Presidency University, Kolkata

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Presidency University
প্রেসিডেন্সি বিশ্ববিদ্যালয়
Presidency University logo
Established 20 January 1817 (as Hindu College, rechristened Presidency College in 1855)
Type Public
Vice-Chancellor Anuradha Lohia
Students 2202 (in 2004)
(951 male, 1251 female)
Location Kolkata, West Bengal, India
Campus Urban
Affiliations UGC, NAAC, AIU

Presidency University, Kolkata, formerly Hindu College and Presidency College,[1] is a public state university located in Kolkata, West Bengal.[2]

The college was established in 1817 by Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Raja Radhakanta Deb, Maharaja Tejchandra Ray of Burdwan, David Hare, Justice Sir Edward Hyde East, Prasanna Coomar Tagore and Babu Buddinath Mukherjee[citation needed].

Established as the Mahapathshala wing of Hindu College, it was renamed Presidency College, i.e., the college of the Bengal Presidency, in 1855. In 2010, under the Chief Ministership of Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, a former student of the college, it was upgraded to the status of a full university by the Presidency University Act, 2010 passed in the West Bengal Legislative Assembly.

The longest serving Principal of Presidency College was J. Sutcliff, who was its principal intermittently for 20 years, from 1852-1875.


Principals of Presidency College
Vice Chancellors of Presidency University
  • Amita Chatterjee, 2010–2011
  • Malabika Sarkar, 2011-2014
  • Anuradha Lohia, 2014–present


With the creation of the Supreme Court of Calcutta in 1773 many Hindus of Bengal showed eagerness to learn the English language. David Hare, in collaboration with Raja Radhakanta Deb had already taken steps to introduce English education in Bengal. Babu Buddinath Mukherjee advanced the introduction of English as a medium of instruction further by enlisting the support of Sir Edward Hyde East, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India who called a meeting of 'European and Hindu Gentlemen' in his house in May 1816. The purpose of the meeting was to "discuss the proposal to establish an institution for giving a liberal education to the children of the members of the Hindu Community". The proposal was received with unanimous approbation and a donation of over Rs. 100, 000 was promised for the setting up of the new college. Raja Ram Mohan Roy showed full sympathy for the scheme but chose not to come out in support of the proposal publicly for fear of "alarming the prejudices of his orthodox countrymen and thus marring the whole idea".

The College was formally opened on Monday, January 20, 1817 with 20 'scholars'. The foundation committee of the college, which oversaw its establishment, was headed by Raja Rammohan Roy. The control of the institution was vested in a body of two Governors and four Directors. The first Governors of the college were Maharaja Tejchandra Bahadur of Burdwan and Babu Gopee Mohan Thakoor. The first Directors were Babu Gopi Mohun Deb of Sobhabazar, Babu Joykissen Sinha, Babu Radha Madhab Banerjee and Babu Gunganarain Doss. Babu Buddinath Mukherjee was appointed as the first Secretary of the college. The newly established college mostly admitted Hindu students from affluent and progressive families, but also admitted non-Hindu students such as Muslims, Jews, Christians and Buddhists.

At first the classes were held in a house belonging to Gorachand Bysack of Garanhatta (later renamed 304, Chitpore Road), which was rented by the college. In January 1818 the college moved to 'Feringhi Kamal Bose's house' which was located nearby in Chitpore.[3] From Chitpore, the college moved to Bowbazar and later to the building that now houses the Sanskrit College on College Street.

Early 19th century[edit]

The increasing realization of the value of western education made the college a coveted destination for scholars from all over the subcontinent. Pupils have come from almost all parts of the country, most notably from Bihar, Andhra Pradesh and Odisha. By 1828 enrolment of students steeply rose to 400. The obvious question, that then arose, was whether it would not be wiser for the Government of Bengal to establish a new 'English College' open to all classes and community of students. The Committee of Managers of Hindu College had soon after the inception of the college become dependent on government subsidy, due to serious shortage of funds. The government had begun to play a greater role in the administration of the College.

