St. Stephen's College, Delhi

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St. Stephen's College
Crest of the St. Stephen's College, Delhi
Latin: Collegium St. Stephani, Delhi
MottoLatin: Ad Dei Gloriam
Motto in English
To the Glory of God
EstablishedFebruary 1, 1881; 143 years ago (1881-02-01)
FounderRev. Samuel Scott Allnutt
PrincipalJohn Varghese[1]
StudentsAround 400 in each year
Sudhir Bose Marg, University Enclave, New Delhi, India
CampusUrban, 69 acres (28 ha)
Colours   Martyr's red & Cambridge blue

St. Stephen's College is a constituent college of the University of Delhi. Awarding both undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, it is considered to be the most prestigious liberal arts and sciences college in India.[3][4] It is often associated with elitism, as a place where the children of the rich and influential study.[5][6]

In 2017, the governing body of the college unilaterally initiated a move toward making it an autonomous institution. In 2018, the plan was put on hold after the University Grants Commission received legal advice against passing a favourable decision.[7][8]

Ranked eleventh among colleges in India by the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) in 2022, the institution has produced distinguished alumni in fields like politics, law, journalism, film and business.[9][10] St. Stephen's College secured the second place on India Today's 2022 Best Liberal Arts colleges.[11]

Old St Stephens College building at Kashmere Gate
St Stephen College hostel at Kashmiri Gate


The history of St. Stephen's College can be traced to St. Stephen's High School, founded in 1854 by Samuel Scott Allnutt, chaplain of Delhi, run by the Delhi Mission of the United Society. With the closure of Government College, Delhi, in 1879 because of financial problems, Valpy French immediately urged the Cambridge Mission, an Anglican mission organised by the alumni of University of Cambridge, to fill the breach.[12] The other major aim for the foundation of the college was response to British Indian Government's policy of promoting English education in India.[13] It was Samuel Scott Allnutt of St. John's College, Cambridge, who was mainly responsible for founding the college. Finally on 1 February 1881, in support of the work of the United Society Partners in the Gospel, the Cambridge Brotherhood founded the St. Stephen's College. Allnutt served as its first principal.[14]

The college's first premises were in Chandni Chowk, Delhi, with five boarders and three professors, and was an affiliate of the University of Calcutta,[15] but later in 1882, it changed its affiliation to Punjab University. The Punjab University received its charter more than one year after the founding of St. Stephen's College, which became one of the two institutions first affiliated to it and moved into premises in Kashmiri Gate, Delhi.[16]

In 1906, principal G. Hibbert Ware abdicated his post in favour of S. K. Rudra who became the first Indian to head a major educational institution in India. The decision was frowned upon at the time, but Rudra proved to have a tenure of extraordinary importance for the college.[17]

Charles Freer Andrews, a prominent lecturer at the college and member of the Cambridge Brotherhood, was active in the Indian independence movement, and was named deenbandhu (friend of the poor) by Mahatma Gandhi on account of his work with the needy and the trade union movement. Currently, a portrait ofAndrews is hung beside the portrait of his good friend Rabindranath Tagore in the principal's office. It is also believed that Rabindranath Tagore completed the English translation of Gitanjali, for which he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, while a guest at the college.[12]

With the establishment of the University of Delhi in 1922, the college became a constituent college of the university.[18]

Women were first admitted in 1928, as there were no women's colleges in Delhi affiliated with the Anglican Church at the time; after the founding of Miranda House in 1949, women were not accepted as students until 1975.[19]

  • Samuel Scott Allnutt, 1881-1898
  • John Wright, 1899-1902
  • G Hibbert Ware, 1902-1906
  • Susil Kumar Rudra, 1906-1923
  • Francis Fitzhugh Monk, 1923-1926[20]
  • Satya Nand Mukarji, 1926-1945
  • Douglas Raja Ram, 1945-1960
  • Satish Chandra Sircar, 1960-1972
  • William Shaw Rajpal, 1972-1984
  • John H Hala, 1984-1991
  • Anil Wilson, 1991-2007
  • Valson Thampu, 2008–2016[21]
  • John Vargheese, 2016–present[22]


