Interview by Bhawna Rawat
Dr. Poonam Saxena is presently working as the Vice Chancellor at National Law University, Jodhpur. She holds degrees of LL.M. & Ph.D. from the University of Delhi and has attained national and international scholarships for meritorious performance in academics. She has been a recipient of the prestigious Senior Fulbright Fellowship (1998), Shastri-Indo Canadian Fellowship (2000), Junior Research Scholarship by the University of Delhi (1982) and scholarship by the Indian Institute of Islamic Studies (1981). She is an eminent and distinguished Professor of Law par excellence, a committed humanitarian, and a versatile administrator. Her illustrious administrative and academic career of 35 years has many laurels embellishing it.
Dr. Saxena’s administrative experience has been variegated and multifarious with her latest assignment of being the Vice Chancellor of the prestigious National Law University, Jodhpur. In the three years of her able guidance, the University has achieved the zenith of excellence in mooting and academic performance. She has also been a versatile administrator as Professor in Charge, Law Centre-II, Faculty of Law, the University of Delhi (2007- 2010 & April 2013-July 2013.)
Dr. Saxena has published around 70 articles in prestigious international and national journals covering diverse areas of significance in law and pertinent social issues. She has been an illustrious writer of eight books published by Lexis Nexis Butterworth India. Her success as a meticulous and ingenious writer is evident from the publication of a number of successive editions of her books. Being a prolific writer, she is also on the editorial board of reputed national and international journals including "Ius Gentium" Journal of the University of Baltimore, Center for International and Comparative Law, Maryland, USA, National Capital Law Journal, University of Delhi etc.
Dr. Saxena specializes in Family Law, Inheritance and Succession, Property Law, Trusts and Charities, women-related laws and has reviewed books related to these core areas exhaustively. She has guided numerous students during their doctorate degree as well as for the LL.M. dissertation. She is a member of various prestigious professional bodies. She is also a Founder member of the Association of the South Asian Clinical Law.
Besides various conferences across the country, Dr. Saxena has presented her research work at various international conferences in foreign universities. She has been an active participant and resource person in talks on contemporary issues on various news channels and the UGC education channel Gyan Darshan. She has been invited by various Law schools across the country to share her vast experience in legal education. The philanthropic aspect of her personality is well reflected by her in-depth involvement in conducting various legal aid activities for women, children and other deprived sections of society.
My relationship with the education sector has been considerably long
First of I have a problem with the word ‘Industry’, you cannot use the word ‘Industry’. Industry word has a completely different connotation in the Indian Culture. So, right from the I have opened my eyes and since I was 3 years old, I have been associated with educational Institutions, first as a student and then immediately afterwards as a teacher. So, if you talk about teaching or time spent as a teacher it has been more than 30 years. Whether in one capacity or the other, I have been associated with education.
So far my experience has been wonderful, I do something that I enjoy doing and I am getting paid for doing something that I am really interested in. Right from 1982, when I joined the faculty of law, the of Delhi as a teacher, it has been an amazing journey till now.
Leading by giving example is my leadership style
One thing is that I lead a much disciplined academic life. I write a lot, I read a lot and I also am involved in teaching even as a vice chancellor. So, it is when you lead by example, a healthy and disciplined life always brings you fruitful results. If you are the head of the University you have to lead by example. And there are certain things to be taken care of like there can be no compromise and no deviating from ensuring a healthy academic environment.
My personal belief is that if the students are punctual in attending the classes and they bring in the required result it also makes a positive impact on the faculty. If the students are good the faculty is also encouraged to read more, research more and that brings in a very unique kind of atmosphere. We try to the purpose for which the institutions are . The institutions are for students, they are not employment giving opportunities to faculty members. The students are to be educated, it is necessary that the faculty should be called in for educating them. Being a leader, I have to be a good teacher and a good administrator.
Significant challenges faced after being appointed as the Vice Chancellor at National Law University, Jodhpur
When I first came here at NLU, Jodhpur before had been at Delhi University all my life, first as a student and then as faculty. So, there I didn’t have to prove myself to anyone as the Sr. faculty at the of Delhi my teachers before they became my colleagues.
