Born in London on April 25, 1878, Maurice Gwyer was appointed Vice-Chancellor (VC) of the Delhi University in 1938. In fact, he was also appointed the first chief justice of the Federal Court, a year earlier, in 1937.
But the Federal Court, in its initial days, did not have much work. So, the Viceroy asked him to take over as VC of the Delhi University (DU). He single-handedly and with a clear vision, pursued the transformation of DU.
Gwyer, a fellow of All Souls, Oxford, wanted DU to be like Oxbridge — a portmanteau (linguistic blend) of the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge in England, the term is used to refer to them collectively.
But when he took over as the VC, he was deeply upset at the state of affairs in DU. “Sir Maurice conceived of Delhi University as a miniature Oxbridge. He dreamt of a cluster of small residential colleges around the core of the University,” writes Prof Aparna Basu in her essay.
Gwyer wanted DU to be an All India University, a university that was different in character and set new standards as the University of the Capital. “Sir Maurice suggested measures by which the transformation of the University might be effected. He did not want to create in Delhi a mere replica of the other Universities in India,” writes Prof Basu.
Gwyer wanted the establishment of a number of professorial chairs and readerships. He also wanted to introduce a provision of scholarships for post-graduate study and research and also sought to fix a period of three years as the length of a degree course.
In 1939, the government accepted most of his suggestions and made a non-recurring grant of R8lakh, to be spread over five years. Before that, as Basu points out, DU's income consisted of less than R1lakh from fee and an annual grant of R1lakh from the Government of India. The three-year BA and BSc Pass and Honours degree courses were introduced and a number of professors and readers appointed during his tenure.
Gwyer wanted a faculty that could act as role models for students. So, he roped in eminent scholars such as VKRV Rao, RU Singh, TR Seshadhari, P Maheshwari, ML Bhatia and others.