When I decided to pursue law as a career, I came to know about CLAT and the “National” Law Universities. The name itself, “National Law University”, made me believe that as IIT is for engineering, AIIMS for medicine, NLU is for law. But that is not true.

All the “National” Law Universities, except none, are established by their respective state legislatures, unlike IITs, AIIMs and IIMs.

All the law universities are autonomous, which means the state government has no role to play in its day to day functioning and being state universities, they don’t get any funding from the central government.

It has been also claimed by the vice-chancellors that the state government also does not provide sufficient funds. Generally, they provide one-time funding for the university’s establishment and then leave it to feed itself.

The “National” Law Universities administer as a private institute under the garb and goodwill of a government institution.

Assumption of being National

acadman.in did a survey in three National Law Universities, in which 516 students took part. The result was that 60 percent of the students who took admission in an NLU assumed that the “National Law” Universities are central government institutes.

Domicile Reservation

Most of the NLUs have reserved a portion of its seat for the students from the home state which also dilutes the “national” nature of the universities.

National Law Universities at Patna, Lucknow, Ranchi, and Mumbai have even reserved 50 percent of their seats for domiciled students.

NLU Bangalore – the archetype of the NLU model – has not benefited from state government funding for a long time, the Karnataka legislative assembly has passed a bill which mandates 50 per cent reservation to the domicile students, as per an economic times report.

Exorbitant Fee

As the university has no funding and is autonomous, it charges exorbitant fees and also holds the right to alter the fee at their leisure.

Entrance Fee

The very first step to get admission in a “professional” institute is to write an entrance examination. In case of law, there is CLAT – a national level entrance examination – to get admission in NLUs. And the CLAT’s fees, i.e. INR 4000 is being used as the first deterrent for students from less privileged sections of society.

[CLAT does not have a permanent body and has been subject to irregularities every year. It is organised by NLUs on a rotation basis.]

If we compare CLAT’s fee with other India’s top entrance exams –

AIIMS MBBS entrance exam application fee is INR 1000.

IIMs entrance examination – CAT – fee is INR 1800.

IIT-JEE (Main) Paper 1 (B.E./B.Tech.) or JEE (Main) Paper-2 (B.Arch./B.Planning) only – Pen and Paper Based Examination – costs INR 1000 and if given on computer would cost INR 500 only.

Both IIT-JEE (Main) Paper-1 (B.E./B.Tech.) and JEE (Main) Paper-2 (B.Arch./B.Planning) – pen and paper based examination- costs INR 1800 and if given on computer would cost INR 1300 only.

Admission Fee at “National” Law Universities

There is no uniformity in the admission fee among different NLUs and it is also very high.

For instance, admission fee at –

  • NLU, Bangalore – INR 6,000
  • NLU, Hyderabad and Patiala – INR 5,000
  • NLU, Ranchi – INR 10, 000
  • NLU, Jodhpur – INR 12,000
  • NLU, Kolkata, Delhi, Lucknow – INR 1000

However, admission fee at some of India’s prestigious educational institutes – IIT Kanpur and IIT Madras is INR 150 only and at the Hindu College, Delhi University it is just INR 05.

Total Fees for the 5-year course at NLUs

Total fees also vary at different NLUs. NLU – Lucknow, which is the only NLU having Chief Minister of the state as Chancellor, has the lowest fee. But the lowest fee comes at a cost of 50 per cent reservation to the students from Uttar Pradesh.

  • NLU Jodhpur – 12,000 (one time) + 1,85,500 * 5 = INR 9,39,500/-
  • NLU Kolkata – 1,000 (one time) + 3,13,300 * 5 = INR 15,67,500/-
  • NLU Hyderabad – 10,000 (one time) + 2,32,000 * 5 = INR 11,70,000/-
  • NLU Punjab – 5,000 (one time) + 2,04,000 * 5 = INR 10,25,000/-
  • NLU Lucknow – 11000 (one time) + 1,08,000 * 5 = INR 5,40,000/-
  • NLU Gujarat – 17,000 (one time) + 219000 *5 = 10,95,000/-

Refundable Deposits has not been included and the fee is subject to increase every year.

Central Universities have very Low Fees

The 5-Year B.A.LL.B course at Jamia Milia Islamia costs around INR 10,500 per year. The 3-year LL.B course at Faculty of Law, Delhi University also have a same amount of fee.

The Illusion

Moreover, a legal-news website has claimed in a study that graduating from a “National” Law University does not increase your chance of employment, which is an illusion for law students.

Chain Reaction of High Fees

When these institutions charge exorbitant fee from students, it triggers the beginning  of a vicious circle. The students take loans from banks to pay the said fee and then end up being forced to settle for a corporate job just to pay off the debt.  The vice Chancellors of NLU believe this to be  against the basic ethics and object of the NLU model.  

NLU Failed to attain its objective

“The very purpose behind establishing them was to produce good lawyers, judges, teachers and researchers from different sections of society. But, by and large, this objective is getting frustrated because students are not willing to go for judicial services, teaching, or even litigation” said NLU Raipur VC, as reported by a law-news website.

Protests at NLUs is a common phenomenon. Students at three NLUs protested the state of affairs last year. Maladministration is rampant in various NLUs and here no one is protesting because they are well controlled. Students at NLU Ranchi, Bhopal, and Assam have protested against government apathy, and maladministration in its many ways, shapes and forms.

No Socio-Political exposure

Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University is considered to be one of the most politically active campuses in India, unlike all the NLUs. Some believe NLUs cannot afford to do that.

Vice Chancellor and professors of every NLU can be seen patronising Bhagat Singh on his birth/death anniversary. But I assure you that they would not agree with his ideology of Student Politics. 

Former Infosys CFO, Mohandas Pai, in a piece at ndtv.com aimed at connecting tax with academics, claiming that he (and by extension all taxpayers) pays tax to promote the studies of students rather than their politics. He preferred students to stay away from politics altogether.

In an article titled “Students and Politics” published in the journal Kirti in June 1928, Bhagat Singh argued differently. He, in fact, made the case supporting student political involvement concisely and vigorously.

So if you have an interest in socio-political things and if by any chance you are opting law just because most of the politicians have a law degree, – DO NOT – join an NLU, even if you can afford to pay the fees.

Enroll yourself in a college which provides you ample time to think and do things, and provides a socio-political atmosphere, unlike NLUs which engage you from 8 am to 4 pm – with an X percentage of mandatory attendance and every week with a project or viva.

If you think that paying a hefty fee would provide you with a better academic environment, brilliant professors…don’t…just don’t even think of that. I would not elaborate more on this.

Even some good professors believe that social and political activities are a distraction if you are pursuing a “professional” course and any attempt to incorporate socio-political activities in NLUs would adversely affect the “NLU culture”.

I wonder why Law Makers do not think consider “National Law Universities” worth funding? or for it’s development? as a bill is pending in the Lok Sabha since 2016 to provide NLUs as Institutions of National Importance.

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