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Dr. Purvi Pokhariyal is the Director of the Institute of Law at NIRMA University (ILNU), Ahmedabad. In 2014, we had interviewed her on the state of affairs at the institute. Two years later, Bar & Bench’s Aditya AK catches with the Director to find out the changes at ILNU, and a lot more.
Aditya AK: What changes has ILNU undergone in the past few years?
Dr. Purvi Pokhariyal: The major change is with regard to our curriculum. We have tried to incorporate many elective courses, and we are marching towards the choice-based credit system. We have around 73 elective courses from the first to the tenth semester. Some of them are career preparation courses. For example, once students undergo six internships, they are able to decide which career path they want to choose.
For the first two years, we offer sports-related elective courses to the students. We have Cricket, Tennis, Chess, etc. Through this, they can have team-building exercises and can gel with each other.
Coming to pedagogy, we have tried to implement the Outcome-Based Education (OBE) and the Bloom’s Taxonomy model. We believe that all courses are not of the same nature. Some of them may have a cognitive domain, some of them may have an affective domain. So we try to figure out what the learning outcome should be, depending on the nature of the course, and how this learning outcome should be measured through various components.
At the end of the course, we should have the assurance of a learning loop. If there are three learning outcomes in a course, each one has a different pedagogical technique. For example, in an Evidence course, one of the learning outcomes may be to make sure the students understand the provisions of the Indian Evidence Act. To assess that, I may set a test for them. Once they have understood the provisions, the second level is application. For this, I may set a problem to see whether they are able to apply the provisions to the problem.
In a class of 60 students, let’s say only 40 have understood the provisions. The remaining 20 students will not be able to go to the next level; I will not be able to complete the loop of learning with these 20 students. If in my class, I am able to close the loop for only 40 students, I need to introspect as a teacher as to why this is happening and come with solutions to bridge that gap.
We have just recently introduced this system. To what extent all faculty members are able to implement this system, I cannot vouch for. But we are trying out this particular path.
Aditya AK: What role do the other departments play in helping the Institute of Law?
Dr. Purvi Pokhariyal: We learn many things from each other. For example, we have adopted the technique of evaluation based on learning loops from the Institute of Management. The tutorial method is another thing we have adopted from the Institute of Technology.
Likewise, we are offering courses on Law, Science and Technology, Energy Law etc. For these, we have collaborative teaching with faculty members form the Institute of Technology. So the synergy among the different departments definitely helps.
Aditya AK: Which method of teaching do you prefer?
Dr. Purvi Pokhariyal: I personally believe that is very difficult to implement the Socratic method; if you do not have mastery over that technique, it may lead to disastrous results. I do not approve of the lecture method because it is only one-way communication.
Our course conduct modules specify what the faculty will teach each day, so it is expected that the students will come prepared with the readings mentioned in the module. To be very honest, not many students come prepared with the readings, but at least there are 10-15 self-motivated students who will be prepared.
For example, if I am teaching Cooperative Federalism, I will explain the basic concept for 10-15 minutes. Based on the readings mentioned in the module, I have questions ready to pose before the class and I engage them in a discussion. The questioning should ideally flow in such a way that at the end of the hour, I should be able to draw some kind of a conclusion.
So, we don’t follow either method, but there is a strategic plan for each class.
Aditya AK: How have law teachers adapted in the face of technological advancements?
Dr. Purvi Pokhariyal: The way in which technological advancements are happening, one thing should essentially be taught in law schools. That is, how a student can develop aptitude; how problems can be addressed, how to think creatively. Gone are the days when I was required to teach, say, Section 299 of IPC. Now, I am required to teach how to approach the provision, how it operates in different situations.
Aditya AK: How has ILNU dealt with the faculty crunch that many law schools today face?
Dr. Purvi Pokhariyal: We sail in the same boat, to be very honest. At the same time, we try to bridge the gap by inviting a lot of visiting faculty and honorary professors.
For example, we asked Prof Shamnad Basheer to come and teach for two weeks in a semester. We ask Senior Advocates from Ahmedabad to come and take lectures.
Aditya AK: Do you think the UGC norms for hiring faculty are a hindrance?
Dr. Purvi Pokhariyal: It is really a great hindrance, in the sense that our hands are tied. Even though we might have a non-NET qualified or non-Ph.D. candidate who may be exceptionally good at teaching, we cannot hire them or attract them.
Aditya AK: One thing that was discussed last time was the student-administration divide. How has this been addressed?
