Increasing diversity by increasing access to legal education
- IDIA - Increasing Diversity by Increasing Access to Legal Education
- Country of Implementation
- Asia & Pacific
- South Asia
“IDIA seeks to empower students from underprivileged communities through legal education and to create community leaders from within these communities, as well as make legal education accessible to everyone, regardless of disabilities, and create a diversity-friendly legal ecosystem.” Dr. Shamnad Basheer, IDIA Charitable Trust
Until now, India’s leading national law schools have been reserved for the elite and the privileged. According to a 2014 survey of the top five national law universities, only 5% of the newly admitted students came from families with an annual income below one Lakh of Indian Rupees (appx. US$1,500). Moreover, all the top national law universities are required to reserve 3% of their spaces for students with disabilities. The process of integrating these students into these elite universities serves two purposes. First, when the students we train are successful in gaining admission into these universities, they are able to gain access to a premium legal education and thereby to powerful legal and political career paths. Second, increased diversity in the classrooms enriches the process of education itself.
Solution, Innovation and Impact
The IDIA project aims to redress this serious imbalance and promote access to legal education in favour of the underprivileged. Given the connection between law and leadership, such education will also help generate community leaders, and in this way truly empower communities to help themselves. IDIA support includes: (i) SOLE training: IDIA student volunteers train selected underprivileged scholars on a regular basis for various exams in order to foster a “self-organized learning environment” (SOLE); (ii) Mentorship: IDIA scholars are allotted multiple mentors, including at least one senior student from a law school, one from the law profession, and one faculty member; (iii) Leadership, soft skills, and resilience: IDIA plans to impart strategically designed training programmes to enhance the soft skills (e.g., well-spoken English) and resilience of its scholars; and (iv) Diversity-friendly eco-system: Since its inception, IDIA’s policy wing has advocated for a more diversity-friendly eco-system, including challenging the discriminatory policies of law schools in courts of law.
Funding, Outlook and Transferability
IDIA has the following growth targets: (1) stabilizing operations in the 16 state chapters. (2) By 2020, establishing student chapters in all national law universities, and multiple student chapters in at least five states. (3) Securing institutional funding. (4) Hosting three public relations events each year. (5) Providing specialized leadership development and (6) focusing the efforts of our research and policy team on some of the structural issues.
THE STORY OF YUGAL JAIN
“Today I am leading a chapter with 75 volunteers.”
My name is Yugal Jain and I am from Jaipur, Rajasthan, India. Currently I am a fourth year undergraduate student at NALSAR University of Law in Hyderabad. Due to my visual impairment, I face a number of challenges in my daily life. My association with the IDIA Charitable Trust began in 2012, when I was disallowed from bringing my own scribe for the CLAT law entrance exam. IDIA helped me as well as all visually impaired students appearing for the test by successfully advocating with the national law universities that administer CLAT to allow visually impaired candidates to bring their own scribes for the test. When I gained admission into NALSAR, which is considered one of the best law schools in India, I faced the hurdle of paying the course fees, since I belong to a family with very modest financial means, and I was denied an education loan by all the banks I approached. At this juncture, IDIA arranged for sponsorship of my college fees and enabled me to fulfil my dream of studying in a top national law school. Today, I am leading the Hyderabad chapter of IDIA, comprised of 75 volunteers – a position that has taught me leadership skills and has fine-tuned my problem-solving ability in a real-world setting.