Higher Education in India

The Indian Universities Commission

The Indian Universities Commission

 Lord Curzon evinced keen interest for the development of education in British India. Soon after his arrival as Viceroy he convened one educational conference at Shimla in 1901, to discuss the problems ranging from Primary to University education. But it is a matter of great concern that not a single educated Indian was invited to attend that Conference. However, at his instance a University Commission was appointed on January, 27, 1902.

 The purpose of this Commission was formulated as follows:

 “To enquire into the conditions and prospects of the Universities established in British India, to consider and report upon any proposals which have been or may be made for improving their constitution and working, and to recommend to the Governor General in Council such measures as may tend to elevate the standard of University teaching and to promote the advancement of learning”.

 It was most unfortunate that like Shimla Conference Lord Curzon did not include any Indian representative in this Commission. By this attitude the sentiments of the Indians were grievously hurt:

 In connection with the improvement in the administration and education of Universities the Commission recommended the following:

  1. Reorganization of the administration;
  2. Systematic supervision of the affiliated colleges;
  3. Imposition of more well defined conditions of affiliation;:
  4. Substantial changes in curricula and in the methods of examination.

 Though some of the recommendations were implemented, even then there was much dissatisfaction in the field of higher education. While there was a greater demand than before for higher education it was increasingly realized that the desired results were not achieved. Though large number of students was passing the University examinations, yet the standards were low. There was much unemployment and naturally a feeling of frustration.

 The Indian Universities Act 1904 –

The recommendation of Indian Universities Commission appeared after slight amendments in the shape of Indian Universities Act, which came into force on March, 1904. Though veteran national leader G.K. Gokhale criticized the Act vehemently and wanted to give a fillip to the mass education, yet it was passed by the majority of council members. The following important changes were introduced for the upliftment of University Education.

  1. Universities were empowered to appoint their own staff including the teaching staff;
  2.  The number of Fellows of a University was limited within 50 to 100 and their tenure of office was reduced to five years 
  3. The number of elected Fellows was fixed at 20 for the Bombay, Madras and Calcutta Universities and 15 for others;
  4. Syndicate was accorded legal sanction with proper representation of University teachers on it;
  5. Rules pertaining to affiliation of Colleges to a University were made stricter;
  6. Government was empowered to modify the rules framed by the Senate;
  7. Governor-General in Council was authorized to define the territorial jurisdiction of the Universities.

After the implementation of the provisions of University Act, though the number of colleges declined, yet the number of students increased considerably. Between 1902 to 1907 the number of Colleges decreased from 192 to 174. With regard to University Act, Nurullah and Naik, in their book ‘History of Education in India’ ventilated their feelings; “It did nothing to overhaul the system of University education and to put in on a proper basis ; it did not create new Universities though these were hardly needed; and finally, it gave so much control to government in the administration of the University that the Calcutta University Commission described the Indian Universities as the most completely Governmental Universities in the world”.

However, Lord Curzon’s educational scheme created a new awakening and inspiration in educational field. In-spite of his good motive, he could not win the confidence and faith of the Indians. The rising-tide of’ Swadeshi Movement’ in the country generated a feeling of nationalism in the masses.

The University Act brought about changes in the administration of University education. Owing to the scarcity of Technical Colleges there was no scope of vocational education and most of the students sought admission to arts and science colleges. The Act directed the Universities to undertake teaching function. As a result Post-Graduate teaching was introduced in Calcutta University and Bombay University introduced honours course in different subjects. Special provision was made for research work in Science, Economics and Experimental Psychology. The Government Resolution on Educational Policy dated 21th February 1913, with regard to University education could not be implemented because of the outbreak of great World War.

 As a result of the state control over secondary education the efficiency of the institutions improved considerably, though quantity suffered. Besides the Department of Education the concerned University also gave recognition for appearing the students at the Matriculation examination. This system of administration impeded the progress of secondary education. Students reading in un-recognized schools were not allowed to be transferred to recognized ones. By this the un-recognized institutions received a check. The recognized schools were entitled to grant-in-aid. But the Secondary Schools multiplied in number abnormally due to the adoption of the educational policy of 1913. By the year, 1917, the number of state schools was 237 for boys and 20 for girls.

 After the Educational Policy of Lord Curzon, there was marked improvement in the field of Primary Education. A good number of upper primary and lower primary schools sprang up. The grant-in-aid to the primary schools also increased from rupees 40 lakhs in 1905 to 75 lakhs by 1912. The curriculum and methods of teaching at the primary level improved to a great extent.

Due to the political awakening the people began to realize that they could not progress without raising the percentage of literacy and education. Not entrusting the local bodies entirely for the spread of primary education Lord Curzon fixed the state responsibility. The grant-in-aid system was made effective. The ‘Payment by Results’ was stopped. All these factors contributed for the growth of primary education and the number of schools increased from 112930 to 123578 between 1907 to 1912. It may not be out of place to mention here that before 1904, the primary education had passed three well defined stages. In one sense, before 1854, it was in a state of infancy. From 1854 to 1882 it was in a state of slow expansion. Between 1882 to 1904, though there was a halt in the process of expansion, yet it was a time of consolidation. In 1904, the nature of consolidation became ‘quality oriented’.

 The period from 1904 to 1912, was though a time of attention, yet results were in no way impressive and spectacular. Even then it was a period of activity in the field of elementary education. The political agitation during this period influenced the education in general and primary education in particular.

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Pankaja Singh

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