BHUBANESWAR, July 15 -- There has been a paradigm shift in legal education after the government decided to open national law schools in every state. This has not only challenged mediocrity in law faculties across the country, but has also succeeded in attracting academically-inclined students to law. "Now, students are joining law schools not by chance, but by clear choice. And since they are coming through the difficult Common Law Admission Test (CLAT), we know their standards are good," begins Prof V Nagaraj, vice-chancellor of National Law University of Odisha (NLOU), Cuttack. Prof Nagaraj graduated with an LLB from Dharwad University in 1987, holds an LLM from Gulbarga University, an MPhil from Bangalore University and a PhD from Mysore University. He joined National Law School of India University, Bangalore in 1990 and was appointed assistant professor of law there in 1992, associate professor of law in 1997, additional professor of law in 2000 and as a professor of law in 2006. He was appointed as the registrar of NSLIU on September 1, 2008.
Located at Naraj on the outskirts of Cuttack, on the banks of river Mahanadi, NLUO is the 13th and youngest national law school in the country. At present, NLUO houses 600 UG students and 35 PG students.
NLUO aims to produce not just lawyers with big names, but also socially-conscious law graduates. "The very purpose of a subject such as law is to strive for social order," says Prof Nagaraj. "NLUO is a young school and has a lot of potential for development." Prof Nagaraj was in charge of the Legal Services Clinic at NSLIU. He joined NLUO on March 15 this year, replacing Chandra Krishnamurthy, who has been appointed VC of Pondicherry University.
Today, a law graduate with a sound legal education has a myriad of career choices, from being solicitors to judge or legal consultants. Keeping this in mind, NLUO has a specially designed curriculum. "Multi-disciplinary skills are required for students to hold many options. For this, the school offers co-operative learning opportunities through joint degree programmes innovatively infused with the curricula," says Prof Nagaraj who also teaches industrial relations law and trade union law at the University. Currently, NLUO offers two UG programmes - BBA LLB and BA LLB - and PhD and LLM programmes.
Prof Nagaraj feels teachers, students and library are ultimate assets for any law school. And these three assets are what he wants to improve in the next three years so that NLUO can stand out in the country.
Call for willful teachers
Admitting shortage of good faculty as being one of the biggest roadblocks in development of legal education in India, the VC feels institutions imparting law education today are not in a position to cater to demand. "Most of the law graduates try to get into practice, law firms, and corporate sector. Teaching has to be made more attractive and postgraduates in law should be trained to become good teachers. Now, though we have students coming in by choice, teachers end up by chance," he says.
At NLUO, faculty development programmes are organised every semester to bridge this gap. "We have committed teachers, but they need to be further developed. That is where faculty development programmes come into the picture. Also, we have asked teachers to come up with a NLUO official journal under which, each teacher will have to write an article for the journal. Most of the articles generated are from judges and reputed lawyers. In course of time, we will send this journal for peer review so that the standard of journal will improve. This is one way of promoting research among teachers," says Prof Nagaraj.
On the to-do list
The VC wants the university to be self-sufficient in three years. For raising resources, he has drawn up a plan-of-action. "The government has done its best by enacting legislation, granting autonomy to us and supporting the university with infrastructure. In the future, we have to be on our own. We cannot depend on government resources. We should raise our own resources and for that we have decided to open short-term training courses for industry and government, taking up consultant projects again for the industry, government and some international organisations. This will help our faculty get additional resources and 20 to 25 per cent of it will go to the institution's corpus because the projects would come through the institution," he informs.
Some new and innovative courses are also in the offing. One-year programmes in hospital administration, medical law and ethics for doctors, similar programme on contract negotiation and management for engineers, skill development for lawyers are some of them. "In January, we will hold a programme on Labour Law in collaboration with International Bar Association
and Continuing Legal Education," says the VC.
Prof Nagaraj has decided to do away with providing honours subjects in the university and has instead started compulsory courses in 38 subjects, eight optional courses and 14 non-law courses. "After joining this institution, I had reviewed honours education and found that the university has not risen to the level of offering good honours courses. Besides, doing honours in one subject brings down the employability of students. There has to be some value addition and these compulsory and optional courses will give opportunity to students to do in-depth research."
The university is also in an advanced stage of negotiations with foreign universities for collaborations for both UG and PG courses. "We are looking forward to exchange programmes in the near future with Universities under European Union, Oklahoma and Pennsylvania," he adds. The VC when not teaching, loves listening to classical music.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from New Indian Express. For any query with respect to this article or any other content requirement, please contact Editor at email@example.com