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University Act, 1857


University Act, 1857 officially called the University Act No II of 1857, was passed by the Indian Legislative Council for the establishment of a university at Calcutta and it received the Governor General's assent on 24 January 1857. The objective of the Act, as stated in the preamble, was 'better encouragement of Her Majesty's subjects of all classes and denomination85 in the pursuit of a regular and liberal course of education' and for the 'purpose of ascertaining by means of examination the persons who have acquired proficiency in different branches of Literature, Science and Art and of rewarding them by Academical degrees as evidence of their respective attainments'. All the Fellows of the university were named in the Act.

The affairs of the university were to be managed by the Fellows, who, forty in number, were mostly high government officials. They included the Governor General lord canning (as the First Chancellor), the Lt Governor of Bengal, frederick james halliday and Sir James William Colvile, Justice of the Supreme Court of Judicature in Bengal (as the First Vice-Chancellor). The First Senate of the university had thirty-eight members of whom six were Indians. The jurisdiction of the university in respect of higher education extended over the whole of Northern India, the Central Provinces and British Burma.

The Vice-Chancellor's term of office was for two years. In future the Governor General-in-Council was to nominate a Vice-Chancellor from among the members of the Senate. Together they would confer degrees and make and alter any bylaws and regulations, appoint or terminate the services of examiners, officers and servants of the university.

All the meetings of the senate were to be presided by the Chancellor or in his absence by the Vice-Chancellor and decisions were to be taken by the majority of the members present. There was to be an examination for degrees at least once a year. Fees for various examinations, including entrance examinations, constituted the major source of income for the university for many years.

The University of Calcutta, like the other two at Bombay and Madras, had, at first, four faculties: Arts cum Science, Law, Medicine and Engineering. These universities were affiliating and examining bodies without any teaching functions of their own and remained so till the early decades of the twentieth century. [Zaheda Ahmad]