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University of Calcutta


University of Calcutta oldest of the modern universities in India. It was founded in 1857 during the administration of Lord canning (1856-1862), the Governor General of India. The preamble to the university act, 1857 (Act No II) by which it was constituted, stipulated that the basic objectives of this university would be to encourage Her Majesty's subjects of all classes and denominations, 'in the pursuit of a regular and liberal course of education', and at the same time ascertain by means of examination the proficiency of all persons in different branches of Literature, Science and Art. Such persons would be rewarded by Academic Degrees as evidence of their attainments.

Asutosh Building, University of Calcutta

The university thus started off as an affiliating and examining body with a Vice Chancellor, who held the office on an honorary basis and was to act, with the consent and advice of a Senate and a Syndicate. The earlier Vice Chancellors, beginning with Sir James William Colville (24 January 1857-24 January 1859), were all Europeans. The first Indian to be appointed to this post was Sir Gooroodas Banerjee, who was nominated on 1 January 1890 and remained in office till 31 December 1892.

At the completion of its twenty-fifth year in 1882 the control of the Calcutta University had already extended far beyond the limits of Calcutta and the Lower Provinces and included such centres as Patna, Benares, Allahabad, Lucknow, Cawnpore, Bareilly, Jaipur, Indore, Ajmere, Agra, Delhi, Patiala, Lahore, Simla, and Amritsar in the West, Dhaka, Gauhati and Rangoon in the East; Cuttack, Saugor and Nagpur in the South and beyond to Kandy and Colombo in Ceylon. While the Universities of Bombay and Madras took care of large parts of the Deccan and the Far South, Burma and Ceylon chose to cast their lot with the rising fortunes of the University of Calcutta.

A new epoch was opened in the history of the university with the passing of the Indian universities act, 1904. This Act, the result of the deliberations of Lord Curzon's Educational Conference at Simla in 1901 and the recommendations of the Universities Commission appointed by lord curzon in 1902, empowered the university to act as an agency for the teaching of students and the promotion of study and research. Lord Curzon had been keen on tightening government control over the universities and restricting their territorial jurisdictions, especially of the Calcutta University which at that time encompassed such distant parts as Burma and Ceylon. This Act limited the number of Senators, the majority of whom were to be nominated by the government, and laid down stringent conditions for the affiliation of new colleges. A systematic inspection of the affiliated colleges by the universities was also required under this Act, which authorised the universities to make provisions for teaching by the appointment of lecturers and professors and the equipping of laboratories and museums.

During the Vice Chancellorship of asutosh mookerjee who served the university for four terms, steps were taken to improve the colleges, to reform the schools, and to reorganise the whole system of teaching and more importantly to transform the university into a centre of intellectual activity. The postgraduate teaching departments winch started functioning under the auspices of the university saw remarkable expansion during this time, as was borne out by the report of the Calcutta University Commission presided over by Michael Sadler in 1919. Asutosh's efforts were crowned not only by the expansion of postgraduate teaching in different branches of humanities but also in the practical and applied sciences as well, a deeply felt necessity of the preceding years. The princely donations of Sir Taraknath Palit, the Maharaja of Darbhanga, and Sir Rashbehari Ghosh enabled Asutosh Mookerjee to make provisions for the construction of large buildings for the university library and science colleges and to provide them with necessary equipments and laboratories.

The process set in motion by Asutosh Mookerjee received uninterrupted advancement under the stewardship of as many as thirty-five able Vice-Chancellors during 1919 to 1947, to wit, Dr nilratan sarkar, Sir William Ewart Greaves, Sir Jadunath Sarkar, Dr Hassan Suhrawardy, Dr shyama prasad mukherji, mohammad azizul huque, Dr bidhan chandra roy, Dr Radhabinod Pal and Dr Pramathanath Banerjee.

As a notable centre of higher education and advancement of knowledge, the Calcutta University received financial assistance from a number of its benefactors. Men like Prosunno Coomar Tagore, Premchand Roychand, Maharaja Rameswar Singh of Darbhanga, Taraknath Palit, Rashbehati Ghose, Joykissen Mookerjee, Gyanendra Chandra Ghosh, Maharaja Manindra Chandra Nandy and Nilratan Sirkar were all distinguished personalities who had responded to the call of the university. The university was able to teach an ever-increasing variety of subjects in under-graduate and postgraduate courses to suit different tastes and aptitudes so as to meet the increasing demands of a growing society. The expansion of the faculties and the curricula can be measured with reference to the growing number of different examinations. In 1933, the number of examinations was thirty; in 1943 it had risen to thirty-seven, and in 1953 it soared to sixty-four. Along with the diversification of curricula there was also a perceptible ramification from academic to professional studies, and students were drawn in increasing numbers to medical and engineering colleges.

By 1936, courses on Military Studies were introduced and in 1945 a diploma course was started in Librarianship. In the same year a diploma course in Soap Technology was started under the department of Applied Chemistry.

The expansion of postgraduate studies both in academic and professional subjects also took place. In 1933 Arabic, Persian, Hindi and Urdu became the principal subjects for the MA. In 1939 the Indian Vernaculars were thoroughly reconstituted into Modern Indian Languages for the MA. In the next year Islamic History and Culture was introduced, giving the university the distinguished position of holding a separate department for higher Islamic studies. Statistics and Geography also became subjects for the MA and MSc in the same year. In 1946 Commerce found its place as a separate and autonomous subject while Political Science acquired a distinctive status in 1947. The need for postgraduate studies in science and technology had already received attention in 1936 and was addressed with the introduction of new courses for the degree of Master of Engineering in 1953 and Master of Public Health in 1947. Meanwhile, the Agricultural Institute at Barrackpore, which had opened in 1939, was revived in 1948 when the Khaira Professorship of Agriculture was instituted. Similarly, the foundation of the Institute of Jute Technology in 1946 added a new dimension to the university's curricula.