Dr. Purvi Pokhariyal: We have student bodies in place. The class representative or any student is encouraged to come and discuss anything with me, anytime. If they do not address the issues and are grappling with them on their own, we cannot know what they are facing.
Aditya AK: Have you seen a change in the students’ career trends?
Dr. Purvi Pokhariyal: A lot of students are joining the Bar and the Bench instead of going for corporate jobs. This time, almost 90 students were interested in joining the judiciary. I think they have noticed that there tends to be stagnation after working for 4-5 years in a law firm.
Aditya AK: There was talk of ILNU trying to be a part of CLAT.
Dr. Purvi Pokhariyal: For the last six years, we have been writing to the CLAT Core Committee expressing our interest in joining the CLAT fold. Two years ago, they came up with a strange provision in the MoU that only those universities that have the word “national” in their name can be a part of CLAT. So because of that, it would not be possible for us to be a part of CLAT.
Two years ago, they came up with a strange provision in the MoU that only those universities that have the word “national” in their name can be a part of CLAT.
Then we asked if we could admit students to ILNU based on CLAT scores, and they approved it. They also agreed to put our name on the CLAT website.
There are so many law schools which have domicile reservations. As far as possible, we go by merit, on the basis of the CLAT rank. So even though we reflect a truly national character, we cannot be a part of CLAT!
Aditya AK: Law school rankings have always left something to be desired. Do you think the NIRF Rankings will change this?
Dr. Purvi Pokhariyal: The last NIRF rankings did not categorically include law schools. In the new NIRF notification, they have included law as a separated subject, and we will be participating in next year’s rankings.
They are also modifying the ranking parameters and the questionnaires. So, it would be premature to comment on it now. They have learnt something after the first experience, so we will have to wait for the modified version.
Aditya AK: Tell us about the research at ILNU.
Dr. Purvi Pokhariyal: We have eight research centres, with the objective of enhancing the research skills of the students as well as the faculty. At the university, we receive money for conducting research. A faculty member gets one lakh rupees for a minor project and fifteen lakhs for a major research project.
As of now, a few projects being undertaken. One is on the Social Audit of the Juvenile Justice Act. The Gujarat government in considering us to play a part in framing the state Juvenile Justice Rules. Apart from that, we are researching on issues faced by tribals in Gujarat. So a fairly good research environment exists today. If a proposal gets approved, we will have 10-12 research projects by the end of the year.
Aditya AK: How is the mushrooming of NLUs affecting private law colleges?
Dr. Purvi Pokhariyal: I do not feel they are affecting us at all. If you see our admission statistics every year, it is very encouraging.
Our CLAT cut-off rank is also rising; it is becoming increasingly difficult to get into NIRMA. Last year, we closed our admissions somewhere around the 2,000 rank, even though we have an intake of 180 students. So the opening of one or two more national law schools will not affect us.
Aditya AK: Do you think the five-year model works?
Dr. Purvi Pokhariyal: The five-year model works provided we have a truly integrated programme, which is grossly lacking in many of the law schools. We are trying to do something different in this regard. Our Political Science teacher knows what Kesavananda Bharti is or what the NJAC judgment is, and tries to correlate this with his subject. The economics teacher knows what Competition Law is.
We have some of the best humanities teachers; they can truly integrate law with the non-law courses. We constantly discuss how law can be roped in while teaching humanities courses. Teaching pure sociology or economics will not serve the purpose of the five-year course.
Aditya AK: Prof Madhava Menon had suggested a 4+1 model, where the subjects are taught in five years and the last year is for practical training.
Dr. Purvi Pokhariyal: Being our Academic Advisory Committee Head, he has discussed this with us before, and I fully agree with him. By the fifth year, it is so difficult to retain the interest of the students, because they know that their career ambitions are totally different.
By the fifth year, it is so difficult to retain the interest of the students, because they know that their career ambitions are totally different.
What we can probably do is replace the elective courses in the fifth year with professional training. For example, if a student wants to work with an NGO, he should be allowed to work there for a year so that he gets a real idea. An internship for one or two months may not be enough.
Aditya AK: What is your vision for ILNU?
Dr. Purvi Pokhariyal: We want to be the best, but not vis-à-vis any other law school. We would like to grow at our own pace and in our own way.
(Views expressed in this interview are of Dr. Purvi Pokhariya, Director of the Institute of Law at NIRMA University. Bar & Bench neither endorses nor is responsible for the same)