When the Imperial Capital shifted to Delhi from Calcutta in 1911, there was no University in the city, though it had two colleges — St Stephen's College, founded in 1881 and Hindu College, founded in 1899. Meanwhile, Ramjas College came into being in 1917. The nearest Universities were in Lahore, Lucknow and Allahabad.
In fact, Delhi University (DU) — today one of the most prestigious in the country — had quite uncertain and humble beginnings. The University was founded in 1922 by an Act of the Central Legislative Assembly, with Dr Hari Singh Gour — a distinguished lawyer and educationist — as its Vice-Chancellor (VC). Within a few months, its existence was threatened, with a government-appointed Retrenchment Committee recommending that the plan for a University in New Delhi should be reconsidered. Hallowed precints
The question was finally settled by the Central Legislative Assembly in March 1923 when, after much debate, it decided in favour of continuing the University. DU's first convocation was held in the Assembly Hall of the Old Secretariat on March 26, 1923 with 750 invitees. Honorary Degrees were conferred on Chancellor, Lord Reading, pro-vice-chancellor, Muhammad Shafi and on Dr Hari Singh Gour, DU's first VC.For the next decade, though, the University faced the problem of finding permanent accommodation. In fact, the University had been allotted a plot on the Raisina site itself in the plans for New Delhi. That plan was later dropped.
As Prof Aparna Basu says in her insightful essay contributed for the book Delhi through the Ages, edited by RE Frykenberg, “The University was housed in rented buildings in different parts of the old city. Its administrative offices were successively housed on Underhill Road, in Curzon House on Alipore Road…” In 1926, the University was allotted the Central portion of Old Secretariat building, comprising the Assembly Hall and the adjacent rooms on a monthly rental of Rs 350.
The University itself appointed a site committee, which examined the possibilities of housing the varsity in areas such as Kashmere Gate, the Viceregal Estate, and the old Metcalfe Estate. In 1927, it was recommended that the University be shifted to the Vicegeral Lodge. But the roadblock was the Delhi Conspiracy Case commission being housed in that building.
Finally, in 1933, the old Viceregal Lodge and Estate was transferred to the University at a rent of R3,480 per year. The University offices and the Library were the first to move to the new site.
Initially, the University had only two faculties: arts and science. While the faculty of arts had departments such as English, History and Economics, Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian, the science faculty had only two departments — Physics and Chemistry.
The Delhi University underwent many far-reaching changes in the 1940s — under the stewardship of Maurice Gwyer, who was appointed VC in 1938.
In 1942, Honours and post-graduate classes were started in the science faculty. The University Campus also grew, with colleges such as St Stephen's, Hindu College and Ramjas College shifting to the University campus.
The University celebrated its silver jubilee in 1947, the same year that India attained Independence.
Post-Independence, the University saw rapid growth, with several new colleges being started to accommodate students who migrated from west Punjab. Hansraj College was started in 1948 by the managing committee of DAV College, Lahore.
In 1948, Miranda House — named after Gwyer's favourite Shakespearean character — was started. In 1954, Kirori Mal College came into being.
In 1973, DU's South Campus was started for the residents of South Delhi, which was growing fast. In 1984, the campus moved to its present location on Benito Juarez Road, near Dhaula Kuan, in 1984.
Today, DU boasts of 16 faculties, 86 academic departments, 77 colleges and five other recognised institutes, with 1,32,435 regular students.