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CLAT should cost Rs 1,500: MHRD report damns Nuals for abysmal 95% profit margin on CLAT

Nuals shocks MHRD with extent of CLAT irresponsibilityNuals shocks MHRD with extent of CLAT irresponsibility

The Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) should not cost law aspirants more than Rs 1,500 recommended a government committee that found it “egregious” that the national law universities (NLU) were making a profit of 90-95% on the joint entrance exam which currently has an application fee of Rs 4,000.

Read the full report here or below.

It reported that the “committee strongly feels that examination fees charged is way above the required finances for conduct of the examination. CLAT is being conducted for many years now and it is apparent that no attempt has been made to rationalise the fee with the trends of past expenditure”.

The committee, constituted by the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD) following the Supreme Court’s direction in the challenge filed before it by CLAT 2018 aspirants, found that the Rs 25.7 crore revenue-making exam with a profit of Rs 23.1 crore had “serious issues” of mismanagement and minimal involvement from CLAT 2018 convenor Nuals Kochi in understanding and rectifying them.

The committee found that Nuals’ involvement with the exam was “primarily administrative”, that it was barely aware of the magnitude and extent of mismanagement of CLAT 2018 and that it had treated its mandate as a “turn key” project to be handed over to the exam’s technical contractor Sify Technologies.

It wrote: “It is pertinent to note that despite serious issues raised regarding the conduct of the CLAT 2018 there is no evidence of active involvement of Nuals Kochi in understanding or evaluating the scale/type of problems till the constitution of Grievance Redressal Committee and in performing a root cause analysis with the help of technical experts.”

Sify Technologies, on its part, had not made a proper attempt to find the causes of and solutions for the errors in the conduct of this exam, said the report.

Nuals and Sify draw a blank

The committee, comprised of IIT Kanpur engineering department director Prof Manindra Agrawal, NTA director general Vineet Joshi, AIIMS Dr Ashok Kumar Jaryal and IIM Lucknow Prof Neeraj Dwivedi, met four times in October and made some notable observations and recommendations in its report:

  • Lack of any documentation with Nuals and Sify related to malfunctioning of computer systems at such a large scale came as a surprise to the committee.
  • Sify did not follow through on its role to address technical glitches in CLAT 2018 and Nuals was unaware of the scale of malfunctioning until the constitution of the grievance redressal committee (GDR).
  • It was surprising to note that Nuals was not aware of the magnitude, exact nature of the problems, solutions attempted by Sify and the decision process for determining the amount of time extension neither on the exam day nor until constitution of the GDR. There is discrepancy in the versions of Nuals and Sify regarding the decision-making process implemented during the currency of the exam in real time.
  • Nuals Kochi left technical control as well as post-exam analysis to Sify. It only was involved in preparation and encryption of the question paper.
  • Nuals Kochi grossly underestimated and under-perceived the scale of the problem on the day of the exam and perhaps after.
  • Sify does not know the cause of the problem that caused technical glitches including recurring login and screen freezing issues for the duration of the exam. It made no sincere attempt to find out the cause of the problem.
  • Nuals has already withheld the Rs 1.14 crore fee it owes to Sify for conducting the CLAT 218, and the law school has itself incurred legal fees of Rs 1 crore in appearing in the petitions launched in various courts by numerous CLAT 2018 candidates. As per the tender document, Sify is to indemnify Nuals against this legal fee and also bear an additional cost of 10% of its fee for conduct of the exam in addition to being barred from contesting a CLAT tender for at least the next three years.

Incremental learning

  • CLAT loses out on the opportunity for incremental learning from its previous experiences by publishing a fresh tender each year for its technical partner and foregoing on historical data of candidates that lies with the previous contractor. Contractors should be selected instead for 2-3 years.
  • Incremental and cumulative learning is critical for developing standard operating procedures, checklists, decision making algorithms. In principle this is very difficult to achieve the same with change of organising NLU and service provider every year.
  • CLAT needs an audit report prepared by each new NLU convening the CLAT, to be handed over the the successive convenor with recommendations on statements of purpose, checklists etc., the command centre at each new convenor to include a member from the NLU that convened the CLAT in the previous year and a dedicated team of technical analysts outsourced from government agencies.
  • Instead of a new NLU convening the CLAT each year and therefore losing out on the exam’s battle against cheating by unscrupulous candidates, a government body experienced in conducting such exams should conduct the CLAT each year.

