India's oldest colonial colleges (1800 -1818)

Across the globe, now education plays a vital role without which we won't have made a giant leap in many areas, particularly, in engineering, science and medicine. If you trace  the history of education in South Asia, including India it is based on tradition. Much importance was given to  Indian religions, Indian mathematics, Indian logic and languages. They were taught primarily  at early Hindu and Buddhist centers of learning such as Taxila (in modern-day Pakistan) and Nalanda (in India).  Earlier Gurukulam system was prevalent in India. A well-versed scholar - Guru with his assistants used to teach a group of disciples in a secluded place called Ashram. They learned  the subjects essential for survival, besides pursuit of knowledge. The training may last a few years. After Muslim invasions from NW  in the Middle Ages, Islamic education was introduced in India, teaching various subjects of value, besides religion.

After 1600  with the arrival of Europeans, the educational scenario changed, especially,  when the British became well established in India after the take over of Bengal and other regions in the late 1700s. The British realized the importance of the Indian languages to run the country and the Indians felt it was essential to learn the English language  and other subjects   from western point of view. So, the colonial period gave the necessary impetus for the growth of education in India. As the Indians had a good grasp of whatever they studied, it was not difficult for them to make a mark in western education.

Serampore College:

1818. Serampore College in Serampore, West

Serampore College,Serampore, W.Bengal. Image source:
1800 Serampore College,Serampore, W.Bengal.
Serampore College in Serampore, , West Bengal, one among the oldest educational institutes in India  was founded  in 1818 by three English missionaries - William Carey, Joshua Marshman and William Ward. It is still going strong it is the second oldest college in the country.

The college consists of two sections : The theological faculty and a separate college with faculties of arts, science, commerce.

The Senate of Serampore College (University) is in charge of  the academic administration of all the theological colleges affiliated with it. The council of Serampore College, holding Danish charter  had the power to confer degrees in any subject,but, presently it is confined to  conferring theological degrees as recommended by the senate. Several theological colleges and seminaries in  India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are affiliated to the Senate of Serampore College (University).

 Danish King Frederick VI of Denmark first  granted a Royal Charter, giving Serampore College the status of a university to confer degrees. However, when the  University of Calcutta was established in 1857,  the arts, science and commerce courses of Serampore College were affiliated to it.

The Hindu college:

1817 The Hindu college (later Presidency college), Calcutta .
With the establishment of the high court in Calcutta in 1773, there arose a necessity for the Indians to learn the English language and also to learn  other subjects that would prepare the students for future employment.

The college was established in 1817 by Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Radhakanta Deb, David Hare, Justice Sir Edward Hyde East, Baidyanath Mukhopadhya and Rasamay Dutt. It later became
 Presidency college  and university. It is a public state university located in Kolkata, West Bengal.

In 1855, the Pathshala wing of Hindu College was renamed as Hindu School and the Mahapathshala wing was renamed as Presidency College, or  the college of the Bengal Presidency

 The college produced a galaxy of great men who fought for the freedom struggle. The fascinating fact associated with this institution is it had the honor of being under the guidance and administration of J. Sutcliff, the longest serving Principal of Presidency College for 20 years, from 1852-1875.

When the  College was formally opened on Monday, 20 January 1817, there were only 20 'scholars. The foundation committee of the college,  was headed by Raja Rammohan Roy. The control of the institution was vested in a body of two Governors and four Directors.,_Kolkata

 Ft. William College, Kolkata:

 Ft. William College, Calcutta,1800,

 Above image:  Ft. William College, Calcutta, 1800; first college ever established. Due to lack of funds from the EIC, it was closed in 1835.

Fort William College (also called the College of Fort William) was the first  institution promoting  Oriental studies  and was established by Lord Wellesley, then  the Governor-General of British India, the man who defeated Tipu Sultan in 1799 in the famous last Angelo-Mysore war which opened the flood gate for the British to have a run on the southern part of India. The college  located at the corner of Council House Street. The house was subsequently occupied by Messrs. Mackenzie Lyall & Co and known as The Exchange.
The law to establish its foundation (Ft. William) was passed on 4 May 1800, to commemorate the first anniversary of the victory over Tipu Sultan at Seringapatam.  Founded on July 10, 1800, within the Fort William complex in Calcutta, for the first time thousands of books were translated from Sanskrit, Arabic, Persian, Bengali, Hindi, and Urdu in English at this institution, indeed a whooping task.

The period of Ft. William college was an historical one. The purpose of  this college  was to  train British officials in Indian languages and, in the process, encouraged  the development of languages such as Bengali and Urdu In 1815. Ram Mohan Roy, a great patriot, having settled  in Calcutta  mentioned that this period was   considered by many historians to be starting point of the Bengal renaissance. A establishment of  The Calcutta Madrassa in 1781, the Asiatic Society in 1784 and the Fort William College in 1800, marked the period of  emergence as an intellectual center that was not existent in other parts.
 Arabic, Urdu, Persian, Sanskrit, Bengali were taught in the college by eminent teachers.

The  directors of the British East India Company  did not show any interest in the use of Ft.William as a training college and consequently no funds were forthcoming from the EIC. More over, they were never in favor of a training college in Kolkata and as such, there always was  shortage  of funds for running the college. Further,  a college for the similar purpose was established in 1807 by the East India Company College at Haileybury (England)  Despite funds crunch,  Fort William College continued to be a center of learning languages till 1835.