The Karnataka government has reduced maintenance grants allocated to the National Law School of India University (NLSIU) in Bengaluru by Rs 1.5 crore (75% of the previous grant) for the 2020-21 academic year.
In the last three years, the state government allocated Rs 2 crore per annum to the university as maintenance grants. However, for the 2020-21 academic year, the state government has allocated only Rs 50 lakh as maintenance grant. This development also comes at a time when the state government has reserved 25 seats in the university for domicile residents of Karnataka, a move that could increase the number of students at the university.
The drop in the grants allocated to NLSIU raised eyebrows. An analysis of the Karnataka government's detailed budget estimates showed that the grants for several universities in the state including the Mysuru University, Mangaluru University and Karnataka University in Dharwad were increased for the upcoming academic year.
"The University is highly resource constrained and we rely heavily on funds we generate. Rs 2 crore is around 7% of our total annual income and this year, because of uncertainties related to the COVID-19 pandemic, every financial contribution matters," a source close to NLSIU told TNM.
The largest revenue source for the university is student fees and the intake for the BA LLB honours course is 80 students, while 50 students are taken in every year for the LLM programme.
In March this year, the Karnataka government passed the National Law School of India (Amendment) Bill 2020. Upon receiving Governor Vajubhai Vala’s nod, a notification regarding the same was issued in the Gazette on Apri 27. As per the amended Act, the university will have to reserve 25% of its seats for students of Karnataka. The Act states that a student from Karnataka is defined as any "student who has studied in any one of the recognized educational institutions in the state for a period of not less than ten years preceding to the qualifying examination."
Vignesh R, president, Student Bar Association of NLSIU said that the impending changes in the university could lead to a revamp in the infrastructure to accommodate the students. "More students means that there will be a need for more hostel space and more facilities. This could also impact the financial aid that students receive but we would wait to see if there is any change in the grants allocated by the state," Vignesh told TNM.
Karnataka Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister JC Madhuswamy told TNM that the Rs 50 lakh grant is not intractable and the funding to the university could yet be increased. "The state government grants keep varying between universities and it won't be uniform every year. This is also not the committed expenditure for the state and we will be discussing this tomorrow (Tuesday, June 9)," Madhuswamy told TNM.
The university had hiked its fees by 27% for the 2019-20 academic year, a move that was met with opposition from students, who highlighted that it would exclude aspirants from economically backward sections. The management had cited rising costs and staff salaries for the increase in the fees. The university does not receive central government funding but receives grants from the state government since it was established under a state government legislation.