100 years of Dhaka University

DU officially started its journey on July 1 in 1921 as an autonomous educational institution

Published : 02 Jul 2021 08:55 PM | Updated : 03 Jul 2021 12:27 AM

(Continued from last day's section)

However, despite opposition, the-then government of India adopted a proposal to establish Dhaka University. In a letter on April 4 in 1912, the government directed the Governor of Bengal to prepare a complete project with financial ledger for the establishment of the university. The letter contained special instructions aimed at meeting the interest and need of the Muslims of Bengal. There was an instruction to this effect, so that the Muslims retain their own characteristics in the field of education and the Muslim students succeed in maintaining their religious culture. The Government of Bengal constituted a 13-member ‘Nathan Committee’ on May 27 in 1912 to implement the directives of the Government of India. The report submitted by this committee with the recommendation of a scenic area of 450 acres of land for the university was finally adopted by the ‘Secretary of India’ in December 1913.

The outbreak of World War I in 1914 made it impossible to implement the project due to the economic crisis. In 1915, it was again proposed to complete the work of establishing the university with a shortened budget. As a result, in 1916, the Government of India directed the Government of Bengal to submit a revised plan for the establishment of the Dhaka University at a minimum cost.

Delays in the implementation of the proposed Dhaka University project raised doubts among Muslim leaders about the government’s goodwill. Nawab Syed Nawab Ali Chowdhury raised the issue in the Royal Legislative Assembly on March 7 in 1918. On March 20, he submitted a proposal to the government demanding the establishment of Dhaka University soon. On April 23 in 1917, the project was promised to be implemented at the concluding session of the Royal Legislative Assembly.

As per the recommendations of the Nathan Committee, huge land was required for the university. The work of establishing this university is also being delayed on the pretext that land is not being acquired. 

Against this backdrop, Nawab Sir Salimullah came forward. He left a large part of his estate for the university. The death of Salimullah in 1915 may also be one of the reasons for the delay in the establishment of the university. On the one hand, his death and on the other hand, when there was a financial crisis, Nawab Nawab Ali Chowdhury came forward. He sold a large portion of his Zamindari in Tangail and played a special role in raising funds for establishment of the university. On the other hand, Sher-e-Bangla AK Fazlul Haque continued his vocal role.

The Dhaka University project was sent to the Kolkata University Commission in 1917 for further opinion. The commission reported in favor of the establishment of Dhaka University. However, some disagreements arose as will it be just a residential university, or will it be a ‘teaching’ and ‘affiliated’? During this debate, the Kolkata University Commission once came to Rajshahi to check public opinion. At that time, a Muslim delegation met them and claimed that all the colleges in East Bengal would be ‘affiliated’ with Dhaka University. The commission, along with the Nathan Committee, agreed that Dhaka University would be an autonomous educational institution. 

The Government of India, the Government of Bengal and the Nathan Committee agreed that when the Dhaka University is established, it would be open to the acquisition of knowledge by students of all races and classes. However, an Arabic and Islamic Studies department will be opened especially for Muslim students. Finally, in the light of the views of Kolkata University and the recommendations of the Nathan Committee, the Dhaka University Bill was passed into law on March 23 in 1920. 

After overcoming hundreds of obstacles, the Dhaka University officially started its journey on July 1 in 1921 as an autonomous educational institution. The journey started with 60 teachers, 847 students, three faculties and 12 departments. The university was first established on 600 acres of land. At present, the amount of land is 320.82 acres. After Dhaka regained its status as the capital in 1947, the amount of land reduced to fulfil the requirement for the establishment of the High Court and the Secretariat.

Before and after the abolition of Bangabhanga, the larger population of East Bengal was deprived of the overall facilities of higher education. The establishment of Dhaka University created opportunities for higher education for the children of backward Muslim peasants in East Bengal. 

The contribution of Dhaka University is undeniable for all the efforts we see in building progress, modernity and advanced culture and civilization in present day Bangladesh. Without the establishment of Dhaka University in 1921, we would not have been able to reach our present position. If not Bangabhanga, Dhaka University would not have existed.

From the earliest days of its establishment, the reputation of Dhaka University was very high. That former glory is no more. One of the main reasons is lack of research or lack of quality research. There are many more reasons. Current university authorities are trying to focus on research. They are trying to innovate in more different fields. They have taken some good work. We want that this university will return to its former glory and fame.


Ehsanul Haque Jasim is a Media worker and PhD researcher, Dhaka University.