On the other hand here in Jodhpur I was a completely new face, I had never even visited before I Joined here as So, it was a totally new student body, totally new faculty body and a totally new employees body. In other words, all the people here knew each other and I was the only one who knew no one. They didn’t know about my habits, didn’t know of my likes and dislikes, how I will appreciate one task over the other, what is my nature if I am too harsh or too liberal.
It took the students and the faculty a years to get to know me and when you follow a disciplined lifestyle, you want the students to follow the same. I wanted them to be very appropriate their . To begin with, people did not know what to expect and what kind of person I am and I didn’t want to prove myself to anyone overnight, so it took them a little time to understand me because the policies that I Implemented made me look a little harsh, a bit of a disciplinarian.
However, when eventually the results of the same became visible then they saw me in a different light. So, my acceptability here was very late, there was this sort of a current in the layer. People knew me by the opinions of the others and not by their own experiences with me. So, in the it was a bit challenging, but not difficult.
Being punctual is the key to time management
So, you have to have your priorities and time management is very for that. I take a regular course and in one semester I take two regular courses. From my initial I have been teaching Family law I and Family law II and Property Courses. So, I teach these courses here as well and along with me there is a faculty member who does the other work but the actual teaching is performed by me.
The Reason that I teach is primarily to have a with the students and secondly so that the teacher in me doesn’t die as I have a real passion for teaching. As far as time management is concerned I am punctual with respect to timing. I come here at 10 AM and do not leave here before 5 PM. Sometimes the time extends even beyond 5 PM but I take classes. Then I come to my office, do my official work and I also do my writing.
The campus placement statistics of National Law University, Jodhpur
The placement opportunities have definitely improved since the day I joined. I joined here in 2013 and the placement statistics were not very healthy but we made a few changes in accordance with the consultation with the students. Students had approached me with specific concerns regarding the placements and we made the appropriate changes. The results were extremely positive, now we have reached the stage of 100% Placements.
So, how the placement statistics work is that let’s say in a batch of 80 students 55–60 students want to be placed by the university. The other students want to go for further studies, want to go abroad for exploring their options, or want to get into litigation, or want to prepare for civil services and judicial services. So, the placement statistics are with respect to those students who actually want to be placed the assistance of the University and we are able to place them. Gradually, the placement cell has also improved and extremely positive results because now the students are being hired not only by the domestic firms but also by the International firms. This is something that has given the university very good visibility because of the placements.
Taking regular classes builds a connection with the students
I mentioned earlier that I take regular classes myself, I had a class today as well. I take at least one class daily because it helps me to establish a connection between me and my students. First and foremost I am a teacher, I am Vice-Chancellor because I am a teacher. If I don’t teach I cannot establish a connection with the students. Simultaneously I have been accustomed to this subject as well so the students are also gaining advantages of a teacher who has the experience, being a senior teacher.
Goals set for National Law University, Jodhpur to be achieved in the coming years
I want us to be doing well. We have been doing fairly well but we are at a little bit of locational disadvantage. A lot of our alumni are doing very well and are in very good places in the world. There are accomplished lawyers and judges who do not mind taking out 2 hours out of their day to speak to the students and give them an actual picture of what is needed in the real world out there.
However, it gets a little tough for them to be taking out 2 days out of their schedule. These are the things that we cannot do anything about but recently we have been arranging lectures through skype and other conferencing facilities. the physical interaction works better and Skype is a compromise but it works.
My Goal for NLU is that I want it to go further than we already are. Moreover, when the students look back at the glorious 5 years that they have spent here they should feel proud of the institution. When Alumni see the Institution going further and getting a name for itself that I think is a real reward for the institution.
Suggestions for the current youth and the aspiring students
Getting admission in NLU, Jodhpur is tough. I have seen students dropping one or even two years preparing for CLAT. My suggestion would be to please utilize these 5 years fruitfully when you are here. You must take the of what the institution has to offer here.