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Exhibition on Presidency colleges

Rare documents, letters and photos dating back to 1857 will be on display in Delhi, reports Satyen Mohapatra.

india Updated: Jan 09, 2007 22:56 IST
Satyen Mohapatra
Satyen Mohapatra

In 1857, while the British rulers crushed the First War of Independence, they also established three universities at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras, formally introducing university education in the country.

Rare documents, letters, photographs of that exciting epoch are going to be on display at the National Archives from Wednesday till January 31 in an exhibition entitled 'Commemorating 150 Years of Presidency Universities, 1857-2007'.

It was the Charter Act of 1813 which allocated an amount of Rs 1 lakh towards educational development in India.

There is a tabular statement depicting the annual allocation of funds towards education by the East India Company during the 1813-30. While in 1813, Bengal Presidency spent 4207 pounds, Madras Presidency 480 pounds and Bombay Presidency 4,207 pounds on education, the amount was 28,748 pounds, 2,946 pounds and 12,636 pounds for Bengal, Madras and Bombay respectively in 1830.

The observations of HH Wilson before the Select Committee of the House of Lords on the establishment of universities in India in 1854 makes really interesting reading, giving an insight into the minds of those who were opposed to higher education in India.

He says, "I do not know what is meant by a university in India; if it is to consist in wearing caps and gowns and being called Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts, I do not see what advantage is likely to accrue from it. The natives certainly could not appreciate the value of such titles. It would be of no advantage to a young man to be called a Bachelor of Arts amongst the natives of India, who could attach no positive idea to it. It would be inconvenient if it gave him place and precedence amongst Europeans. In fact, I cannot consider that any advantage at all would be derived from such an institution."

One of the most valuable document on display, also considered the Magna Carta of English education, is the Despatch No 49, a hundred-paragraph note from the Court of Directors of East India Company to the Governor General-in Council, Board of Control.

It was on the scheme of encouragement of western education in India, based on which universities were created at Calcutta, Bombay and Madras, modelled on the London University on July 19,1854. It was issued by the President of the Board of Control Sir Charles Wood.

The cover page and contents excerpted from Charters and Regulations of the London University, which served as the basis of the foundation of universities in India, are also on display.

In a letter dated January 26, 1855, Cecil Beadon, Secretary to the Government of India, says that it had been suggested to the Governor General in Council that there should be at least two degrees in each of the subjects embraced in the design of an Indian University, ie, literature, mathematics, science, law , civil engineering and medcine and that on taking of each degree the student should have as in the London University an opportunity of taking honours.

The First Indian Education Commission was appointed by Lord Rippon in as early as 1882 under the chairmanship of Sir William Hunter. Even then the Commission's recommendations included greater emphasis on education of Muslims.

First Published: Jan 09, 2007 22:25 IST

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