First regional language university in India turns 100

First regional language university in India turns 100
Nearly 100 years ago, the then Nizam of Hyderabad thought of setting up an institution to impart education in Urdu, lingua franca in the then princely state of Hyderabad. The idea was surprising to all and not received with enthusiasm. Probably as it came from the Nizam, the order was implemented. The debate rages on even after 100 years over imparting education in the mother tongue, in preference to English.
 
Mir Usman Ali, the richest and the last Nizam, who built several public utilities for his people, wanted an institution that could impart education both in Urdu and English as the latter was a must in the Commonwealth. Orders were issued to the then education secretary Akbar Hydari to prepare a blueprint for a university that would teach both Urdu and English.

Historian Acharya Rayaprolu mentions in his writings that not many academicians those days believed in Nizam’s idea and it was only Sir Kattamanchi Ramalinga Reddy, an eminent educationist of Coastal Andhra Pradesh, who extended a helping hand to the education secretary.

Hydari succeeded in securing letters of support for setting up a university in Urdu medium from world renowned educationists and submitted it to the Nizam on April 24, 1917. Two days later, a “farmana” was released on the eve of Nizam’s birthday on April 26, 1917 paving way for the establishment of the first-ever university in a regional language in British India.

The famous Osmania University of Hyderabad which has been spreading knowledge through its affiliates will complete 100 years next month. The university will  celebrate the centenary for three days beginning April 26 on its sprawling campus.

Several events have been launched to create a sense of belonging among the student community which has a fair representation of foreigners. The main campus has been spruced up and there is a mood of festivity everywhere.

Till Madras University established a study centre (now the Nizam College) in 1887, the Nizam’s Hyderabad had no centre of excellence. Teaching was also in English in most of the universities such as Madras, Calcutta and Andhra in those days.

During the initial days of the university, classes were held in rented accommodation in King Kothi and Basheer Bagh areas till 1934. The Arts College was inaugurated on August 28, 1919. It was temporarily housed in eight rented buildings in Gun Foundry area with 25 teachers and 225 students in the Intermediate first year class. Sir Masood was the first principal of the college.

The Nizam wanted a permanent university building to be built near Quli Qutub Shahi stadium near High Court on the banks of Musi River. Heeding the request of several ministers and academicians that a world class university requires a much larger open area for future expansion, the Nizam agreed to the construction of the university on 1,600 acres of open land in Adikmet (meaning:higher place) area. This is where the present day university stands tall.

The university, which offered only a few degree courses in the beginning, started master's courses and LLB by 1923. In 1924, engineering and medical courses were added. University-affiliated centres were established in Gulbarga, Aurangabad and Warangal in the same year. In the same year, Nizam upgraded the Girls High School at Nampally into a junior college for girls. However, it was only in 1950 that women were admitted to Osmania University.

On July 5, 1934, Mir Usman Ali laid the foundation for the iconic Arts College building, by shifting classes run in tin sheds to Adikmet campus. In 1928, a team of  Nizam's trusted architects, headed by Ali Nawab Jung and Nawaz Zain Yar Jung visited, Britain, Europe, America, Japan and Turkey to study the architecture of famous universities in those countries. It suggested the name of Monsieur Jasper, a Belgian architect who prepared detailed plans.

After Jasper left Hyderabad in 1931, Nawab Zain Yar Jung executed the plans. The major deviation from Jasper’s plan was the Islamic dome on top of the arts college building, which was rejected by the Nizam as he felt that an educational institution must be secular and not represent a particular religion.

The seventh Nizam laid the foundation stone for the Arts College building and it was declared open by him on December 4, 1939. The building in Pinkish granite stone represents a harmonious blend of the pillar and lintel style of Ajanta and Ellora. The arches of the building are of Indo-Saracenic tradition. The building is one of the heritage structures in Hyderabad. The diamond jubilee of the college building was celebrated in December 1999.

Initially, the Arts College building accommodated offices of the vice-chancellor, registrar and controller of examinations, university library, law college and college of commerce and business management.  According to the university web page, undergraduate courses in arts and commerce were discontinued from this college in 1973 and Arts College assumed the status of a full-fledged postgraduate college.

Following the instructions of the Nizam, the university students were made to wear a uniform--a black and blue sherwani during the initial years. According to historian Safiulla, the university charged fees in the range of Rs 10 to 15 per annum. Education was offered free to the top 10 rankers of the campus. The Nizam allocated an annual budget of Rs 20 lakh for Osmania University.

“The only mishap in the early days of the university was the leakage of a question paper on the third day of first-ever annual examination. A re-examination was conducted with the help of an alternative question paper set by subject experts and the English lecturer responsible for the leakage was suspended immediately,” Safiulla wrote.

The university which was started with an initial strength of 225 students, 25 teaching staff and 11 departments, now has 53 departments. It offers 68 postgraduate courses, 27 undergraduate, 26 diploma and 15 certificate programmes other than MPhil, doctoral and post doctoral programmes. Osmania boasts an alumni of around one crore.

The list includes several important personalities from various fields. Among them are  former prime minister the late P V Narasimha Rao, last chief minister of united Andhra Pradesh Nallari Kiran Kumar Reddy, CEO Adobe systems Shantanu Narayen, senior advocate Subodh Markandeya, former Indian cricket team captain Mohammed Azharuddin, cricket commentator Harsha Bhogle, and first Indian cosmonaut Rakesh Sharma.

“The university stood for what the Nizam believed. It has produced finest students who excelled in their fields as they have a sense of ownership. During the phased agitation for Telangana and after, there were some setbacks, I hope the centenary celebration will help all of us to rededicate in fulfilling the dream of the Nizam,” OU Alumni Association vice president Prof R Ramesh Reddy of civil engineering department said.

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