At 25 years and 3 months, Dr Marko Svicevic has become the youngest LLD (Doctorate of Laws) recipient from the UP Faculty of Law. Dr Svicevic completed his LLB in 2017, and started his LLM research in 2018, which was subsequently upgraded to an LLD, and in November 2019 he submitted his thesis titled “United Nations Security Council authorisation of regional enforcement action: legal implications of Resolution 2337 (2-17) in The Gambia”. Dr Svicevic will graduate on 9 April 2020. PDBY caught up Dr Svicevic to discuss his journey to receiving his doctorate. We also spoke to the PDBY alumni about his future plans, his advice for junior students, and those that helped him on his way to this impressive accomplishment (he nearly forgot to thank his parents).
How did it feel when you finally got to the finish line and submitted your thesis?
It was a big relief when I eventually submitted. When I submitted I knew it wasn’t the end of the road for the LLD, because you have to wait for the reports of the examiners, and in my case I submitted in November last year, and their reports eventually came through January this year. When I submitted it was a lot of relief, but there was also a lot of anticipation while I was waiting for the reports to come in.
What was your reaction when it was suggested to you that you should have your LLM fast-tracked to an LLD?
That proposal came from my supervisor, and I was quite overwhelmed to think that the LLM study could be converted to a doctoral study, but I also foresaw that it was going to be a lot more work than I initially anticipated just to complete the LLM. But also with that said, it’s quite a process, so when my supervisor suggested the upgrade I had to prepare some reports on why it was feasible to convert it. Then what happens is you need someone external from UP to support the upgrade, that’s also a process, so we waited quite a while for the external report to come through, and then of course, it needs to be approved within the faculty. So, it’s great news when you hear of the suggestion to upgrade, but then automatically you must understand that it takes time. It takes a lot of work, but I think the relief really came last year March when the upgrade was approved by the faculty itself.
“… youngest LLD (Doctorate of Laws) recipient from the UP Faculty of Law“
You got your BA, you got your LLB. Why didn’t you stop there? What pushed you to go further to get your LLM and then your LLD? Was it always the plan to go to the LLD?
I did the LLB anyway, because without it you can’t really practice, but I think from the LLB to studying for the LLM it had a lot to do with my final year LLB dissertation. That’s when I first started exploring the topic on the use of force in international law. Once I had completed that dissertation I already had a good idea that I would like to pursue further studies in this, and that’s when I first really considered that I should perhaps take up an LLM in the faculty.
Fortunately, I was referred to Professor Erica De Wet and her SARChi (South African Research Chair Initiative) project as a possibility to carry on those studies. Professor De Wet is really one of the experts on that topic, and I think I was fortunate enough to go ahead and do the LLM under her. When the suggestion came through to upgrade I thought “yes we can expand the study” and that was also great.
What made you decide on the topic of the use of force in international law?
I’ve always been fascinated with international law and how it regulates interactions between states and organisations, and I think what really fascinates me is how states resorts to military force in the international arena. For a long time I knew that there are regulations, but I really wanted to go deeper into it. I remember in my undergraduate studies, we would hear now and then of the UN charter, and then you would actually go and see what it says. It just fascinates me.
What has your journey been from a fresh-faced first year to your LLD? Has it been harder than expected?
When I first started at UP I didn’t think I’d be where I am. I don’t suppose you go into your first year already looking at your doctorate at the university. I think it’s good to have that vision, but you also need to be realistic and take things one day at a time. I can’t really say I came into UP seeing myself graduate with a doctorate from the university. I don’t want to say it’s something that just happened, because it takes a lot of time and planning. It’s been quite an up and down journey, because I did the BA Law first, at some point I was very fascinated with criminology, because that’s what I majored in, and then I moved to the LLB. There have been a lot of challenges. Probably finances have been the biggest challenge. I’m very grateful that NSFAS funded the last year of my LLB, and the NRF, the National Research Foundation, actually funded the LLM, and doctoral study as well.
“I’ve always been fascinated with international law and how it regulates interactions between states and organisations…”
Being the youngest person to receive their LLD from the UP law faculty, is it something you’re particularly proud of or is it an added bonus?
I’d have to say it was an added bonus. I don’t think I went into it aiming for this, but I think it’s something that came out as a result of all the work that got put in. I don’t think that from day one I sat and told myself “You’re going to be the youngest graduate”, but it happened. It’s worth noting that the faculty has quite a history of achievements, and in recent years they’ve had quite a few young graduates at these ages. So, I’m by far not the first one to achieve something like this. I am the youngest, but the faculty has quite a few people that have graduated quite young with a doctoral degree.
You’re now going to be at UJ to do your fellowship there. What are you hoping for the future of your career?
At the moment I’d just like to continue with the research I’m currently at. There were some plans to perhaps do a book at some stage, but I think that’s a year or two’s goal from now. The immediate goal is probably to pay back some loans. Yeah, let’s go with that. The immediate goal is to pay back some loans and pay back NSFAS, and then after that hopefully continue the research and hopefully get some collaborations to engage with the research further.
” I don’t think I went into it aiming for this, but I think it’s something that came out as a result of all the work that got put in.“
From where you’re sitting now, what advice do you have for younger students who are currently studying their LLB or want to pursue a similar path that you took?
The advice I would give is just to work hard. Sitting where I’m sitting now, I think often the case is you may look at post-graduate degree as something that’s really impossible to achieve, despite the fact that we often hear of people achieving it. But I think its really doable, so the advice I would give is to carry on working hard and make use of the resources that you’ve got at the university. I’ve had the privilege of visiting quite a few other universities in South Africa, and I think UP is quite well placed to assist in many areas. There are many areas that more work is needed, but I would say work hard, put in the hours. It’s really a day-to day thing, you take each day as it comes. Hard work and make use of the opportunities that you’re given.
Along your journey you’ve probably had a lot of help, because getting a degr ee isn’t a one person thing. Whether it’s family, faculty or friends, is there anyone in particular that you’d like to thank?
First and foremost I have to give thanks to my supervisor, Professor Erica De Wet. There are many parties involved in this success, and I think I’m just one of those parties. Another party I have to thank is the faculty for their ongoing support. The Oliver Tambo Law Library, that has always been ready to assist with the resources. Then of course, my parents and my family and friends for their support, and the NRF for their funding.