The government’s National Testing Agency (NTA) is open to take on the mandate for conducting the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) from 2019 onward, while the Bar Council of India (BCI) has re-asserted that it is the only body suitable to conduct the CLAT going forward, as we had reported last week.

In October the NLU consortium established a seven member semi-permanent body comprising of NLSIU Bangalore, Nalsar Hyderabad and NLIU Bhopal as permanent members to conduct the CLAT, 2019 onward.

Money money money?

In the NLUs’ defense, if one were to attempt such a thing, the CLAT has long been a revenue source for the NLUs, some of which have faced serious funding shortfalls and have relied on the CLAT fees to shore up their finances, as we had reported in 2015.

Generally, the lion’s share of CLAT profits goes to the convening NLU, which rotates every year, with the remainder being divided between the other NLUs:

According to a variety of financial accounts proactively disclosed by colleges or obtained by Legally India under the Right to Information Act, each non-convening college received the following amounts: Rs.17.4 lakh in 2008 (in NLSIU Bengaluru’s CLAT); Rs.25 lakh in 2009 (from Nalsar); Rs.21.9 lakh in 2010 (from National Law Institute University, Bhopal); and Rs.22 lakh in 2011 (from NUJS, Kolkata).

The convening college in those years could have then earned Rs.1-2 crore or more.

However, whether law aspirants - many of whom won’t make the CLAT cut - should be footing such bills is morally more dubious, particularly when the aim behind NLUs is also to encourage those from non-traditional backgrounds to receive a decent legal education.

Read full CLAT committee report (PDF)

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1
Like +7 Object -0 Guest 01 Nov 18, 16:36  interesting
@Kian - "particularly when the aim behind NLUs is also to encourage those from non-traditional backgrounds to receive a decent legal education."

Is that a stated aim? If yes, could you point out where?
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Like +2 Object -0 kianganz 03 Nov 18, 13:36 LI subscriber
Sorry for the delay in my response. Several things would suggest that this is indeed one aim of NLUs. Just looking at the NLSIU Act, for instance:

From right at the start: "WHEREAS the functions of the Bar Council of India includes the
promotion of legal education; AND Whereas the Bar Council of India to carry out the said function has got created a public charitable trust called the Bar Council of India
Trust, the objects of which inter alia includes the establishment, maintenance and running of a model law college in India;"

It is arguable, without statements to the contrary, that this means "promotion of legal education" that is widely accessible, rather than just promoting ivory towers for the elite, but perhaps that's not clear-cut depending on ideology.

Then, under Objects of School:

(1) The Objects of the School shall be to advance and disseminate
learning and knowledge of law and legal processes and their
role in national development, to develop in the student and
research scholar a sense of responsibility to serve society in
the field of law by developing skills in regard to advocacy,
legal services, legislation, law reforms and the like, to organise
lectures, seminars, symposia and conferences to promote
legal knowledge and to make law and legal processes efficient
instruments of social development, to hold examinations and
confer degrees and other academic distinctions and to do all
such things as are incidental, necessary or ·conducive to the
attainment of alt or any of the objects of the School.

(2) The School shall be open to all persons of either sex
irrespective of race, creed, caste or class of all religions[...]

I think 'disseminate learning and knowledge... and their role in national development" would speak towards being open to everyone, while number 2, "irrespective of ... caste or class" etc implies that means (which are often an effect of class or caste) should not be used to curtail access to NLSIU.

I agree it's not clear-cut, but it's somewhat implicit in the spirit of establishing a state-funded NLU that it should be accessible, irrespective of means.
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Like +0 Object -0 Guest 03 Nov 18, 16:50
"I agree it's not clear-cut, but it's somewhat implicit in the spirit of establishing a state-funded NLU that it should be accessible, irrespective of means."

Point accepted. I do agree that social engineering by widening access to quality education was an aspirational aim of the initial few institutions.

