Prof Sudhir Krishnaswamy
Prof Sudhir Krishnaswamy
Interviews

[Exclusive]: "We are not the only university that feels this way", NLSIU Vice-Chancellor Prof Sudhir Krishnaswamy on NLAT move

In this interview with Bar & Bench, NLSIU VC Prof Sudhir Krishnaswamy explains why the decision to hold a separate entrance exam was taken, and attempts to address some student concerns.

Aditya AK

The decision taken by National Law School of India University (NLSIU) Bangalore to hold a separate entrance exam for admission to this academic year’s courses has sent shockwaves through the legal education fraternity.

The move comes at a time when the conduct of the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT) has been marred with uncertainty owing to the COVID-19 pandemic. CLAT, which is now scheduled for September 28, has been postponed on four previous occasions.

The Consortium of National Law Universities, which conducts CLAT and of which NLSIU is a part, has made its displeasure clear in no uncertain terms. The members of the NLU Consortium’s Executive Council convened a meeting last night to discuss the situation. As per a release issued by CLAT 2020 Convenor Prof Balraj Chauhan, the Council is the opinion that NLSIU’s decision contravenes the by-laws of the Consortium. The release states,

“The Council noted with dismay that while the NLSIU wishes to continue in the consortium yet conduct its own admission test which is not permissible under the Bye laws of the Consortium. Moreover this new admission test will put thousands of students during the extra ordinary Covid–19 health emergency to a lot of inconvenience who will now have to appear in two tests instead of one.”

A General Council meeting was held today to decide the future course of action. Meanwhile, the Consortium has decided to stick to the September 28 date for holding CLAT 2020.

In a bid to garner some clarity on NLSIU’s sudden move, Bar & Bench spoke to Vice-Chancellor Prof Sudhir Krishnaswamy. Here is what he had to say.

What was the rationale behind having a separate test? Why was the decision taken at such short notice?

The process has been ongoing through all of August. We initially raised concerns about the CLAT being postponed beyond August 22. The idea has been bouncing back between the Consortium and NLSIU’s Executive Council and faculty. On the one hand, the faculty and the EC were unanimous that we should finish the admission process as soon as possible. We have many programmes at NLSIU; we have finished the process for all programmes except for the LL.B. and LL.M. courses for which admission is through CLAT.

On the other hand, we had a Consortium process which was a little unwieldy; there was no result of the discussions either way.

So, it is not a knee-jerk decision. It is a decision that has been thought about and worked on for some time. We realised we were facing a crisis when we could not finish our admissions even by September. And that could mean that the academic year itself was under threat, because we are the only trimester-based national law university. It came down to a choice between not admitting students this year at all or going ahead in some useful, meaningful way and conducting a separate exam. We chose the latter.

NLSIU
NLSIU

There seems to be some fallout, with the NLU Consortium expressing its anguish at the decision. Do you intend to stick to the decision to have a separate exam, regardless of the reaction?

I don’t see it as a contest at all. Frankly, we might have been the first to stick our heads out, but there are other universities which are hard-placed. We are not the only university that feels this way. We will engage with the Consortium in a very robust and constructive way. We think that many of these things can be resolved quite easily.

Discussions with the Consortium are ongoing. That process will hopefully yield some positive result.

How will the separate entrance exam be conducted? What type of exam will it be? When exactly will it happen?

It will be a much shorter exam than CLAT in terms of time. It will be an online exam that can be taken at home or wherever one can find a computer with internet connectivity. It will not be very different from CLAT, but shorter. Instead of doing a centre-based exam, which is subject to all kinds of logistical hassles that arise from floods or other such untoward occurrences, we want to enable students to take the exam in a most conducive way. The exam will be run on a different platform.

The move has been criticised as one that will inconvenience students who now have to write an extra exam amid the pandemic. Your thoughts on this?

If students feel that they are being excluded from any process, it is not true. All students who have enrolled for CLAT will continue to be enrolled with CLAT. We are charging a nominal fee; I don’t think any national level entrance exam charges such a fee. So it is clear from the fee that we are absorbing the costs.

For the students who get through, it is their gateway to NLSIU. For the students that don’t, they still have the CLAT. We remain in the Consortium and we are fully committed to the process. The CLAT is currently scheduled for September 28, but it has been postponed several times.

Nobody is being deprived of the opportunity to write CLAT. We think that it is in the best interest of the students that the admission process for NLSIU is closed. And we have to do it in the most thorough and student-friendly way.

All the private universities have gone ahead and held their entrance exams. They have already started taking fees. The national law schools have been hampered by the CLAT 2020 process. We had proposed a number of options to the Consortium, but unfortunately, none of them were accepted. Had that been the case, it would have been a smoother process and we would have completed admissions by now.

We have no bone to pick with anyone. Ultimately, it is an ecosystem that we all benefit from, collectively. But we have to move forward, we can’t be stuck in the way that we have been for the last two-three months.

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