Get Complete Information on Indian Universities Act, 1904 in Higher Education

When the recommendations of the Hunter Commission (1882) were implemented, a phenomenal growth of secondary and higher education took place; college and secondary education both expanded enormously.

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Government became wedded to the policy of laissez faire. It withdrew from direct management of many institutions.

It loosened control and supervision. Two more universities grew up in the Punjab and the North-West Frontier Provinces.


Towards the end of the country people started criticizing expansion in higher and secondary education colleges and schools began undercutting each other.

They began lowering fees and thus lowered their standards. These were the conditions when Lord Curzon landed in India.

It was during his Viceroyalty that education in India was critically reviewed and revitalized. According to Nurullah and Naik, “the Viceroyalty of Lord Curzon, the ablest but the most hated Viceroy that ever came to India was one of the most important periods in the history of India.

Lord Curzon was the ablest Viceroy because he had the wonderful intellectual gifts, brilliant powers of expression, phenomenal energy, and boundless enthusiasm for work-


No sooner he landed India, than he took up the problem of improving education in the country. Education seemed to deserve the most important position in his scheme of administrative reform.

The first thing that he did was to call a conference at Shimla in 1901 and then he appointed a Commission on Education, known as Indian Universities Commission which submitted its report in 1902.

The recommendations of the Indian Universities Commission were incorporated in the Government of India Resolution, 1904. The publication of the G.R. was followed by the passing of the Indian Universities Act, 1904.

Lord Curzon was not satisfied with the condition of Indian Universities which were set up on London model by the Wood’s Despatch. Though the London University had been remodeled in 1898, Indian universities went on following the old model.


They were all examining bodies. The universities in India were all affiliating universities. The expansion in higher education since 1854 had been so great and so many burdens was placed on each university that it was incapacitated to discharge its duties efficiently. The number of members in the Senate was large. And yet university teachers had no representation.

The Commission made following recommendations:

1. The existing universities should be reorganized as teaching bodies.

2. No new university should be set up.

3. The undergraduate work should be left to affiliated colleges and only advanced courses should be provided in the university campus.

4. The number of Senators should also be reduced and the period of their tenure should be 5 years at the most.

5. University and college teachers, renowned scholars and Government officials should get adequate representation in the senate.

6. The territorial jurisdiction of a university should be defined.

7. The number of members on the Syndicate should be reduced to 9 and to 15 in exceptional cases. All members should be elected.

8. Rules of affiliation should be strict and affiliation should not be granted to second grade colleges.

9. Every affiliated college should be under the control of a Governing Body which should pay attention to staff, library, hostel and buildings.

The Government of India resolution on Educational Policy was published on March 11, 1904 the resolution gave a historical account of education under the British rule prior to 1902 and discussed the defects of primary, secondary and higher education. The defects that were pointed out the field higher education were as follows:

1. The higher education was highly examination-ridden.

2. It was pursued exclusively for employment under the Government and not for its cultural value.

3. Students had little thinking power and depended on memorisation of facts.

4. The courses were mostly literary and not practical.

5. The thinking in Europe about purely examining universities had changed and hence universities should be first-rate teaching centres.

The recommendations of the Indian Universities Commission (1902) were incorporated in the Indian Universities Act, 1904 which limited the size of the senate’s, authorised teaching by the university, and imposed more close supervision on its work. The important changes brought about by the Act were as follows:

1. The size of the Senate should be reduced. The number of fellows should be between 60 and 100 and that they should hold officer for only 5 years.

2. The three older universities, Calcutta, Bombay and Madras were to have 20 members on the Syndicate and the rest 15 only.

3. The territorial limits of each university were defined by the Governor General-in-Council.

4. The importance of Syndicate was enhanced. It was recognized as the executive government of the university-

University teachers were granted representation on the Syndicate.

5. Government was vested with additional powers. It was required to approve the regulations framed by the Senate. If the Senate failed to frame regulations within a specified period the government was empowered to do so.

