postgraduate Certificate in Laws (PCLL) be abolished and replaced by four months of professional training following the four-year undergraduate programme. The two consultants from Australia suggested a Use of English in Law test be developed to ensure students meet language requirements. The three-part test would be undertaken by all law students at the end of their first year. Those failing would be allowed to continue the programme but would have to undertake remedial tuition. The admission requirement for the Use of English in the A-level exam should be raised from grade D to C, the report suggested. The report, prepared by the Steering Committee on the Review of Legal Education and Training in Hong Kong, aims to address local law graduates' declining professional and language standards. Professor Paul Redmond, dean of the law faculty at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, and Christopher Roper, director of the College of Law Alliance in Sydney, complied the recommendations over the past 18 months. Solicitor-General Robert Allcock said yesterday the Government did not have a position on the report and would listen to public views. Albert Chen Hung-yee, Dean of the University of Hong Kong's Faculty of Law, said: 'We don't see that the problem with English is unique to law students. We think a three-year programme is sufficient. And we do welcome the idea to increase the practical training elements in legal education.' The Acting Dean of City University's law school, David Smith, said the programme should be for five-years and consist of two years of basic education and three years of law. Both the Law Society and Bar Association said an English language test would help improve language proficiency among lawyers. From June next year the Bar Association will introduce an entrance exam for applicants before they can start their job training. The Law Society also said it was considering similar measures. Practising solicitor Kwok Ka-yin said: 'Some trainees that I've hired have finished the PCLL and do have good English. But they seem to be so vacant and lack common sense. I guess it's something to do with the degree programme and the PCLL which are not practical enough.' The report also supports a Law Society proposal for a law academy to be established to run professional training and continuing education courses for qualified lawyers. It recommended overseas law graduates undertake a six-month familiarisation course before taking the proposed legal practical course. A legal qualifying council should also be established to oversee qualifying to practice. A second-stage review will start by the end of the year.