First Person Accounts(FPA’s) are meant to provide a first-hand account of Indian graduates who have pursued, or are pursuing, a post-graduate course (LL.M. or otherwise) from different universities across the world.
Param Pandya is currently at Oxford University, where he has enrolled for the MSc in Law & Finance. This is a particularly interesting course, and has seen an increasing level of interest from the Indian Law Graduate.
Param also happens to be a JN Tata Scholar as well as a recipient of the MLF Financial Aid Award (University of Oxford)
In this interview, Param shares some of his reasons for opting for this course, partially funding the master’s programme through an education loan , and a whole lot more.
You have quite the interesting career trajectory – moving from corporate law firm to legal policy and now higher studies. What made you opt for a law firm right after graduation, and then into the policy space?
Academia and policy as career choices always intrigued me. In my third year, I even made a failed attempt to intern at the Planning Commission. They gave me an absurd requirement of scoring 90% in X and XII boards.
However, in the same year, due to certain financial constraints (including paying my educational loan), I realised that obtaining a campus placement is the need of the hour. The easiest way to do so was to find a corporate law firm job. T
Though my interest in corporate law was at that point in time a necessary evil, it became my passion thanks to the influence of Prof. Dr. Umakanth Varottil, Associate Professor, NUS, Singapore. I quit the firm job after I completed the payment of education loan to pursue a masters in India.
However, along with some admission offer from NLUs, I luckily got an offer from Vidhi Centre for Legal Policy, New Delhi which I jumped on. It was at Vidhi, again thanks to my mentors Dr. Arghya Sengupta and Debanshu Mukherjee and many colleagues who gave me much needed hope and support that I could travel to foreign shores for better legal education.
Was it while working in policy that you started considering a master’s, or was this the plan from the very start of your career?
I always wanted pursue further studies, however, it was during working in policy that I seriously considered doing a master’s programme abroad.
What got you to look at the MLF programme as opposed to the more traditional LLMs? Were there any other non-LLM courses that you looked at?
The MLF programme at the University of Oxford is a unique blend wherein the candidates are taught basics of finance while the law subjects focus on these basic concepts and explain how law and policy would attempt to address gaps.
I wanted to gain this interdisciplinary understanding since I aim to be in academia and/or policy. I did apply and got into the traditional master’s programme at the National University of Singapore and secured the Faculty Graduate Partial Scholarship (50% of tuition fees), SOAS and LSE.
I also applied to the Master of Public Policy at National University of Singapore but was not admitted. I did not apply to any course in the US.
Any tips on how to approach the MLF application process? What aspects of your professional career did you choose to highlight, if any, in the application?
First, an applicant must showcase the real YOU! Arguably so, one needs to present herself in the best manner but members of the admission committee are well-experienced to catch any exaggerations.
Second, do not fall prey of the stereotypes that surround the application process, for example, a fresher is not preferred over a candidate which has experience, grades are the most important requirement for a masters abroad etc. I have seen these being broken in just one cycle of application process.
“Do not fall prey of the stereotypes that surround the application process, for example, a fresher is not preferred over a candidate which has experience, grades are the most important requirement for a masters abroad etc. I have seen these being broken in just one cycle of application process.”
Third and most important, research about the course and the University very well.
With regard to the MLF application, I chose to highlight both my industry experience and policy experience as I wanted to build upon the different perspective that I would bring to the table.
The MLF, like a lot of LLM’s, is quite expensive – what advice would you have for those looking for scholarships/aid for such courses?
Please apply for ALL scholarships – full or partial, without any prejudices. Plan for further studies well in advance, at the very least in terms of financials. If you are a fresher, make it a point to highlight that you have no or very little savings in your scholarship application.
Don’t lie about your family’s financial status but state the facts.
If you are a working professional, save and invest well to see to it that your savings are available to you towards payment of your fees. Always budget for contingencies. Some courses like the MLF demand a hefty amount as deposit. Make it a point to have the said amount in your bank account by the said timeline. Please do a cost-benefit analysis of all available financing options and weigh your prospects.
Lastly, be realistic.
I know you had to do quite a bit of work to secure an educational loan – what have been some of the big learnings through this process?
All said and done, despite difficulties, it is possible to secure a loan from banks/ financial institutions. Please read about educational loans from bank and financial institutions on their website. Visit public sector banks and private banks to enquire about the process and features of the loan. This is a far better way to compare interest rates (and charges) and understand the process.
“Visit scheduled and private banks to enquire about the process and features of the loan. This is a far better way to compare interest rates (and charges) and understand the process.”
Understand the process and document requirements well in advance so that you can arrange for the same. Remember to check for your University in the list published by scheduled banks as you get a better interest rate if you are opting to study from a good university.
Most importantly, any bank would not lend you without furnishing collateral in some form or the other. See what amount you can secure in the given amount of property, you or your family own. Some banks offer loans to the tune of 90% of the value of the collateral. Alternatively, some (foreign) institutions offer you collateral free loans – explore this route as well.
Looking ahead, what would you like to gain from the MLF experience?
Oxford has brilliant faculties particularly in the area of corporate law, finance and financial regulation, I look forward to gaining a better perspective to academic research in law and finance from their teaching and research.
The MLF cohort is diverse and comprises candidates from various professional backgrounds and nationalities. I wish to learn, unlearn and relearn from them as well.
Lastly, any advice for the Indian law graduate who is looking to pursue a master’s abroad?
As an applicant, of course, view your candidature from the perspective of the admissions committee, but do not discourage yourself by trying to make your own assertions. Trust me, if I can get admitted, I am sure you can too.
Even if you have a little inclination towards applying for studies abroad, try and build your profile as much as you can. Research on possible options and do not overdo things. Stay focused.
I wish you all the very best for your applications.