From Hindu College to Presidency College[edit]

On 21 October 1853, Lord Dalhousie, the Governor of Bengal, Bihar and Odisha, suggested that

The 'scholars' of the College Department of Hindu College were transferred to Presidency College and 101 new students were freshly admitted. Of these 101 pupils, two were Muslims, while the rest were Hindus.

Initially, the Civil Engineering College and Medical College, that were located nearby, were associated with Presidency College. However, when the University of Calcutta opened near-by, the Council of Education placed plans on hold for allowing the expansion of the these three premier institutions into a full-fledged university. The college was formally placed under the control of the University of Calcutta in 1857.

Expansion of Presidency[edit]

The college continued to grow rapidly after its renaming and relocation. The Legal Branch was given a measure of autonomy: its students were subject to examination held by the branch itself.

The College authorities were faced with space shortage even after the expansion of the Sanskrit College building. The process for acquisition of land for building a separate building and grounds started in September 1865 and in 1870 the principal of the college submitted a plan for the construction of a new building on the premises where it is now located. The new building was opened on March 31, 1874 by the then Lieutenant Governor Sir George Campbell in the presence of His Excellency, the Viceroy of India. The finishing touch was given by Babu Nuffer Chandra Pal Chaudhuri, who provided it with a turret clock, at a cost of nearly Rs. 5000 soon after the new building's inauguration. Professor J. Sutcliffe was the principal of the college when the new building was opened.

The construction of the new building was beneficial for the science departments which now had adequate space for holding classes and carrying out laboratory work.

In 1897 the college admitted female students for the first time.

Indian freedom struggle[edit]

In 1916 the Oaten Affair closed down the College for days and forced the President to step down. Subhas Chandra Bose, then a student of the college, responding angrily to repeated racial insults made by Professor Oaten to the Indian students, is alleged to have hit the professor with his shoe behind the main building's staircase.

Professor Ahmed Ali, the co-founder of the Indian Progressive Writers' Movement and Association (1933–36) and author of the famous Twilight in Delhi was the first Indian to be appointed Head of the English Department in 1944 up to 1947 when India was divided. From the 1920s to the end of the 1940s the college remained an important centre of nationalist activities. Throughout this period the college continued to enjoy a great deal of popularity and prestige in bhadralok society.

After independence[edit]

The college's continued presence in Bengal's higher education was evident in its predominance as an undergraduate and postgraduate institution even at the time of India's independence. Before 1947 and soon after, especially in the 1950s the college was still the numero uno of Indian education. Anybody who was somebody in India had to be a student of this college. In 1956 the centenary celebrations of the college were organised. The building in which the Economics, Political Science and Sociology departments and the Derozio Hall are located was built during the centenary celebrations under the stewardship of the then principal, Professor J.C. Sengupta.

In the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s the college became a centre of leftist and then far-left politics. Through the 1970s and 1980s the college fought off repeated attempts to control it from outside, especially by the government as well as dominant political parties. An important change that was brought to the college in the post-independence period includes the appointment of Mamata Roy as the first woman principal of the college in 2005.


In 1972, an unsigned article was released by the faculty members of the college demanding that the college be given full university status. It is an open secret that the author of the article was Prof. Dipak Banerjee, the legendary economics professor of the college. The state government, then under the chief ministership of Siddhartha Shankar Ray, showed the willingness to listen to the demands of the faculty members, but it was still too early to grant full autonomy to the college. In 2007, the state government, under the chief ministership of Buddhadeb Bhattacharya and Higher Education ministership of Sudarshan Raychaudhuri, appointed a seven-member committee, under the leadership of Justice Chittotosh Mookerjee, and composed of Prof. Ashes Prasad Mitra, Prof. Barun De, Dr. Bimal Jalan and Prof. Subimal Sen, to look into the possibility of upgrading the status of the college. The report of the committee suggested that the state government should grant the college partial autonomy.

