03 January 2009

NLU Faculty Meeting Part 1

I attended the NLU Faculty meeting this morning. Don’t tell Dean Brauch, but all the faculty stand when his counterpart, the Vice-Chancellor, enters the room (but maybe it has something to do with his having served on the High Court (= Supreme Court) of Rajasthan). I benefited from listening to reports on finances (good), student registration for the spring semester (a few stragglers), attendance and discipline issues, an IT update, job placement, and upcoming special events.

Aside from the implications of the younger students at NLU and some cultural differences, much of what I heard at the NLU faculty meeting sounded familiar. NLU is looking into offering online classes. This makes more sense here than the U.S. context because Indian legal education utilizes lectures to a greater extent than we do. Nonetheless, I’ll do what I can do caution against the implicit gnosticism of distance education.

Students can leave the NLU campus for personal reasons only eight times a month. Probably only a few undergraduate institutions in American are as strict on this and other student personal conduct matters. I have concluded that part of this is cultural (India is simply more traditional in its mores) but part is due to the special place of the national law universities in Indian legal education.  

Until recently, almost all universities in India were under the control of their State governments. The state governor is the chancellor and curricula are set nationally. Traditional universities have no autonomy and any changes to the curriculum must be legislatively approved. Faculty and political parties had vested interests in preventing change (the regulators had been captured). India came to realize in the late 1980s that such an approach was simply not up to the task. Rather than reforming the current structure, however, Parliament created new classes of institutions largely free from Government control. Schools or institutions of law, technology, and management were the beneficiaries of this liberalization.

There are now 11 “national” law schools of which Jodhpur is one of the oldest. The chancellor of each national law school is its State’s Chief Justice. From what I can tell, the Chief Justices leave each school almost complete autonomy to structure its curriculum. All of them have adopted a five-year undergraduate program. At Jodhpur, all students take a “double first” (i.e., a double major) in law and management, science, or public policy. Other national law universities have different double major possibilities. Students have flocked to the national law universities which have curricular freedom as well as smaller classes. Thus, tuition is much, much higher. And there is much less government subsidized and institutional financial aid than in the U.S. Thus, since parents foot the bill to a greater extent than in the U.S., there is a substantial emphasis on institutionally assuring that their children show up for class and are offered fewer distractions.

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