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No semester breaks & extra classes: How NLUs are making up for 1st years’ lost time after late CLAT

Hard work ahead for first years
Hard work ahead for first years

Albeit with significant delays, national law universities (NLUs) have started their first batches of the five-year LLB programmes with many hoping to catch up on the lost time due to the delayed Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) admissions by working through the first semester holidays.

We have contacted a number of NLUs about their start dates and how their plans to get their first years back on schedule, despite many of the NLUs’ senior batches having nearly finished their first terms on ‘normal’ online-teaching schedules.

First out of the gates were Nalsar Hyderabad, NLU Jodhpur and GNLU Gandhinagar, which all began with classes for the first years only several days after the CLAT results were announced in mid-October.

Nalsar and NLU Jodhpur both began online classes on 19 October.

NLU Jodhpur vice-chancellor (VC) Prof Poonam Saxena explained: “The first semester would be over for them in February and the second by middle June. From next year onwards the classes for all will commence from July 1st.”

The same is the case at GNLU, where director Prof Sanjeevi Shanthakumar said that there would be no mid-term break though there was a short break over Diwali. “We have made a separate calendar for the first years. Hence the first semester classes will continue until mid-February 2021,” he said. “After the semester we will give two weeks break before we commence the second semester.”

Nalsar academic dean and soon-to-be professor emerita Prof Amita Dhanda, said that flexibility had been the most important factor in changing the academic calendar.

“We’ve seen flexibility as the operative principle as the operative thing,” she said. “People [students] who joined in October, if we were to drag it on until after January or later, the entire year would get dislocated.”

The alternative, of getting “everyone to tighten their belt” and getting the work done by using weekends to teach and adjusting the schedules, was the better approach, she added.

Nalsar also has the advantage of already having a system of continuous assessments, rather than a massive final exam.

Nalsar’s plan will be to get the first years back on the normal schedule with the other batches by 11 January. While senior batches will get semester breaks in November and December, the first years will be catching up with only around 10 days off after 31 December 2020. In practice, some of that additional work load will fall on teachers, though only some were teaching both first years and more senior batches, said Dhanda.

A similar strategy of doing away with semester breaks has been followed by NUJS Kolkata and NLIU Bhopal.

At NUJS, classes began around 2 November, following an orientation around 19 and 20 October.

NLIU had its commencement day lecture on 28 October, with full classes starting on 29 October and continuing on a tight schedule thereafter to bring them back on track: from 2 November for 23 days, another 26 days in December, 25 days in January and 6 days in February.

NLSIU Bengaluru is somewhat different, in having a trimester system unlike the others, and has taken a different approach, as classes for NLS first years started on 27 October, ending on 31 October, with proper classes beginning on 2 November.

“We skipped the first semester, but added one extra subject in each term,” NLS registrar Prof Sarasu Thomas explained. “They’ll be caught up by next year, with reduced work limits on projects and for every subject they have two teachers.”

This effectively puts the first years on exactly the same schedule as the more senior batches, albeit with a higher workload for the first year.

A new student welfare officer had also been appointed to to work closely with the first year (and other) students, to assist them with any issues the new schedule could cause.

Photo by Nick Youngson via Alpha Stock Images.

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