In 2009, the Governing Body of the college unanimously adopted the proposal that the college should be given full university status. On 16 December 2009, the Left Front government tabled a bill titled the Presidency University Act, 2009, in which the West Bengal Legislative Assembly granted full university status to the college. The bill stated that once the college becomes a full state-aided university it will be renamed Presidency University.

On 19 March 2010, the West Bengal Government passed the Presidency University Bill, 2009 in the State Legislative Assembly.[2] On 7 July 2010, the governor of West Bengal, M K Narayanan gave his assent to the Presidency University Bill.[4] On 23 July 2010, the Government of West Bengal published the gazette notification completing all the legal formalities for Presidency to become a full university.[5] Prof. Amiya Bagchi was given the responsibility of chairing a committee set up to select and appoint the first vice chancellor of the university. Prof. Amita Chatterjee, a retired professor of philosophy at Jadavpur University, was appointed as the first vice-chancellor of Presidency University on 5 October 2010.[6]

In 2011, Higher Education Minister Bratya Basu suggested that a mentor group, along the lines of the Nalanda mentor group, would be formed to oversee the work of the university. At the beginning of June 2011, the chief minister of West Bengal, Km. Mamata Banerjee, announced that a committee would be formed with Prof. Amartya Sen as its chief mentor and Harvard-based Prof. Sugata Bose as its chairman to oversee the running of the college and perform the task of appointing all its officials and faculty members. The Presidency mentor group [7] also includes as its members Prof. Abhijit Banerjee, Prof. Ashoke Sen, Prof. Sabyasachi Bhattacharya, Prof. Nayanjot Lahiri, Prof. Himadri Pakrashi, Prof. Rahul Mukerjee and Dr. Isher Judge Ahluwalia, Prof. Swapan Kumar Chakravorty. Prof. Sukanta Chaudhuri resigned from the committee in 2012.[8]

In October 2011, Professor Malabika Sarkar, formerly Professor of English at Jadavpur University, was appointed Vice-Chancellor of Presidency University. During her term as Vice-Chancellor more than 150 faculty members - Presidency University's first faculty - were recruited and joined. Presidency's first officers and the first set of non-teaching staff were also recruited. A new logo was created by an alumnus, infrastructural projects were initiated and the Presidency University Vice-Chancellor's Fund for Excellence was set up. In December 2012, UGC recognized Presidency as an Institution of National Eminence. MOUs for international collaboration with Trinity College, Dublin, Groningen University, Netherlands, and D'Etudes Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po, Paris) were signed. Presidency University's First Convocation was held on 22nd August 2013 and the Foundation Stone for Presidency's Second Campus at Rajarhat was unveiled by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on 6th February 2014. Presidency's First Statutes were completed. Professor Sarkar's tenure as Vice-Chancellor ended in May 2014.

The new logo of the Presidency University has been created by Sabyasachi Dutta (সব্যসাচী দত্ত) as reported in a letter to the Editor of Anandabazar Patrika on April 1, 2013.


The main entrance of the university at College Street.
The Main Building corridor

The campus of the university was gradually developed through the last quarter of the nineteenth and first quarter of the twentieth centuries. The main building was built in 1875. The clock tower on top of the main building was built towards the end of the nineteenth century. The building in which the science departments, including the Baker Laboratory,the Physics Lecture Theatre and the Biological sciences department are located, was built in 1913. Until 1956, the college's centenary year, the main playing field was accompanied by lawn tennis courts. Later space was made for the construction of a new building which now houses some social science departments and the Derozio Hall, which is the auditorium of the university. In the late 1980s and early 1990s one smaller building was built in one corner of the grounds to make space for more departmental work. After the upgrading of the college to the status of a university, the university administration built a new library wing, in one corner of the premises, behind the playing field, which closely resembles the architectural style of the main building and the science wing of the university. The quadrangle inside the main building now has a well maintained garden, and a lift has been installed in the building.

