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‘Freedom of choice’: NLSIU radically overhauls LLB course structure, following Nalsar, Oxford, Harvard, NUS into electives style

NLSIU moves into heavily electives-based course structure
NLSIU moves into heavily electives-based course structure

NLSIU Bangalore has converted several compulsory papers part of its LLB degree into elective papers, following Nalsar Hyderabad and top international universities such as Oxford, Harvard and NUS.

Under NLSIU’s new choice-based structure of the LLB course, third, fourth and fifth-year students will be required to attain a minimum credit score instead of completing a total number of courses, in order to graduate. Under the current system, each mandatory course carried four credits.

“This is a move towards freedom of choice in education,” former 2016-17 NLSIU Student Bar Association (SBA) president Aman Saxena explained. “The purpose of such a structure is to ensure that while a student is well versed with the basic principles of law, he is allowed to build upon these principles in certain areas of his interest. This will enable him to specialize in an area of law that he wishes to practise or pursue further studies in. It also benefits teachers as they teach those students who have an active interest in that course.”

“In fact, such a choice-based system from III Year onwards already exists in other leading law schools of the country such as NALSAR and Similar choice based systems are also the norm in eminent universities (Harvard, Oxford, NUS) around the world,” he added.

The new system will come into force on 1 July 2017 with the only compulsory courses being those made mandatory by the Bar Council of India (BCI) under Schedule II of the Legal Education Rules 2008, and courses consistent with NLSIU’s ethos of creating social engineers (such as human rights law, and law poverty and development). All remaining courses from the third year onward will be elective courses.

The change had been proposed by Saxena and Shraddha Gome of the SBA and was then endorsed by four senior faculty members in early 2016. It was tabled for discussions before faculty in a two-day internal conference on the future of the curriculum at NLSIU in May.

Finally a recommendation committee was formed with chairpersons of the undergraduate and postgraduate councils, one faculty member who is an NLSIU alumnus and Saxena. The recommendations of this committee were placed before NLSIU’s academic council, which approved it.

NLSIU vice chancellor Prof Venkat Rao has not responded to calls and messages seeking comment since Tuesday.

Saxena commented that the five-year LLB program was a mix of foundational courses and specialised courses, and while the BCI mandates foundational courses, the specialised courses in more niche areas of law are not of interest to the general practitioner. For example, a civil lawyer does not generally refer to insurance law principles in his practice, but does refer often to company law and the law of contracts. And lawyers representing banks don’t necessarily need to be well-versed in the principles of banking law, unless they are employed with the legal department of a bank.

This would expose students to a wider variety of courses as well as to an array of faculty from India and abroad, and that giving this freedom by the third year would ensure that students have already completed BCI mandated courses and are mature enough to make their selection.

“We do not dispute that all the other courses, are important. But our point is that they would only be relevant to those who seek to pursue such a career option and not to all students. On the other hand, there are other niche courses like insolvency law, securities law, specialized criminal legislations and so on that could be just as or more important to a student’s career after law school. By making courses like banking and insurance law compulsory, a student loses the opportunity to study these courses,” Saxena said.

“Similarly, a student who wishes to explore her interest in International Law or perhaps pursue an LLM in such a subject cannot choose subjects like international humanitarian law or international commercial arbitration in fourth year. This affected such a student harshly as applications for an LLM are sent early in fifth year and such a student is disadvantaged due to a lack of exposure and experience.”

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