After about 5 or 6, others were added in because creating a NLU had become a fad among the judges of the various HCs. They would lobby with the state and get pressure put through those on the SC bench to get noticed.

Then after about 11 or 12, it just came down to the new (or outgoing) state government wanting to 'gift' a NLU to the state. Generally, this was down to poll-promises akin to "hum IIT/IIM lekar aayenge in the early 2000s."

On the whole I do agree with your position. However, one has to also critically examine whether these institutions are:

- making profits by charging the CLAT fee or scrambling to balance budgets?

- does the term 'state-funded' create an illusion in the mind of the reader as to the financial health of these institutions?

What I mean is that LI doesn't really have the wherewithal to apply pressure at the right places - judiciary and state governments. These pieces end up pushing the buttons with law students or some alumni and create the NLU admin as the villain, the other which must be brought down.

Maybe, writing about these issues more in the MINT (do you still write with them?) is a better pressure point? Just putting down my two-cents. We disagree not on the substance but on the strategy.
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Like +7 Object -4 Guest 01 Nov 18, 16:45
Is 4000/- to apply to 18 institutions (a little over 200/- per institution) morally dubious?

The money is needed to run the institution and will have to found elsewhere. Reducing the CLAT fee will just lead to an increase in the student fee.
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Like +4 Object -5 Guest 01 Nov 18, 17:28
A criminal case should be registered against the VC. Also, if NUALS earned so many crores then there should be vast improvements in infra and faculty and more scholarships offered at NUALS. Is that happening?
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Like +10 Object -2 Guest 01 Nov 18, 17:37  interesting
NUALS would have made half of that amount. However, they won't make it again for the next 17 years (as per the previous system which has recently been altered). Therefore, 11 odd crores is money-in-the-bank for the next two decades. It has to be used judiciously so as to overcome any pressing lack of funds in that period and can't be all used for "vast improvements in infra and faculty and more scholarships" right away.

Hope that helps in explaining the reality of these large funds.
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Like +6 Object -7 Law student Delhi 02 Nov 18, 18:14  controversial
CLAT must go to NTA. NLUs are inefficient and incompetent to conduct this exam. CLAT fee must be reduced to 1000 rupees. It's an exam to select students for India best law schools and not for making profits. Lastly, NLU Delhi and HPNLU Shimla must stop their own exam and become part of CLAT.
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Like +2 Object -0 Guest 03 Nov 18, 01:01
So 1000 bucks for 20 institutions. 50 bucks per institute. Sounds cool.

The host school will lose 10 cr+, and about 25 lakh for non-host. Over a 20 year cycle, that is about 15 cr.

How do you balance that budget - Hike fees? Cut on the number of faculty? Increase intake?

You sound like the freebie announcing politician. Kindly balance the budget on your plan.

Give it to the NTA. Not an issue. They might do a better job than the current system. However, cutting the fee isn't a realistic option.
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Like +3 Object -1 Guest 03 Nov 18, 09:01
The revenue that's needed to run an NLU cannot be realised this way from examinees, which can and has already changed the student demography in these institutions for the worse over the years, making an average NLU grad a privileged, entitled person out of sync with the real world. If the government of a state (or the Centre) cannot provide adequate support and funding to an NLU, then it should be closed down, plain and simple. Instead what is happening is mushrooming of sub-standard institutions that are doing neither legal education nor students much good.
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Like +1 Object -0 Guest 03 Nov 18, 16:57
"If the government of a state (or the Centre) cannot provide adequate support and funding to an NLU, then it should be closed down, plain and simple."

Accepted. How do we make this a reality?

- Should those teaching at these institutions walk away leaving jobs that pay for their families behind? Would this make the govt. shut down the institution?

If you notice the faculty list of HNLU (and below), you'll notice that many of the senior faculty members have left over the last ten years. They haven't been replaced. However, this hasn't led to the shutting down of even one of these institutions. The admin just gets answer, younger, less experienced, maybe (or may not be) better quality people.

- So maybe it is the fault of the admin that these institutions aren't being shut down. Maybe the VCs hang-on and don't leave?

