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UGC’s new rule for mandatory 6-year LLB, 2-year LLM make no sense, says everyone

One-year LLM scrapped in one year?
One-year LLM scrapped in one year?

Question marks surround the  5 July University Grants Commission (UGC) notification that appeared to raise a death knell for the new one-year LLM degree and the five-year integrated LLB degree to replace them respectively with a mandatory two-year LLM and an LLB of six years.

The Times of India had reported on Tuesday:

UGC wants universities to extend integrated courses duration: Higher educational institutions offering integrated courses may have to revamp their curriculum and extend the duration of their popular programmes now. The University Grants Commission has laid down new norms on the duration and curriculum of integrated courses, and many programmes being offered now may not fit the bill.

However, only in 2013 India’s two-year LLM degree had been halved in duration to one year, with most national law schools scrapping their two-year LLM offerings and shifting completely to the new LLM degree that was predicted to be more popular and useful to compete with overseas LLMs. Furthermore, India’s 15 national law universities and many other of the well-known law schools provide only the five-year integrated LLM degree program.

The “specification of degrees” notification provided for the minimum mandatory course duration for 129 Indian degrees.

It stated:

“If the Integrated/Dual Degree Programmes intend to offer two separate degrees with an option for an interim exit or lateral entry, the duration of the Integrated/Dual Degree Programme must not be less than the duration equal to the sum total of the prescribed duration of the two degrees that are being combined in the Integrated/Dual Degree Programme […]”

And:

“The academic philosophy/rationale behind offering such integrated Programmes should not be for economizing on course requirements or award of double degrees in a fast track. On the contrary, an integrated approach should involve a vertical or interdisciplinary discourse.”

Legally India has learned that the gazette notification is actually the report of the UGC’s Standing Committee on the Specification of Degrees, headed by Jamia Milia Islamia University Prof Dr Furqan Qamar, which was formed over two years ago. Qamar told Legally India that the committee had submitted its final report around 10 months ago. He added that the nomenclature – the details and specifications - for the law degrees was recommended by his committee before the Prof Madhav Menon headed LLM committee’s recommendations for slashing the 2-year Indian LLM degree to one-year was accepted by the UGC.

Qamar also said that after his committee had made recommendations, a “law-related committee” was formed to separately look into the nomenclature of the LLB and LLM degrees. He said he was not aware if the law-related committee had taken any final decision on the nomenclature yet.

Nalsar Hyderabad vice chancellor Faizan Mustafa told Legally India that when he had heard of such a nomenclature being recommended two years ago, he had written to then Union law minister Kapil Sibal opposing the recommendation. Sibal, said Mustafa, had said that he would look into the matter but he had soon handed over the law ministry to Ashwini Kumar.

Madhava Menon commented: “I think so far as LLM is concerned, either the UGC might have decided to allow both [the one year and the two year LLM degrees], or they should’ve withdrawn [the one-year LLM notification]. Many universities are now running both one-year and two year [LLM] also. One-year [LLM] is intended for a slightly different purpose and [in] two-year [LLM] the objects are different. But I have no idea about the decision of the UGC in this regard.”

“Is it not laughable?” said Mustafa, adding: “Integration of knowledge is the norm. This has been an old UGC rule that when you combine two courses as an incentive you will give [those enrolling] one year concession. Now they cannot go back on this integration of degrees. It may be a problem of some private university but the UGC which deals with public universities as well cannot one fine morning say this. They cannot be changing it without looking into how the one-year LLM will work. It was only last year that the first batch [of one-year LLMs] was graduating. If they want to go back then it should be a reasoned decision. No committee has looked into the failures [of the one-year LLM]. [If they go forward with it] we are going to oppose it. It’ll be an arbitrary decision.”

Mustafa added: “On a different plane, the government of India and the UGC, they don’t see eye to eye on the issue of innovation in terms of courses. On the one hand the [Ministry of Human Resource and Development] says we should launch more and more new and innovative courses, The MHRD says we should have interdisciplinary courses. To have interdisciplinary courses [the universities] have to come up with new nomenclatures. [But by the UGC] restricting the universities’ power to have new and integrated nomenclatures of degrees [it is] impinging on their autonomy and it’s a contradiction in terms.”

UGC chairman Prof Ved Prakash and other UGC members were not reachable for comment since yesterday.

Clarification: Most national law schools’ current five-year LLBs are unlikely to be caught by the new rule because they don’t permit “lateral entry” or “interim exit”

UGC Specification of Degrees July 2014

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