Certificate courses have become much sought-after over the past few years. In an increasingly competitive job market, students and job seekers are vying for better prospects and are constantly aiming to enhance their skill-sets through certificate courses. This article will try to decode the unnecessary hype surrounding certificate courses offered by law schools in recent times.
In recent times, when legal education has emerged as one of the most competitive career fields, students in law schools all over India are striving to become the best of the lot. As a result, in addition to the regular academic curriculum, law students are looking for various opportunities to ensure that they are the best available resources and make themselves attractive to potential recruiters.
Students are eager to explore all such opportunities which would give them an edge over their contemporaries. They are looking at various methods to ensure that they have additional skills or knowledge which would set them apart from the normal crowd and make themselves attractive to big law firms and corporate companies.
This trend is visible from the increased number of students every single year who participate in moots, publish papers, participate in debates and MUNs etc. Much like these extra-curricular activities, there has been a huge hike in the number of certificate courses on various law subjects which are offered to law students by numerous institutions and private companies. By undertaking these certificate courses, the students will receive a separate certificate (beyond their law degrees) for undertaking a certain course of study.
II. Are Certificate Courses Really Useful or is Their Purpose Overhyped?
In today’s circumstances, it is pertinent to understand whether there is any special benefit in pursuing these certificate courses which are often quite expensive. Moreover, it is essential to understand what is the value associated with the certificate and whether it would be useful for students in their career.
A major reason for the hype associated with certificate courses is because they are tremendously promoted by law schools all over the nation including various NLUs such as NLU Delhi, GNLU, NUJS, NLU Jodhpur, etc. The fact that these courses are offered by reputed law colleges instils a sense of value and authenticity in the minds of students who take up these courses. But a careful analysis indicates that the value associated with it is often misguided and wrong and more often than not, they are not very useful in a person’s career.
Many experts are of the opinion that certificate courses distort the proper incentives for students to diversify their education and seem to be largely a marketing tool for law schools. These courses allow schools to create the false impression that students are receiving an extra credential when they, in fact, are not. As such, certificates have more than a whiff of hucksterism.
These certificate programs are often used by law schools as purely a marketing tool to attract students to their institution. Students are often given the false impression that upon graduation they could use these certificates to look for employment. But most of the times, recruiters do not give so much importance to certificate courses. For instance, a person who has completed a certificate course on a particular subject paying a significant amount and another person who has instead published 2 or 3 papers in some reputed journal will most likely be given the same weightage by a potential employer.
Moreover, it must be kept in mind that the costs associated with these courses are not affordable to every student despite the fact that they may be academically brilliant. A look at the fees of NLUs reveal that it is quite expensive and coupling the same with certificate courses will put huge pressure on students from financially weaker backgrounds. Thus, it will create an uneven playing field even within the same institution itself.
Another major problem associated with certificate courses is that they risk over-incentivizing students to excessively concentrate their legal studies, rather than pursue broad-scope general legal studies. This will necessarily impact the ability of students to maximize the number of bar courses that they take. Given the increased bar failure rates seen recently resulting from weaker admissions standards, schools now more than ever should emphasize the core education necessary for bar passage. Even if they pass the bar, certificated students will likely have less than the ideal breadth of coursework.
Moreover, there is a serious lack of self-discipline associated with certificate courses. Many online courses are as per ones-own-pace, so it has the chances of making student procrastinate as it lacks disciple, so students instead of studying on a daily basis or, studying only at the time of the exam, or instead of doing assignments in a diligent manner may just use different short-cuts tactics in completing it, so the whole point of undertaking these online certificate courses gets defeated. Additionally, the medium of certificate courses is online which will pose those students who are not technologically well endowed at a disadvantage.
Lastly, attention needs to be paid to the rising trend of colleges offering certificate courses. Even though the trend started with NLUs offering certificate courses, it has now spread to other law schools as well. While they are often appreciated as an increased learning opportunity for students, the point that is often missed is their purpose is to provide additional income or profit for law schools.
Despite the fact these courses are not mandatory, the prospect that recruiters might question why, given that a school offers certificates, that some students have not obtained them, will force these students into pursuing these courses. Equally, other schools will seek similar outcomes. Eventually, certificates will become expected across law schools, which will graduate over-specialized students without providing a competitive advantage.
To conclude, despite the fact that certificate courses have certain advantages such as in-depth knowledge of the subject, more flexibility and individualised learning opportunities, an overall outlook on the same reveals that they are primarily a way for law schools to have financial gains at the expense of vulnerable students.