Across Peary Charan Sarkar Street, a side road which separate the university from the Calcutta University, stands the Eden Hindu Hostel, which was built in early twentieth century. This hostel is famous not only for its association with Presidency College, but now has a history of its own. Some of the most eminent men of eastern India, such as Dr. Rajendra Prasad, the first President of India, and Professor Sukhomoy Chakrabarty, Chairman of the Economic Advisory Council to the Prime Minister of India, have lived in this hostel when they were students of Presidency College.

Institutions that were started in Presidency[edit]

This college, being the oldest educational institution in the country, boasts of a number of prestigious institutions of primary, secondary and higher learning that were started under its aegis.

The Hindu School, initially the pathshala wing of Hindu College, was the college's school when it was established, although it is now independent. The Hare School has been from the middle of the 19th century located inside the premises of the college and has been traditionally associated with it. Its students used to complete their higher education in this college in the 19th and early 20th centuries. A large majority of the students of these two schools came from the landed aristocracy and the urban upper middle classes. The importance of these two schools is evident in a verse written by Phani Bhushan Chakrabarty, a former student of the college and the first Indian Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court. He wrote: Prathom jakhon collegey elam/Bollam bahabaharey/Aschi hotey Hindu-Hare/Koriney care kaharey (When I first came to college,/I said, "Oh! Wow,/Have come from Hindu-Hare,/Don't care for the high-brow).

The Indian Statistical Institute, Calcutta was founded in the Statistical Laboratory of this college by Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis in 1931.


The college was formerly administered by a principal, a bursar, a deputy controller of examinations and the respective heads of departments. The University is now administered by the Vice-Chancellor, the Registrar, The Dean of Students' affairs, the Controller of Examinations and the respective Heads of the Departments.

Students' Union[edit]

In elections on February 4th, 2015, Independent Consolidation won all the seats in Union Election.[9]

Building and grounds[edit]

Memorial plaque of Ram Eqbal Singh
A part of the university.

The entrance of the campus is marked with a small guard house on the left. On the walls of the guard room is a plaque dedicated to durwan (guard) Ram Eqbal Singh, who died defending the institute from the rioters.[10] It reads

The main building, housing the Maths, English, History, Geography, Bengali and Philosophy Departments of the college, which also has a clock tower, was built in the 19th century and is representative of the architecture of the middle of that century. It has a quadrangle in the middle, next to the arts library of the college which is located on the ground floor. The science building, which has the Physics and the Biological sciences Lecture Theatre in it, is situated to the south of the college premises and opens out on to Peary Charan Sarkar Street. It was built in 1913. The new building housing the Economics, Political Science and Sociology Departments and the Derozio Hall was built in 1956, while the newest building built to the west of the main building for the holding of mostly post-graduate classes, was built in 1990.

Notable alumni[edit]


  1. ^ From Banglapedia
  2. ^ a b Our Bureau (2010-03-20). "The Telegraph - Calcutta (Kolkata) | Frontpage | CM beats Mamata to Presidency". Retrieved 2012-08-01. 
  3. ^ This building is a historic one because Raja Ram Mohan Roy inaugurated his Brahma Sabha there and Reverend Alexander Duff of the Scottish Missionary Board started his educational establishment, the General Assembly's Institution there as well a few years later in 1830.
  4. ^ Presidency varsity bill gets governor's assent
  5. ^ Express News Service (2010-07-24). "Presidency University legal steps complete". Express India. Retrieved 2012-08-01. 
  6. ^ "The Telegraph - Calcutta (Kolkata) | Frontpage | Comfort factor confines Presidency to home pool". 2010-10-06. Retrieved 2012-08-01. 
  7. ^ "Presidency Mentor Group". Retrieved November 26, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Sukanta Chaudhuri quits". Retrieved November 26, 2013. 
  9. ^ "IC wins all seats in Presi Univ students election". Retrieved February 1, 2014. 
  10. ^ Our Bureau (14 April 2013). "Presi guard-ian angel". The Telegraph, Calcutta. Retrieved 6 May 2014. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 22°34′35″N 88°21′44″E / 22.57639°N 88.36222°E / 22.57639; 88.36222