Assuming charge as the new director of Gujarat National Law University (GNLU) on Tuesday, Prof S Shantha Kumar said his priorities were three-fold – internationalisation, alumni engagement and research. Shantha Kumar has taken over from Bimal Patel who held the position for 10 years.
An alumnus of the University of Madras in Chennai, Shantha Kumar specialised in environmental law, human rights law, international law and constitutional law. He held the post of Pro Vice-Chancellor and Dean of the School of Law at GD Goenka University, Gurugram before joining GNLU in Gandhinagar.
Expressing confidence that he would achieve his target of internationalisation during his five-year term, Shantha Kumar said that his association with international forums made him hopeful that he could raise GNLU standards and find it a place on international rankings.
The new director said he is an active member of the International Association of Law Schools, which holds two important meetings every year – Asia Pacific Law Deans’ Forum and Global Law Deans’ Forum – which discuss critical issues in legal education and create a platform to exchange expert knowledge on various areas. “So I will have a lot of foreign professors coming and staying here because of my association with the International Association of Law Schools,” he said.
In addition, Shantha Kumar said he was also recently elected to represent South and West Asia at the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Academy of Environmental Law on its governing board. IUCN is a global authority on the status of the natural world and the measures needed to safeguard it.
“I get to work with deans of Ivy League universities of the world. I will be in a comfortable position to rope in a lot of them into my advisory committee and also get them to come and teach at the university,” he added.
The director said he would like to get GNLU faculty members opportunities to work in some of the top ranking law schools of the world as well as attract foreign students to GNLU.
At present, GNLU does not have a single foreign student. “These are the key indicators that put a university on international rankings – how many professors are moving inward and outward and how many international students come here to study,” Shantha Kumar said. “I know it would be difficult to get students from European countries or the United States but I have a good connect with law schools in southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Taiwan, and Cambodia. So from next year, you will see foreign students at GNLU.”
Speaking of his second priority of alumni engagement, he said he had already begun approaching alumni through informal platforms such as Facebook. Many students of different batches have volunteered to help. “Universities such as Harvard thrive on alumni resources, so I feel that is one area that GNLU can also explore,” he said. As GNLU was set up in 2004, it has had 10 batches of graduates so far. “The first batch must be holding good positions, so my task is to bring them all back to the campus so that they become role models for young students, whom they can mentor and groom,” he said.
Speaking of his third priority, research, Shantha Kumar remarked that universities in India are generally criticised for not producing quality research. “In the field of law, we can create knowledge because content is indigenous and we don’t need to look to the West for content,” he said. “So I am going to motivate each and every teacher to write a lot and publish articles so that we are known outside as a great research institute.”
Talking about the infrastructure at GNLU, he said, “When many national universities are still struggling for its own campus, we have quite unparalleled infrastructure, for which I would credit my predecessor. While decentralisation is the USP of GNLU, I feel the university has not marketed itself.” By contrast, he said, “small institutes hit the headlines as if they have done great things.”
Aiming to get the top 180 ranked candidates out of the pool of 60,000 from the Common Law Admission Test (CLAT), the new director said GNLU currently gets the pick from the top 450-500 ranked students. He added, “I want to raise this to the first 180 candidates and make GNLU the most preferred law university.”