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NLSIU Bangalore starts search for new VC as crisis of leadership befalls NLUs

The future of a lot of institutions are hanging in the balance right now...

Venkata Rao NLS term comes to close soon, search committee of MP Singh, KKV, Arvind Datar starts looking
Venkata Rao NLS term comes to close soon, search committee of MP Singh, KKV, Arvind Datar starts looking

NLSIU Bangalore vice chancellor (VC) Prof Venkata Rao is due to retire on 10 May 2019 and a search committee has been formed to find his successor, though it has not yet met, according to authoritative sources.

The search committee is led by former NUJS Kolkata VC Prof MP Singh, as well as senior advocate and attorney general KK Venugopal, and senior advocate Arvind Datar.

Rao has been in charge at Bangalore since 2009, and was re-appointed in 2014 for a five-year term.

His tenure has seen students bemoan an exodus of talented faculty and a scarcity of permanent faculty hires.

We have reached out to Rao for comment earlier today, and will update this story when we hear from him.

However, NLS looking for a new VC is, more likely than not, bad news for national law schools.

At least four national law schools are currently without a permanent VC or leadership:

At HNLU, NUJS and CNLU, former judges are now holding the fort, which is surely far from an ideal situation in what are supposed to be academic institutions.

Awful timing

But NLSIU needing a new VC could not come at a worse time.

First, there is a serious scarcity of top management talent for law schools, according to people on VC search committees we’ve spoken to in the past.

The truth is, most applicants for VC jobs are awful, and most positions don’t carry enough remuneration nor kudos to encourage movement of top academics from abroad or even domestically.

UGC regulations also require VC candidates to have at least 10 years of full-professorship experience (though exceptions have been made in the past), which would exclude a large proportion of Indian legal academics - particularly ones who may themselves have graduated from NLUs.

Then, this is a problem of timing: top administrative talent will no doubt try and apply to Bangalore - the oldest NLU and therefore arguably the most prestigious of NLU head-honcho jobs - leaving other NLUs and their students in a lurch.

With Rao only demitting office by May, that will likely mean that hopeful VCs who might have applied to other NLUs, may prefer throwing their hat in the ring to wait for NLS to finish its process.

That said, many state governments are perfectly capable of slowing down their VC appointment processes to a snail’s pace by themselves.

There seems to be little sign of constructive process in VC appointments at any of the above institutions (although, by way of silver lining, Nuals Kochi did manage to find a new VC recently last month, with Sunny KC).

Finally, there’s the fact that many VC positions are poisoned chalices: governments hover over your head with demands, while denying you any money to improve matters. And most modern-day VCs can’t even expect their deification by students anymore, who are as likely to oust them than build them a statue.

Most NLUs right now don’t even have the administration that they need: it seems unlikely that many will get the VCs that they deserve any time soon.

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