The college was named after Saint Stephen, who was adopted by the Anglican Church as the patron saint of Delhi after Christian converts were reportedly stoned to death during the 1857 uprising, as they were the first Christian martyrs in North India and were stoned, parallels to Saint Stephen were obvious.[23]

Present form[edit]

St. Stephen's College is a co-educational institution of higher learning. It is one of the three founding colleges of University of Delhi, along with Hindu College and Ramjas College.[24] In spite of its location in North India, the college has always striven to admit students and select teachers from all communities and from all parts of India. It also admits a small number of students from overseas. The college offers a number of scholarships and awards to meritorious students. These are endowed over a period of time.[25][26] As of February 2017, the governing body of St. Stephen's College has decided to go ahead with the proposal to seek autonomy for the institution.[27]


Church inside Saint Stephen's College

The campus is located in the North Campus of the University of Delhi and designed by the distinguished Welsh architect Walter Sykes George. The construction was completed in 1941.[28] The college had previously functioned from a campus in Kashmiri Gate, Delhi, housed in distinctive Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture. This building now houses the Election Commission of Delhi.

In fact, some college playing fields are still located between Kashmiri Gate and Mori Gate.[16] Facilities for a number of sports are provided for on the college campus. The Francis Monk Gymnasium, the Ladies Common Room, and the Junior Common Room provide facilities for indoor sports and recreation. A chapel is open to all members for worship and meditation.[12]

Residence halls[edit]

There are different parts of the residence halls by means of the buildings having a main block and an extension. Originally only for male students (termed "Scholars in Residence"), three of these blocks are now allotted to female students.[29] These blocks have a capacity of 500 men and women. Each block is supervised by a member of the faculty functioning as block tutor. Porters and other staff who work in residence are referred to as "gyps" and "karamcharis" respectively.[30]


The St. Stephen's College library has rare Sanskrit and Persian manuscripts. It also offers digital services to students and has its own homegrown online public access catalog.[31] There is also a college archive housed in the library, containing various documents relating to the history of the college.

Organisation and administration[edit]

The college has also introduced a one of a kind certificate course in "Citizenship and Cultural Richness" which brings together a series of lectures by eminent Indian academics in a variety of fields ranging from science to literature, economics and social values. This had been touted as outreach by the principal of the college.[32]



College rankings
General – India
NIRF (Colleges) (2021)[33]8

St. Stephen's was ranked eighth among colleges in India by the National Institutional Ranking Framework (NIRF) in 2021.[34] India Today ranked St. Stephen second among art colleges[35] and third among science colleges in 2020.[36]


The college has its own selection process unlike other colleges under Delhi University. The college has an online application process where prospective applicants are expected to fill in their interests and academic achievements. The college releases a list for students selected to an interview and admission test by the first week of June. Every department has its own academic criteria and admission test/interview process. The interview constitutes 15% of the evaluation process.[37] Candidates called for interview are usually selected in a ratio of 5:1. St. Stephen's generally receives around 30,000 applicants for 400 seats each year leading to an incredibly low admit rate of 1.33%.[38]

Student life[edit]

Student societies[edit]

Student clubs and societies have always played an important role in the life of the college, and are seen as vital to student development. Each academic subject has a society which sponsors lectures and discussions. The popular extra-curricular societies and clubs engage in activities concerned with debating, dramatics, wall climbing and trekking, film, social service, photography, quizzing and astronomy. The social service league is the largest and most active society of St. Stephen's College which follows the mantra "Service above Self". It works for the betterment of the underprivileged sections of the society.[39] In continuance of a long tradition, the Planning Forum regularly invites distinguished visitors to address and join issue with students on various topical issues.[40]

Notable alumni[edit]

Alumni and students of St. Stephen's College are called "Stephanians". Alumni of the college include distinguished economists, CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, scientists, mathematicians, historians, writers, bureaucrats, journalists, lawyers, politicians including several Members of Parliament (MP) in India, as well as the Heads of State of three countries, and sportspersons including a number of olympians and international athletes.[41]