6. The functions of universities were enlarged. They could not appoint their new professors and lecturers, undertake research, hold and manage educational endowments, their own libraries, laboratories and museums, and make regulations regarding the residence of their students.

The Indian Universities Act (1904) led to improvement in College education. Special grants were offered to colleges to improve teaching, equip libraries, and laboratories and provide hostel accommodation to students.

A grant of 13.5 lakhs was equitably distributed among provinces with due consideration to the number of university students and the population. The Syndicate was recognized statutorily. The new Senate becomes more manageable.

Hunter Education Commission, 1882-83.

In 1882 the Government appointed a Commission under the Chairmanship of W.W. Hunter to review the progress of education in the country since the Despatch of 1854.

Another reason for the appointment of this Commission was the propaganda carried on by the missionaries in England that the education system of India was not carried on in accordance with the policy laid down in Wood’s Despatch.

The resolution appointing the Commission instructed the Chairman so to reorganize education in India that “the different branches of public instruction should, if possible, move forward together and with more equal step than hitherto.

The principal object, therefore, of the enquiry of the Commission should be the present state of elementary education throughout the Indian Empire and the means by which this can be extended and improved”.

The Commission was not “to enquire into the general working of the Indian universities”. Thus the Commission mostly confined its remarks to secondary and primary education.

(i) It emphasized the State’s special care for the extension and improvement of primary education. “Primary instruction” declared the Commission, “should be regarded as the instruction of the masses through the vernacular, in such subjects as will best fit them for their position in life.

“While private enterprise was to be welcomed at all stages of education, primary education was to be provided without reference to local co-operation.

The Commission recommended the transference of the control of primary education to the newly set up District and Municipal Boards. The local boards were empowered to levy cess for educational purposes.

(ii) For Secondary education, the principle was laid down that there should be two divisions-one, a literary education leading up to the Entrance Examination of the University and the other of a practical character preparing students for commercial and vocational careers.

(iii) The Commission recommended that an all-out effort should be made to encourage private enterprise in the field of education. To achieve that objective, it recommended the extension and liberalization of the grants-in-aid system, recognition of aided schools as equal to Government institutions in matters of status and privileges etc.

The Government should withdraw, it was recommended, as early as possible from the direct management of secondary and collegiate education.

(iv) The Education Commission drew attention to the inadequate facilities for female education outside the Presidency towns and made recommendations for its spread.

The twenty years following the report of the commission saw an unprecedented growth and expansion of secondary and collegiate education. The marked feature of this expansion was the participation of Indian philanthropic activity.

A number of denominational institutions sprang up in all parts of the country. Interest was kindled in Indian and Oriental studies apart from the pursuit of Western knowledge.

Another development of the period was the setting up of the teaching-cum-examining universities. The Panjab University was founded in 1882 as ‘the supreme literary, supreme teaching and supremeexamining body”. The Allahabad University was set up in 1887.

The early years of the nineteenth century were a period of growing political unrest and controversies in educational policies. Politicaldevelopments acted and reacted on educational developments.

The official view was that educational expansion had not proceeded on the right lines, that quality had deteriorated under private management,there was lot of indiscipline in schools and colleges and thateducational institutions had become factories for the production of political revolutionaries.

All these unhealthy developments were attributed to unregulated rapid expansion under irresponsible private enterprise. Nationalist opinion admitted the lowering of standards but emphasized that the Government was not doing its duty to liquidate illiteracy.

In his characteristics zeal for improvement of all branches of administration, Curzon sought to reconstruct education in India. He deprecated the ‘too slavish imitation of English models’ and Macaulay’s colossal blunder in erecting an ‘inverted pyramid’ and prejudice against Indian vernaculars.

He referred to the poor quality of teachers who were ‘merely the purveyors of certain articles to a class of purchases’ and found fault with the examination-ridden system of education.

His motives were mainly political and only partly educational. Curzon justified the increase of official control over education in the name of quality and efficiency, but actually sought to restrict education and discipline educated mind toward loyalty to the Government.

The nationalist mind saw in Curzon’s policies an attempt to strengthen imperialism and sabotage development of nationalist feelings.

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