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Ground breaking study reveals: More non-English speaking, small-towners make it to NLSIU (and 2015 CLAT was atrocious for women indeed)

Could 'Law School' (and all law schools for that matter) be more diverse?
Could 'Law School' (and all law schools for that matter) be more diverse?

The NLSIU Bangalore student population, at present, largely consists of rich, third-generation college goers who were schooled at elite private schools in tier 2 cities.

But the trends on financial and educational status of students at the law school are gradually reversing with each successive batch, while the female to male sex ratio declined hugely after 2015’s CLAT.

A diversity study on 389 NLS students (out of total 397 across the five current LLB batches) was conceptualised by NLSIU student Chirayu Jain. Jain, in his first year of law school in 2013, had sued Hindustan Pencils for a racist crayon colour categorisation. That case is currently pending.

This study conducted during the 2015-16 academic session, with assistance from current NLS student researchers Spadika Jayaraj, Sanjana Muraleedharan, Harjas Singh, and many other volunteers for data collection, concluded the following:

Gender ratio: Precipitous drop of women in 2015 (as predicted by LI)

52 per cent women in the 5th year class. But only 39 per cent in the first year class.

Last year we had reported in Mint the strange statistic that for the first time women performed had much worse than boys in the 2015 CLAT, which was beset by massive organisational problems.

In fact, only 36.6% of women had scored within the first 500 ranks last year, compared to between 45.7 and 47.4 per cent the previous three years (see graph).

There were no clear answers for this aberration at the time.

2015 skewed CLAT gender graph: Graphic by LI/Mint, Ahmad Raza Khan
2015 skewed CLAT gender graph: Graphic by LI/Mint, Ahmad Raza Khan

Regional distribution: Top tier cities dominate, but trends changing

Bangalore (29 students), Lucknow (28) and Delhi (24) were the hometowns of the largest number of students.

A total of 43 per cent students were from tier 2 cities.

In the fifth year class 45.21 per cent were from tier 1 cities, while from the 1st year there were only 28 per cent.

Moneyed students are the rule, but younger batches more inclusive

The greatest number of students (39 per cent) had family income between Rs 12 lakh to Rs 36 lakh, and the smallest number (7 per cent) had family income below Rs 3 lakh per annum.

15 per cent of total students had a family income above Rs 36 lakh per annum.

The size of the lowest income group was increasing in number with successive batches.

Quality schooling was the norm:

Only 77 students hadn’t received it; 13 went to non-English medium high school.

A massive 60 per cent of the respondents paid more than Rs 30,000 per annum for their annual school education.

First and second generation college-goers in minority

Less than 10 per cent were from a family where they were the first or second generation of college goers.

26 per cent were from families where more than three generations before them had received college education.

Academic Toppers: Mostly urban women, mostly the better-off

29 students had a CGPA above 6.

They were all from tier 1 or tier 2 cities or from abroad.

Most of them (21) were female.

Their average annual family income was almost Rs 30 lakh, whereas the overall average of the student body was Rs 21 lakh.

Co-curricular achievers mostly from tier 1 and 2 cities

21.5 per cent of the respondents represented NLS in national and international moots and debates. They were mostly from tier 1 and tier 2 cities.

Academic and co-curricular ‘non-achievers’, mostly from minorities

CGPA was in the 3 to 3.49 range. 29 students had it. Almost 59 per cent were reserved category students. 35 per cent came from tier 3 and 4 cities and towns.

25 per cent of respondents had neither mooted nor debated ever.

More than half of the non-mooters and non-debaters were women.

This segment of women who neither mooted nor debated, come from families with annual income of Rs 16.3 lakhs on average.

Sexuality:

96.2 per cent identified as straight.

11 students out of 389 (3%) identified themselves as being queer, while 4 (1%) stated that they were unsure of their sexual orientation.

This tallies fairly closely with most surveys amongst general populations globally.

English fluency in majority

76.5 per cent of students perceived their parents to be fluent English speakers. 7.5 per cent perceived them as not fluent.

The study also studied diversity across caste (59 per cent “upper caste” students), religion (3 Muslim students), participation in student bodies, receiving scholarship, student representatives in administration.

Findings and conclusions

Mentorship insufficient

The detailed 168-page report also investigated the support systems and mentorship available at NLS, and concluded that NLSIU’s Academic Support Programme was not fulfilling the needs of the students most in need of it – the ones with lower CGPA, and the mentorship programme is also not very active with most students losing touch with their allotted mentors.

Recommendations

It recommended a mandatory English language skill-building course for first year NLS students, mandatory disability-quotas in student committees, establishing a permanent corpus for financial assistance to mooters and debaters in their respective competitions based on need and making repeat exam-takers also eligible to receive gold medals at the convocation, among others.

The report was prepared under the guidance of Prof N Jayaram and Prof S Japhet. Jain prepared the first questionnaire draft between June and July 2015 and was the joined by immediate seniors - Spadika Jayaraj and Tanmay Dangi, batch of 2016. The three then sent the draft for review to the Centre for Study of Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policies, NLSIU (CSSEIP) and Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access (IDIA).

A diversity survey conducted by IDIA last year, across the first year LLB classes of nine national law universities (NLU), revealed that most of the respondents were from financially rich, English-speaking households and had studies in English-medium schools.

Hat-tip to @jimanish for pointing us to the report on Twitter

Read full research paper via SSRN: The Elusive Island of Excellence

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