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NLS gets Rs 75 lakh GE CSR cash to channel Rhodes-MacArthur spirit with fully-funded PhD for 3 scholars

Can this be the beginning of an NLS Rhodes programme?
Can this be the beginning of an NLS Rhodes programme?

Further to our initial report in May of a complete revamp of PhD programmes, NLSIU Bangalore has now finalised Rs 74.55 lakh of funding from General Electric (GE), which will sponsor a total of three PhD students for three years.

As we had reported in May, NLSIU vice-chancellor (VC) Prof Sudhir Krishnaswamy had intended to scale back the PhD programme from its currently enrolled 90 PhD students to only accept five per year, but instead to increase the quality of the programme and to ensure it was fully funded.

Krishnaswamy said: “Ideally we will find external support for all scholars. With this Programme we’ve found support for three. We will arrange for internal resources for two PhD scholars this year.

“In future years we hope that all five will be supported externally. Today’s announcement is seed funding to get us started.”

It is understood that the university has now managed to secure funding, though only for three such PhD scholars, by tying up with GE India, which is making (a small) part of its corporate social responsibility (CSR) budget available for the programme, which will also carry the name of the late NLS founder Prof Madhava Menon.

The grant of Rs 24.85 lakh per scholar will cover costs such as university and tuition fees, a laptop, travel costs to attend up to one conference per year, and a monthly cash stipend of Rs 40,000 (Rs 4.8 lakh per year).

The idea behind the scholarship was to combine the principles and philosophy of both the Rhodes Scholarship for postgraduate study at Oxford University and the MacArthur Fellows Programme (unofficially known as “genius grants”), the latter of which provides no-strings attached grants to ensure the independence of researchers.

GE South Asia general counsel (GC) John Thaliath (who had also spent some time early in his career running a law school) told us today: “The beauty of this fellowship is in the detailed governance document that NLSIU [has] drawn up. The whole focus is on the scholar, to empower and make them as independent as possible.

“The way the selection criteria are set out, the way the administrative mechanisms around the stipends and other components of the grant is set out etc, it has drawn from the best international models (like Rhodes and MacArthur), of course while responding to the needs of a country like India and the talent in India.

“In other words, this homegrown model should serve as the model for future scholarships to study in Indian institutions.”

He confirmed that GE would not have any participation or role in the selection of candidates, who would be chosen this year through an NLSIU interview process.

NLSIU assistant professor Srijoni Sen commented in a statement that the fellowship’s goal was “to build public spirited leaders”.

“To that end, what the fellowship selection committee would be evaluating is academic excellence, a compelling trajectory, potential of their work to make a significant contribution in the field of study and alignment to the values of integrity and empathy,” she added. “This is also in line with some of the major international fellowships like Rhodes and McArthur which have inspired the structure of this fellowship.”

NLSIU is not the only Indian law school with a fully-funded PhD programme: Nalsar Hyderabad has had a fully-funded PhD with stipends of between Rs 25,000 and Rs 35,000 per month for around five candidates per year.

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