‘I will be happy if 30-40% of our students receive scholarships’: NLSIU Bengaluru VC

National Law School of India University (NLSIU) VC on admitting 300 students in July, revamping the 3-year LLB, scholarships, and Facebook.

National Law School of India University (NLSIU Bangalore) VC, Sudhir Krishnaswamy (Image: NLSIU)National Law School of India University (NLSIU Bangalore) VC, Sudhir Krishnaswamy (Image: NLSIU)

Pritha Roy Choudhury | January 16, 2024 | 10:17 AM IST

NEW DELHI: Established in 1986, the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) pioneered reforms in legal education in India. In July 2024, it will admit 300 new students, its largest batch ever. In a conversation with Careers360, its vice-chancellor Sudhir Krishnaswamy spoke about how NLUs are transforming the three-year LLB programme, its domicile reservation, expansion plans, scholarships, teaching law in regional languages and being a member of Facebook’s Oversight Board. Edited excerpts below

Q. NLSIU Bangalore pioneered the reforms in legal education in the country. How do you see the new NLUs coming up?

A. If we go back in time, Professor Madhava Menon (founder and first director of NLSIU) tried to do two or three things differently from what was happening in legal education. He introduced a very strong Socratic pedagogy built around the method of teaching law. Second, he ensured that we focused on building residential schools that allowed learning both inside and outside the classroom. Third, he emphasised on a very multidisciplinary approach to legal education.

There are several challenges. I think some NLUs have very good infrastructure but some are still struggling. The key is academic quality. NLUs can ensure that they have the best faculty in the country. That way many issues will be taken care of.

Q. NLSIU’s expansion plan includes a horizontal reservation for domicile candidates. Can you please explain?

A. The NLU model was created through state universities; states created national universities with a national character. States were not very happy to create these national universities. However, over time, the push towards more democratisation led to a demand for more inclusion. It’s not surprising and the new NLUs, from their birth itself, have provided for some local reservations. I feel we are very national in footprint. When we say “national”, we don’t mean just the student composition but also the faculty and staff composition.

Also read How top law colleges are taking a new approach to legal aid

Q. The same expansion plan also talks about scholarships and academic support policies. If they have been implemented in NLSIU, what was the response?

A. Apart from university scholarships, there is significant support from alumni and some law firms. We have a large amount of scholarships that are supported by the state government. We also have the Aditya Birla Scholarship and some more by private foundations. Some 25% to 30% of our students receive some form of financial support already. I will be happier if 30-40% of our students receive scholarships. There has to be a push.

Q. What other changes are in the pipeline for NLSIU?

A. The first big change is that we will be welcoming 300 students this July, for the first time. We have increased our intake from 240 to 300. Second, soon we will be taking in international students for the first time. Admission of international students was stopped in 2020. But now, we have a new admission process. Candidates must write an online exam carried out by the university.

Our three-year LLB programme will see its first batch passing out in 2025. It is doing extremely well. We are also in the midst of a very large faculty recruitment process. We hope to recruit 30 to 40 faculty members this year. We have received more than 1,000 applications and hopefully, by February and March, we will start making the announcements.

We are also trying to adopt new ways of teaching skill-based learning – advocacy skills, mooting skills etc. We want to impart this training to every student who enrol with us.

Also read 3-year Vs 5-year: How the LLB courses compare on curriculum, legal job opportunities, challenges

Q. Why was the three-year LLB programme introduced?

A. When the five-year programme started, there was a strong sense that the three-year programme would fade away. But that did not happen. So, 35 years later, the number of people enrolling for the course is still very large and the programme has barely changed.

For us, it was a good opportunity to revamp the three-year programme. And the way we do that is by running a top-quality programme ourselves. We are confident that other colleges will try to use our entrance test data and emulate the kind of curriculum changes we have undertaken. NLUs have created this potential market (for the three-year programme), both with the national entrance exam and with the quality of curriculum and output.

Q. Are you thinking of expanding your online or hybrid programmes?

A. We run a very extensive range of online and hybrid programmes. But we run it primarily for diplomas and certificates. At the moment, we run one master’s degree – Masters in Business Law – in the hybrid mode. We are looking to expand this. I think in a year or two, we will be ready to enter the online and hybrid space for other degrees as well.

Q. Do you think we are prepared to teach law in regional languages?

A. I feel that it is a much longer project. I don’t think anybody has been able to do that. Even local law colleges are struggling. So, the idea of multiple-language educational support is complicated. But I do not doubt that developing multiple language skills is critical. We have to develop that internal ability and then, we’ll be able to make a wider offering.

Also read ‘CLAT exam in regional languages is impractical,’ says WBNUJS Kolkata vice-chancellor

Q. You are part of the Facebook Oversight Board which is responsible for developing content moderation policies and also decides on specific cases. How difficult is that job, especially in the context of India?

A. We have members from across the world. The decisions that we take are narrow slivers of what happens on the platforms. We look at community standards on the Meta platforms. And we look at international human rights law standards. We don’t make decisions on the implementation of local laws. So, within the community standards and international human rights law standards, we make content-based decisions which Meta is obliged to follow.

The corpus of cases that we have decided is available on the internet. They are very carefully written and are reasoned, short, readable decisions. Anybody can understand why we think that a certain piece of content should stay up or should go down. Secondly, for such a wide and diverse board to engage across continents, much of the time online, and to work cohesively, is an amazing institutional challenge. The Meta Oversight Board shows that it is possible today.

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