But we have had a number of VCs pack-up and go at the 'younger' NLUs. I doubt not more than 25% completed their tenures. Did that lead to even a single state govt. closing a NLU, nope.

In sum, I (and I am sure many) agree with your assessment. Let's close them. The question is, how?
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Like +0 Object -1 Guest 03 Nov 18, 18:58
If they are being deprived of the CLAT funding source that you think is so important for them, then they will either hike student fee or won't be able to pay faculty. In case of latter, good people won't work there (actually, they have to pay either State or Central scale salary, being statutory bodies, they can't just reduce the salary at their convenience like private colleges). Quality of education will fall, which can and should be widely circulated and publicized. Then students won't opt for those places anymore, like the problem scores of private engineering colleges are facing right now despite participating in the common exam. It will take time, but eventually the places that can't pull their weight will die.
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Like +1 Object -0 Guest 03 Nov 18, 21:17
"actually, they have to pay either State or Central scale salary, being statutory bodies, they can't just reduce the salary at their convenience like private colleges"

True. In theory. In practice, they refuse to recruit people at Professor, Associate Professor and Assistant Professor level. Instead, they recruit people under a variety of designations (some of them are):

- Teaching assistant (8/24 law faculty in NUSRL, Ranchi. Link - www.nusrlranchi.in/the-university/faculties/)

or

- Lecturer of Law/Teacher associate (12/21 law faculty in CNLU, Patna. Link - www.cnlu.ac.in/index.php/2015-07-16-13-27-35/faculties).

Most of them are earning between 15000/25000 depending on experience, qualification etc. These are some examples I remember of the top of my head. Look through some of the others and you'll find similarities. If those aren't present in the title itself, then they will be present on ground.

My point being, these places have not been able to pull their weight for long but none has died out. Students enter each year, absolutely unaware of the trap door open under their feet.

(Not) Fun-fact: As you started by pointing out that these institutions cannot flout Central/State salary scales. Let me give an example of an elite institution openly fluting regularization rules. Set-up in the early 2000s, this place has never regularized even a single person. No prof, associate prof or assistant prof. It was among the original 7 members of CLAT. Care to guess which one?

Hint: It isn't the 'obvious' HNLU.
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Like +0 Object -1 Guest 04 Nov 18, 23:18
Non-regularization and non-payment of salary to regularized people are two different things altogether. Latter leaves room for litigation. Regarding the falling standard, I agree with you that it's a problem, but the solution cannot be to keep allowing these places to mint money at the expense of candidates. As you yourself pointed out, despite charging that 4000 for CLAT, these places are still not hiring quality people, right? So money isn't an issue, there are other power equations involved. If you don't regularise a faculty member, they are going to do whatever the VC asks them to, even if it means debasing themselves. That's more likely the reason for such irregularities, not financial constraints really. A better solution is for the media to expose the falling standard of these places for what they really are, till students joining there aren't caught unaware. These government rankings are mostly useless, whether it be NAAC or NIRF. The very parameters are flawed and outdated and not even suitable for law schools in general.
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Like +2 Object -1 Jackal 03 Nov 18, 12:50
I sincerely hope that you're not in a position of authority or have anything to do with public finance. Why should random outsiders (candidates taking an 'entrance' exam, 95% of whom would not join any of the colleges) foot the bill for such institutes? the idea of an entrance exam is to ensure that it is accessible to most, keeping in view the socio economic realities of the nation.If the colleges, which are public institutes, intend to raise finance, they should either hike the tuition fees and let the actual students bear such expense (the students in turn would then get to decide whether the proposed education is worth the cost), or approach the government or other public funding institutes. Hefty entrance exam pushes away meritorious candidates and is a social evil even more than an economic one. And going by your thought process, in case you're a student/ alumnus of any of the clat institutes, I believe a cruel evil has been committed by the concerned institute by accepting fees from you. You should ask for a refund.
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Like +1 Object -0 Guest 03 Nov 18, 17:17
"I sincerely hope that you're not in a position of authority or have anything to do with public finance."

1. Does anyone really believe that those in a position of authority roam these websites getting into conversations on aspects of critical importance with faceless people? In my experience, they don't get into these conversations even if you are beating at their doorstep. That said, I can clarify that I am not in a position of authority at one of these institutions.

