Published: 28th October 2019
We need to update how we teach the law: Dr Deependra Jha and Dr Andrea Nollent on studying Law in India
UPES and The University of Law signed an MoU for collaboration that will include scholarships, student and faculty exchange. A conversation about the current curriculum in law, research amd more
Law has always been a field that has had immense professional success but not much is talked about the research that goes on in the field or the periodic revision of the curriculum. The University of Petroleum and Energy Studies (UPES) that offers its students more than 100 specialisation-focused undergraduate and postgraduate programs across various fields recently signed an MoU for collaboration with The University of Law, UK and they say this will immensely help the students. The MoU was signed in the presence of the Former Chief Justice of India, Dipak Mishra and the Vice-Chancellor and CEO of ULaw, Professor Andrea Nollent, who was also the keynote speaker at the event. Professor Nollent signed the MoU with Dr Deependra Jha, Vice-Chancellor of UPES. We caught up with the two academics to discuss the new collab, research in India and where it's headed and much more. Excerpts from the conversation:
How will this collaboration help the students?
Dr Deependra Jha: UPES and The University of Law (ULaw) have signed the MoU with an aim to provide students with an opportunity to benefit from collaborative learning programmes from both the institutes. It will further bolster UPES’s efforts to provide quality industry-relevant education to students aspiring to excel in law and will have tangible outcomes in terms of scholarships, faculty and student exchange, development of online modules, summer school program and research projects. Students will also have access to collaborative seminars, moot courts, conferences and competitions at an international level. UPES and ULaw share the common objective of developing the best legal minds through innovative and contemporary teaching practices.
Dr Andrea Nollent: We see it as strategic because we aim to create a strong bond between our two institutions and work together to provide long term benefits for both staff and students. Our joint plan includes the alignment of academic developments to create new joint courses in Law and Business which will capitalise on our mutual expertise. From this academic year, we will make available to UPES LLB students modules from our online LLB. Starting from January 2020, we also put together a joint academic team that will contribute to the teaching of the UPES LLB. Furthermore, for the UPES students graduating in 2020, we have put together a scholarship that will allow them to study towards a postgraduate qualification in the UK with preferential fees. We will also put in place a fund to provide bursaries for UPES alumni who would like to specialise through a ULAW LLM. Finally, for the existing students at UPES, we are planning a summer school programme in the UK and the possibility of spending a semester in any of our UK or international campuses in Germany and Hong Kong through a study abroad programme.
Where is India when it comes to research in the field of law?
Dr Jha: Research in the field of law comes naturally as a tool for law reform. The legislation drafted by legislators, the precedents crafted by courts and the treatise written by jurists are a work of scholarship and research. However, when one speaks of ‘research’ purely, it involves following a methodology and process with comparative studies, framework analysis, case analysis and/or suggestions for reforms. While research in the field of law in India has progressed over the years, it still has a long way to go. This is quite evident from the list of indexed journals maintained by accredited agencies and very few Indian Law Journals finding a place in them. While UGC has made publication mandatory for recruitment, promotion, etc. now, initially there was no standard to be followed until we got the UGC-CARE list. Legal research in India can progress with a focused approach and identifying institutions that are good at it. Expecting every institution to do well in legal research is not fair. Further, in India, legal research generally is limited to academic research. Legal research should be done with an interdisciplinary approach like law and management, law and technology, law and health sciences, etc. There is a need for the creation of some Legal Research Excellence Framework (LREF), which assesses the quality of outputs, their impact and an environment that supports research.
The country has been talking about an all-out revision of the current education system. What do you think is the most pertinent issue, in general, and also in law, that needs to be addressed as soon as possible?
Dr Jha: The New Education Policy that focuses upon India making itself a hub for global education along with other positive inclusions is a promising one. I believe it is going to have a much wider and positive impact on all the fields including Law. However, there are some missing links when it comes to law education in India. Industry veterans discussed these during the UPES law round table last year. Law education is still largely theoretical and does not reflect drastic changes in social structure and business scenarios. As emerging business practices and new technologies are reshaping the legal industry, there is an urgency to upgrade the curriculum of legal studies to promote responsive legal practitioners who can meet evolving industry demand. Industry leaders highlighted that key professional competencies such as problem-solving, identifying risk, research skills, communication skills, negotiation skills and practice management are lacking in law graduates. It was also highlighted that universities can also contribute towards the formulation of policy frameworks and can involve their law students in this process.
How important do you think it is to have visiting faculty members?
Dr Jha: It is essential to have visiting faculty in the field of Law since factors like digital technologies and a globalised economy are re-shaping legal scenarios. Therefore, having a broader perspective of the issues that require the involvement of the Law is a must-have. I think, visiting faculties in that regard play a vital role.
Dr Nollent: I think it is very important. Academics who participate in exchanges help create a closer working relationship between the two institutions by exchanging teaching practices and mutual research interests. Ideas are exchanged, and professional skills are shared, whether this is through the use of new technologies or techniques. Bringing fresh ideas to education is vital to keep us at the forefront of teaching. Furthermore, the creation of personal friendships amongst our two teams will also help us create a friendlier more culturally diverse environment for both our staff and students.