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In 1st VC interview, Sudhir Krishnaswamy lays out his NLS gameplan, starting with fees, faculty, IoE, budgets

New NLS VC Sudhir Krishnaswamy led his first convocation on Sunday
New NLS VC Sudhir Krishnaswamy led his first convocation on Sunday

NLSIU vice-chancellor (VC) Prof Sudhir Krishnaswamy has had his hands full since finally joining the college where he had completed his undergrad just over 20 years ago.

An NLU grad becoming VC at their own old law school is undoubtedly historical but with the weight of NLSIU alumni on his shoulders (who also assisted him in speeding up his quagmired appointment, it’s probably fair to say that the pressure on and expectations of Krishnaswamy are immense.

He confirmed he was aware of those expectations yesterday by phone, in his first full interview since taking office. But said that change would happen “slowly”, and not be an overnight affair.

In addition, the future was more important than the past for him right now, he said. “I draw a bright line here. I’m not too interested in the past, [apart from what is required to move forward], but I’m not only going to dredge the past.”

As for the future, we understand from sources that Krishnaswamy had also submitted a pretty detailed and ambitious point-by-point vision for NLSIU to the VC selection committee, and this has informally been circulating amongst some alumni circles.

However, Krishnaswamy said that he was “not going to focus on some large vision document right now”.


Instead, he said, he’s had his hands full since joining last Wednesday.

He has met all faculty and staff and focused on preparing for the five governing body meetings on Saturday, and the convocation on Sunday (at which one of the speakers made some interesting statements).

But “effort number one” was meeting the students. “I have just gone from student cohort to cohort and met all barring two (whom I [met yesterday] afternoon since they’re writing exams),” he said. “The last thing I wanted to be is disruptive of that.”

The priority to engage with students and address the recent discontent in the student body was important, according to him. “I suppose that there are many things going on, but it has a common root in that people don’t make an effort with people. If you think you can hector these young kids into submission - which has somehow become a dominant form of interactions.”

He said he didn’t give any promises or speeches to students, but instead asked them: “You tell me what are your priorities. You ask me anything you want to know.”

“I had a very decent exchange with them,” Krishnaswamy said, noting that there had been no protests, black bands, placards or posters during their interactions.

Of course the protests were partly about Krishnaswamy becoming VC, though, right? “True in part,” he responded, “but they have been protesting, if you pay careful attention, in an extended way for eight weeks.

“The issues have been different and the last three to four weeks may have been very intense. But I think my appointment and the VC appointment process got added as an attachment at the very end of what was a very simmering protest for four weeks.”


At the outset, several issues would need to get done “immediately” and had been placed before the executive council (EC), said Krishnaswamy.

Such as the issue of Rs 50,000+ fee hikes, which we had first reported in July.

“I think we’ll come to a reasonable close in a short while,” said the new VC. “What was important was for the students to be heard. The EC committee met the student representatives and have hammered out something of a solution, which I will promptly implement from tomorrow [later today, Tuesday].

“We’re not going to roll back the fee-hike but moderate its negative effects.”

The announcement will be made later today.


When asked whether it was a priority for NLS to become a national Institution of Eminence (IOE) (which NLS, Nalsar Hyderabad and NUJS Kolkata did not apply for in 2017 but that JGLS won last month), Krishnaswamy said: “I think I’m certainly going to explore that right away. I need to work through the micro detail of regulations for that we did it at Azim Premji as well, we were on that list of initially certified organisations.

“I kinda know it, but I want to go over it in detail.”

The IoE rules are complicated and so far have tended to favour multi-disciplinary universities. “It appears other [non-multidisciplinary institutions have made it],” he said, “but if we are not multi-disciplinary enough, we can promise in that direction.”


Will part of his plans for NLSIU include faculty hires? Very much so, according to Krishnaswamy. “The EC has authorised to begin the process,” he said, with that authorisation including a lot of freedom on numbers and budgets. “It means all those things. I can prioritise where I want to - start, entry-, senior- or mid-level positions. And that also means I work out a financial plan that supports that, and also means I follow rules and regulations of notifying it and moving it along.”

None of those factors would be “long term or mid-term hindrances”, which were not “sharply externally constrained by factors”, except for finance perhaps.


Talking of finances, things are not looking good, he explained, having pored through them in some detail.

“We have presented a deficit budget this year, I understand that we have for the last two years as well. That is the rude status at the moment. It’s not happy,” he noted about the deficit that amounted to Rs 4.89 crores in the last financial year. “I think we would have to rationalise a good plan.”

Going through how this plan could work, he said: “First and foremost - the fee-hike: that should help us net about Rs 2 crores out of this Rs 4.89 crores. And then there are two or three expenditure heads I’m looking at that we must seriously moderate, that might help us net another 1- 1.5 crore. That would still give us 1.4 crore to cover through other sources.”

Could those other sources also include alumni funding, as is so common in US universities? “Yes, alumni and other sources,” he said. “We don’t know yet, it’s not like fundraising from alumni has been that successful so far. But hopefully we’ll get some such model going.

“And if we do, my intention is that we need to look ahead, even with the deficit, we need to push ahead positively.”

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