2. On the 4000/- CLAT fee, my argument is not on moral grounds. You (and indeed others who view the issue from that standpoint) are on sound footing in that regard. I argue based on necessity.

2.1 However, maybe I am wrong. In that case, let us examine some of the other solutions - hike the fees (something you and me have both thrown out there).

2.1.1 Maybe that is the way to go. Maybe that is already being done and the 4000/- helps spread the pain.

2.1.2 However, you argue that we shouldn't be 'spreading the pain' as it (4000/one time payment) may exclude some meritorious students on account of affordability. However, if we get them to write the exam and they get in, would the hiked fee (maybe 3 lakh/year * 5) be affordable? I believe that 'hike the fee' argument on grounds of access gets into a vicious circle.

2.2 Let's look elsewhere in what you suggested. Seek money from state or other public funding institutes. I am sure the former has been tried (I doubt you think it hasn't been either). On the latter, why would a funding institution support a NLU which is already loss-making? I don't think we make much headway on this point either.

2.3 So, reduce faculty or low-cost faculty? This is already being don at about 10-12 NLUs. It results in poor quality education and lack of jobs at the end of 5 years, but has no real positive impacts.

So what do we do - close them (as another poster suggested). Let's do it. But, how? (see comment above).

In sum: a lot of us are making sound moral arguments and getting up-voted for it. I am merely playing the devil's advocate (or not even that) and seeking you guys to push the envelope a little further and find ways to convert them to reality.

You may disparage me and my wasted education but it doesn't help move the conversation and the reality in a positive direction.

Cheers
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Like +0 Object -1 Guest 03 Nov 18, 18:53
I'm the person who suggested the closing down option. You asked how that may be possible. There may be an answer to that. Reduce CLAT fees to 1000/- as is being suggested. NLUs which get state funding won't have much of a problem, since they have other sources of funding. NLUs which don't get such funding will have problem, so they will either hike student fee further or compromise with faculty salary as you suggested (frankly, no NLU employs that many faculty that their salaries, which aren't of a princely scale anyway, would pose that much financial burden). In either case, students can make an informed choice about the standard of education offered at those places and choose whether to take admission. If an NLU cannot do either of that to continue supporting itself, then it will die a natural death. However, this way at least meritorious people will get a chance to study at the NLUs which can and do receive state support and also offer quality education (like NLSIU for instance). Under the present system, they are being deprived of that.
To answer another point of yours, once a student does secure a seat at an NLU, other options like education loan (and scholarships) also exist, which do not before the admission test itself.
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Like +1 Object -0 Guest 03 Nov 18, 22:02
I have answered some of the points in m reply above.

As regards loan. I honestly believe that spending 4000 once is going to be easier than having to return a loan of 15 lakhs (unless one can get into the top-6 or maybe even lesser).

However, as a compromise solution what could be done is that at the time of filling the form, if one can show a family income of less than 'x' amount, then the fee could be waived. Does this sound like a solution that takes into account both sides of the debate?
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Like +0 Object -1 Guest 04 Nov 18, 23:12
Possible, but difficult to implement in reality, given that scrutinizing thousands of documents at the stage of application, as compared to currently scrutinizing 100-odd documents at the stage of admission is unlikely to be agreed upon by the organising entity. However, I think this is still a workable solution if imposed by a superior authority like the SC. The NLUs themselves aren't ever going to agree to it.
Re your point about the loan, you are not taking into consideration the cumulative problem faced by literally thousands of the underprivileged candidates to get that 4000 for a shot at uncertainty(plus traveling to the nearest exam centre plus training cost for online exams in a country where bulk of the population do not have access to computers and Internet), as opposed to the trouble faced by less than 1000 students (certain of getting a comparatively better education) in paying back the loan later (which if they are meritorious enough, isn't really that big a problem regardless of where they graduate from, more a matter of time rather). I think former outweighs the latter by several multiples.
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Like +0 Object -1 Guest 03 Nov 18, 17:18
BTW. I went to NALSAR. If I could, I would seek a refund. Though I'll probably not do law if given a do over in any case. Disparage to your heart's content.
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