Dr KC Sunny | Photo: Muralikrishnan B/ Mathrubhumi
Prof KC Sunny, vice-chancellor of the National University of Advanced Legal Studies, Kochi, will relieve from the post in January 2023. He is a law academic who has more than 30 years of experience as a teacher. He is also an election law expert.
In a brief chat with mathrubhumi.com, he shared his thoughts on law education in India.
What is the decision that you took as the VC of NUALS that you are most proud of?
We recently implemented skill-based learning and gamification. That is something I am really proud of. This was an intervention to make the learning process more interesting and ensure active participation from the students. This was well received by the students.
Different games were created to address the issues of each branch. Students, professors, and external experts contributed to developing the games.
The games were initially implemented for first-year students. When the senior students saw the activities, they demanded the scheme be implemented in their course work too.
Now we are planning to bring more activities such as role play. These are practices followed in foreign universities such as Harvard.
Academicians have been saying that we don’t need separate universities for each discipline and multi-disciplinary universities are better. What is your take on this?
I agree with the idea that universities must be multidisciplinary. To this effect, we have decided to establish more departments at NUALS. A humanities department was approved at the last meeting.
I would say NULAS should not be merged with any other universities. It should stay as it is. More departments can be established on campus. In fact, many law universities are already multidisciplinary.
What are the new trends in law education?
Every year, new courses come up. Latest one being the course dealing with issues in Artificial Intelligence.
After the 2018 floods in Kerala, we started a course on legal services as part of disaster management. A relief camp was opened at NUALS during the floods. Our students helped the campers with their legal issues such as recovering lost certificates and identity cards. This sparked the idea to offer such a course. This was established in association with the National Law University, Odisha.
What are the challenges of law education in India?
Presently, law education is not skill-based. More skill development activities should be part of the curriculum. More competitions to improve the practical knowledge of students should be established. Field visits and research projects have to be conducted. NUALS has been making the students do research.
Is the curriculum and pedagogy of law education in India up to date?
Not really. There was a meeting in New Delhi in 2019, soon after I took charge of the vice-chancellor. The decision to update the pedagogy of law education in India was taken at that meeting. But nothing has happened so far.
We have implemented some changes at NUALS. The UGC asked universities to provide skill courses and we are doing it.
Students now have a maximum attention span of 20 minutes in one stretch. You have got to engage them with new methods. Otherwise, they will not come to classes. New strategies must be developed.
What are the prospects of studying law abroad?
There are many Malayalis who practise law abroad. Europe and the US are the favourite destinations of these people. The Commonwealth and the US share broadly the same laws. I haven’t seen many people going to Islamic countries to practice law. But we have people who are well versed in Islamic laws. They can try their luck in these countries.
Kerala is not popular for higher education unlike school education. What could be the reasons and what are the fundamental changes required according to you?
The pedagogy has to be changed. We still follow very old methods. When the syllabus is updated, it should not repeat what is already taught in the present courses. Another important aspect is continuous training for faculty. This is not happening right now. Skill development and elective courses should be given priority and flexibility. MOOC courses should also be incorporated.
Do you think independent chancellors for each university will improve the situation?
It is not a matter of whether the chancellor is governor or an independent individual. What role is this person going to play in university matters? What are the powers? In Central University of Kerala, our Visitor is the President of India. He does not involve in university affairs. Things are smooth there.
Kerala is not the only state with issues with governors. It is certainly uncalled for and avoidable.
Where do you stand on the NJAC vs Collegium controversy?
The process is key. Who selects the judges? How is it done? Is it possible for aspirants to apply and the public to file objections against applicants?
Be it Collegium or NJAC, they deal with judge appointments like they deal with making an atom bomb. It should not be a secret. The criteria should be made public. Let there be public discussion about the merits of the judges.
Dr Sunny was selected as NUALS VC while working at the Central University of Kerala. An election law expert, he was the international observer for Nepal Constituent Assembly Election 2006 and Bangladesh Parliament Election 2007.
He has published a book “Corrupt practices in Election Law” and more than 45 research papers.
He served as the Programme Chair of the International Conference on Law and Public Policy, Singapore, for 7 years.