NLU Delhi explores ‘niche areas that intersect with law’: VC

With new law courses, foreign collaborations and research, National Law University Delhi explores areas where law and other disciplines intersect.

Prof GS Bajpai, Vice Chancellor, National Law University, DelhiProf GS Bajpai, Vice Chancellor, National Law University, Delhi

Sheena Sachdeva | January 19, 2024 | 11:35 AM IST

NEW DELHI: Recently, National Law University Delhi has launched a joint masters programme with School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London along with research affiliate programme, Eklavya, to bridge the gap between legal academia and the research community. GS Bajpai, who became vice chancellor of NLU Delhi in March 2023, spoke with Careers360 on its upcoming doctoral programme, fee hikes in the university, new criminal laws, placements and much more. Edited excerpts below.

Q. What new courses have been launched recently or are in the pipeline?

A. Our focus is to explore niche areas that intersect with law, develop an interdisciplinary approach and acquire a global perspective. This vision is reflected in our recently-launched joint MA/LLM in Environmental Justice in South Asia, that we have jointly developed with the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London. This course is one-of-a-kind.

Similarly, NLU Delhi has entered into a partnership with World Intellectual Property Organisation and Office of Comptroller General of Patents Design and TradeMarks, and Ministry of Commerce and Industry, to launch a joint masters in intellectual property law and management. This is another unique offering through which the law university forays into management education.

Our research centres have launched courses in specialised areas such as forensics, mental health and insolvency and bankruptcy.

Innovative academic courses are crucial but providing students with hands-on experience through legal-aid clinics, moot court competitions, simulated law practices, training in alternative dispute resolution techniques and negotiation strategies, is equally important. At NLU Delhi, we make sure our students inculcate those.

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Q. NLU Delhi has launched initiatives like Eklavya to foster academic research. How is it going?

A. It has been my long-standing belief that university spaces should be more open and accessible to all those who wish to learn and contribute towards knowledge creation. With this vision, we launched Eklavya, a research affiliate programme, to bridge the gap between legal academia and industry professionals who engage with the law in varied capacities. The uniqueness of the programme is that the “research affiliates” are at liberty to continue their professional engagements.

As part of the first cohort, we have selected three talented researchers who will be associated with NLU Delhi for one year.

Q. NLU spearheaded the ongoing criminal-law reforms. How will these laws benefit Indian citizens? Will this also be part of the curriculum across NLUs?

A. The penal law reforms are oriented towards addressing emerging crimes like organised crime, mob lynching, use of children for commission of crime, sexual intercourse by deceitful means, hit and runs, snatching, etc. The reform also imbibes the constitutional values by deleting regressive offences like sedition, unnatural offences, adultery, and attempt to suicide. For the first time, the reformative punishment of community service has been introduced. Priority has been given to offences against women and children by consolidating them in one chapter. All inchoate crimes are also under one chapter. The sections and chapters have also been reorganised. This will ease the understanding of penal law.

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Q. NLU Delhi collaborates with various international and national institutions. What has been the outcome of these partnerships?

A. Our international partnerships are aimed at strengthening our global standing, promoting cross-cultural understanding and addressing pressing academic and societal challenges through joint research, faculty and student exchange programmes and collaborative publications. This aligns with our aspiration to be a global leader in legal education and research.

The university, along with a few of its international partners, is currently engaged in developing a framework for joint supervision of doctoral students.

All our international academic and research collaborations are grounded in a shared intention to collaborate on joint research projects within agreed-upon fields to address societal challenges and contribute to academic advancements, and culminate in a collaborative academic journal.

NLU Delhi is also keen on engaging with faculty and scholars from its partner institutions through its International Visitors Programme.

On the faculty and student exchanges front, our collaborations focus on exchange for study and research. These exchanges aim to foster cross-cultural understanding, promote academic collaboration and enhance the educational experiences of students and faculty. Further, as part of our international engagements, NLU Delhi intends to collaborate closely with its partners for organising lectures, talks and conferences, in an attempt to enrich the academic and research environment at both institutions.

Q. There are several NLUs that avoid participation in the National Institutional Ranking Framework exercise. What is your suggestion for institutes on ranking and how do you think it benefits institutes and students?

A. NIRF is a ranking methodology for higher education institutions in India, with the larger objective to improve ranking of Indian universities in world university rankings. The parameters that have global appeal, such as research output, etc., as well as those that are country-specific reflecting problems and prospects like infrastructure, percentage of women students and others, are included and clearly reflect the standing of the institution and is indicative to the prospective students as well as to the law school to initiate changes.

The relatively-recent NLUs that are still not part of NIRF need to be encouraged so that they become part of 'mainstream' NLUs and become representative of a well-defined structure of excellence in the field of legal education in India. There is, however, training and awareness that needs to be imparted as well as mentoring by well-established NLUs.

Q. A report mentioned that NLU Delhi has the highest number of non-regular teachers. How are these staffing decisions made?

A. The referred report is not as per the actual practice being followed in NLU Delhi. In fact, all our teachers are full-time. There is a separate category of teachers – distinguished professors, visiting professors, and professors of practice – who are appointed on a fixed-term basis. The selection committee of NLU Delhi makes the decision in accordance with the existing vacancies as well as the need for inducting new faculty and staff.

Q. There is also concern that NLUs’ fees have been sky-rocketing. What is your view?

A. After NLU Delhi’s establishment in 2008, the first fee hike was in 2013-14. The tuition fee was raised from Rs 70,000 to Rs 85,000 but no other component of the fee was increased. In 2018-19, the university provided air-conditioning in the hostels on demand from students. The hostel facilities fee of Rs 20,000 was introduced to meet the operational cost of air-conditioning. The expenditure on commissioning the facilities was met out of a government grant.

The university made the present increase in fee of the BA LLB (Hons) programme after a period of 10 years. NLU Delhi’s fee was far less than that of other similarly-placed NLUs. After this increase, the fee structure of NLU Delhi is almost at par with them. Earlier, the total fee was Rs 1,86,000, excluding mess charges. The revised fee structure applicable from 2023-24 works out to Rs 3,20,000, excluding mess charges.

Further, the university also provides financial assistance on need-cum-merit basis and fee concession on case-to-case basis. Most students from the weaker sections of the society will be covered under these schemes.

Q. What major curriculum changes does legal education need?

A. The legal profession has changed much over the years and the curriculum needs to be adaptive and responsive to the change. Legal education needs to incorporate practical training which can be integrated by way of clinical education. It is also important that courses that are taught are reflective of the developments in society and address its complex challenges. NLU Delhi ensures that our students not only excel in theoretical knowledge but are also given opportunities to apply these learnings. Our courses cover topics that are at an intersection of law and niche areas like artificial intelligence and cyber law, health law, climate change law and many others.

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Q. The current recession is impacting placements across institutions. How is NLU Delhi faring with placements?

A. Since the pandemic, the job market has indeed been sluggish. However, our students receive quality legal education and practical training through which they have managed to consistently receive impressive job offers.

Our students have received offers from top-tier law firms, banks, public sector undertakings, government organisations, research institutes and think-tanks. This year, our students have also performed brilliantly in the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) examination and Judicial Services Examination. Five of our alumni successfully cleared the UPSC 2022 and more than seven cleared the Judicial Services Examination.

NLU Delhi students have won international scholarships and fellowships and have been successful in pursuing their higher education goals at top global universities.

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