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  2. ^ "The Supreme Council of St Stephen's College, Delhi".
  3. ^ "No compromises in excellence and service". The Week. Retrieved 14 March 2024.
  4. ^ "Best and Brightest: St. Stephen College". India Today. Retrieved 14 March 2024.
  5. ^ "Students Explain How St. Stephen's Stifles Protests on Campus". 6 November 2018. Retrieved 14 March 2024.
  6. ^ "All about St Stephen's". Hindustan Times. 29 August 2006. Retrieved 14 March 2024.
  7. ^ "UGC encounters unfavourable legal opinion on St Stephen's autonomy".
  8. ^ "No autonomy for Delhi University's St Stephen College? Here is what you should know". 3 August 2018.
  9. ^ Sebastian, Kritika Sharma (12 December 2015). "St. Stephen's alumni upset over changes". The Hindu.
  10. ^ "The Top Colleges of India - India Today". Archived from the original on 6 December 2006. Retrieved 2 October 2006.
  11. ^ "India's Best Arts Colleges 2024". 18 March 2023.
  12. ^ a b c "St. Stephen's College, Delhi, India: History". Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  13. ^ "9 Outstanding Colleges in University of Delhi". Archived from the original on 24 December 2015. Retrieved 18 October 2015.
  14. ^ "St Stephens College - IndianPost". Archived from the original on 8 December 2015. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  15. ^ "Gardener's Son Begins New Chapter in St.Stephen's 133-year History". Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  16. ^ a b "City Monument – Old Stephen's, Kashmere Gate". 2 June 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  17. ^ "Google Books". Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  18. ^ "About DU - University of Delhi". Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  19. ^ "Oh boy! Still at girls' mercy". Archived from the original on 8 May 2012. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  20. ^ Monk, Francis Fitzhugh (1935). "A History of St. Stephen's College, Delhi".
  21. ^ "Ex principal of St Stephen's asks whether college will be damned by autonomy?".
  22. ^ "St. Stephen's College, Delhi – Official website of St. Stephen's College, University of Delhi, Delhi". Archived from the original on 11 February 2016. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  23. ^ "St Stephen's, Delhi - Victorian Web". Archived from the original on 8 July 2015. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  24. ^ "About DU". University of Delhi. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  25. ^ "Top Indian colleges that offer sports scholarships". Red Bull. 11 June 2015. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  26. ^ "Tiara St. Stephen's Special Opportunity Award". Tiara Foundation. Archived from the original on 6 October 2015. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  27. ^ "Despite opposition Stephen's decides to seek autonomous status". Retrieved 25 February 2017.
  28. ^ "St. Stephen's College - Dome, MIT Library". Archived from the original on 16 September 2015. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  29. ^ "St. Stephen's College - DU Beat". Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  30. ^ "Historical Landmarks of North Campus". Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  31. ^ "10 cool facts about St. Stephen's College". DU Updates. 6 June 2016. Archived from the original on 18 February 2017. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  32. ^ "Course on 'Citizenship and Cultural Richness' launched at St Stephen's". The Indian Express. 8 March 2015. Retrieved 31 January 2017.
  33. ^ "National Institutional Ranking Framework 2021 (Colleges)". National Institutional Ranking Framework. Ministry of Education. 9 September 2021.
  34. ^ "India Rankings 2021, National Institute Ranking Framework (NIRF)" (PDF). Department of Higher Education, Ministry of Education, Government of India. 2021. p. 95. Retrieved 27 August 2022.
  35. ^ "Best Arts Colleges 2020: List of Top Arts Colleges 2020 in India - Page1". Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  36. ^ "Best Science Colleges 2020: List of Top Science Colleges 2020 in India - Page2". Retrieved 16 March 2021.
  37. ^ "St. Stephen's Interview : Tips to turn a worrier into a Warrior". Not So Stephanian. 25 July 2020.
  38. ^ Sebastian, Kritika Sharma (17 June 2015). "St. Stephen's cut-off a staggering 99%". The Hindu. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  39. ^ "All about societies". Not So Stephanian. 25 July 2020.
  40. ^ "St Stephen's: From hostel to hangout zones, know your DU college". 14 June 2013. Retrieved 17 September 2017.
  41. ^ thmky (1 August 2004). "Stephanians in Parliament". The Hindu. Archived from the original on 1 December 2004. Retrieved 17 September 2017.

External links[edit]