In 1934, an Art gallery and Museum was opened to facilitate postgraduate studies in Ancient Indian History and Culture. It took shape in 1937 when the asutosh museum of indian art was inaugurated, exhibiting objects of Art and Archeology including hundreds of items like paintings, sculptures, bronzes, terracotta, coins, illustrated manuscripts, banners, scrolls etc from Nepal, Tibet and Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan) and West Bengal, Assam, Bihar, Orissa and other parts of India.

The setting up of the Institute of Nuclear Physics and the Department of Radio Physics and Electronics, in l945 and 1950 respectively, two significant milestones in the field of scientific learning.

On the eve of the Partition of India in 1947, the calendar of the University of Calcutta published a list of 216 colleges affiliated to the university. Among these colleges twenty-seven were situated in East Bengal (present-day Bangladesh). These were, Anandamohan College, Mymensingh (affiliated in 1914), Azizul Huque College, Bogra (1941), Brojomohan College, Barisal (1898), Brojolal Hindu Academy, Daulatpur, Khulna (1914), Carmichael College, Rangpur (1917), Chaumohani College, Noakhali (1945), Chittagong College (1910), Debendra College, Manikganj (1942), Edward College, Pabna (1940), Fazlul Huque College, Chakhar (1941), Haraganga College, Munshiganj (1942), Jamalpur College, Jamalpur (1946), Michael Madhusudan College, Jessore (1942), Gurudayal College, Kishoreganj (1945), Kumudini College, Tangail (1944), Monmohini Institute of Science and Technology, Hemayetpur, Pabna (1946), Prafulla Chandra College, Bagerhat (1923), Rajendra College, Faridpur (1920), Rajendra Kumar Girls' College, Khulna (1944), Rajshahi College, Rajshahi (1878), Sa'dat College, Karatia, Tangail(1939), Satkhira College, Satkhira (1946), Sirajganj College, Sirajganj (1940), Seth Tolaram Girls' College, Narayanganj (1945), Sir Asutosh College, Chittagong (1941), Sri Krishna College, Faridpur (1942), and Victoria College, Narail (1890).

Since the inauguration of the postgraduate departments at the inspiration and impetus given by Sir Asutosh Mookerjee, the University of Calcutta had developed into an active centre of research in Arts and Science and had earned recognition all over the world. Among its alumnie were Nobel Laureates like CV Raman and rabindranath tagore, eminent Scientists like jagadish chandra bose, prafulla chandra ray, satyendra nath bose, meghnad saha, Jnanendranath Mukherjee, Gyanchandra Ghose and BC Guha. Illustrious philosophers like Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, Surendranath Dasgupta, Brajendranath Seal and Krishnachandra Bhattacharya once strode its ramparts. Historians of the repute of DR Bhandarkar, hemchandra raychaudhuri, Surendranath Sen, Indubhusan Banerjee, Narendrakrishna Sinha, ramesh chandra majumdar and Muhammad Zubair Siddiqui did its traditions proud. In the domain of Fine Arts, abanindranath tagore, Shahid Suhrawardy, Ordhendra Coomar Ganguly and nihAr ranjan ray added to its glory. In the arena of linguistics suniti kumar chatterji earned laurels for his extraordinary scholarship.

Until 1947, several experiments in educational models, for example, the Wardha Scheme, National Council of Education, Visva Bharati, university of dhaka and the University of Calcutta were tried out. Notwithstanding other options, the University of Calcutta continued to play an important role in undivided Bengal.

In 1951, the Government of West Bengal passed the Calcutta University Act, which replaced the earlier act of 1904. Apart from providing closer coordination of the colleges under the University, it ensured a democratic structure of the University. In the same year, with the passing of the West Bengal Secondary Education Act, the University served its historic link with school-leaving examination.

Postgraduate studies now assumed a new dimension. New areas of scientific research, e.g. Nuclear Physics, Radio Physics and Electronics, Biophysics, Molecular Biology and Genetics, Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Plant Science and Cell Biology, Microbiology, Atmospheric Science, Environmental Science, Information Technology and Computer Application were introduced as courses of studies. This was not to marginalize basic sciences. In fact a balance between the two was achieved by it. In the fields of Social Sciences, Language and Literature, the achievements of the University had always been commendable. While subjects like Economics, History, Philosophy, Comparative Philology or Modern Indian Languages had along and established tradition, relatively new departments such as Ancient Indian History and Culture (1932), Political Science (1948) or Sociology too curved out their niche in the academic map. New centres, named after Gandhi or Nehru were created, Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities had been set up and DSA support has been extended to a large number of departments.

The University of Calcutta was conferred Five Star Status on in 2001 by the NAAC (National Assessment and Accreditation Council). The University Grants Commission too, recognized the University's potential for excellence by conferring on it University with potential for Excellence status.

On November 10, 2005, The Times Higher Education Supplement published its list of world's top arts and humanities universities. University of Calcutta is the only Indian university to make it to the top of the list of 50.

On 17 January, 2006, this University celebrated its year-long Post Centenary Golden Jubilee Celebration which was inaugurated by the President of India. [Rachana Chakraborty]

Bibliography Pramatha Nath Banerjee, (et al), Hundred Years of the University of Calcutta, Calcutta, 1957; PK Bose, Calcutta University: Some Problems and Their Remedies, University of Calcutta, Calcutta, 1973; Rachana Chakraborty, Higher Education in Bengal, (1919-1947): A Study of its Administration and Management, Calcutta, 1996.