Delhi University, known for its academic excellence and vibrant student life, is home to several prestigious colleges that have played a pivotal role in shaping the educational landscape of India.
Among them, four colleges stand as testaments to time, preserving a rich legacy of learning and intellectual growth. This article explores the oldest colleges of DU —St. Stephen’s College, Hindu College, Ramjas College, and Zakir Husain Delhi College—tracing their origins, highlighting their contributions, and examining their continued significance in higher education.
History of DU
Delhi University, officially known as the University of Delhi, is one of the first universities in India. It was established in 1922 and has since become one of the largest and most prestigious universities in the country.
The establishment of Delhi University was a result of the efforts of leading educators and visionaries of that time, including Dr Hari Singh Gaur, Sir Satyendra Prasanna Sinha, and Sir Maurice Gwyer.
Delhi University started with just three colleges: St. Stephen’s College, Hindu College, and Ramjas College, which became the founding colleges of DU. 2 years after its establishment, Zakir Husain College was added to the university, which so happens to be the oldest established college in Delhi, and one of the oldest in the country.
Over the years, DU has grown exponentially and now encompasses 91 DU colleges spread all across Delhi.
The Founding Colleges Of DU
The 3 founding colleges of DU are St. Stephens’s College, Hindu College, and Ramjas College, which made up the university in 1922. Zakir Husain College was added in 1924, making the 4 colleges, the oldest colleges of DU.
St. Stephen’s College
Founded in 1881, St. Stephen’s College holds the distinction of being one of the oldest colleges of DU. Established by the Cambridge Mission to Delhi, it aimed to provide education with a strong emphasis on moral and spiritual values.
The college owes its name to Sir James Stephen, a prominent British civil servant and author who contributed to the field of law and governance.
In 1922, St. Stephen’s College became one of the founding colleges of DU. It played a crucial role in the early development of Delhi University and contributed significantly to its academic and intellectual environment.
St. Stephen’s College has consistently maintained a reputation for academic excellence and ranked 14th according to the NIRF rankings in 2023. It offers undergraduate and postgraduate programs across various disciplines, including humanities, sciences, and commerce.
The rigorous academic curriculum, coupled with a focus on holistic development, has consistently produced graduates who have excelled in various professional domains.
The college encourages students to engage in extracurricular pursuits, such as theatre, music, sports, and debate, fostering a well-rounded development and providing students with opportunities to express themselves, collaborate, and showcase their talents.
The college’s annual cultural festivals, such as “Culturati” and “Wilde,” attract participants from across the country, reflecting the diverse and inclusive spirit of the institution.
Established on January 20th, 1899, Hindu College has a long and illustrious history. It was founded by a group of eminent personalities, including Shri Krishan Dass, Lala Shri Shyam Lal, and Babu Rameshwar Das, who sought to provide an education rooted in Indian culture and values.
Hindu College became affiliated with the University of Delhi when it was established in 1922, making it one of the oldest colleges of DU. As one of the founding colleges of DU, Hindu College played a significant role in shaping the university’s early years and academic culture.
The college’s foundation was a response to the need for an institution that would offer a modern education while preserving the traditional ethos of Indian society.
Hindu College has been at the forefront of academic and intellectual growth, offering a wide range of undergraduate and postgraduate programs in arts, sciences, and commerce.
In the NIRF Rankings 2023, Hindu College ranked 2nd among all colleges in India and got A+ NAAC Accreditation.
The academic programs at Hindu College are designed to equip students with a strong foundation in their chosen fields and prepare them for future challenges.
Apart from academics, Hindu College boasts a vibrant campus life, with numerous student societies and clubs catering to various interests and talents.
These co-curricular activities provide students with a platform to enhance their skills, explore their passions, and develop leadership qualities.
The college continues to nurture and inspire young minds, fostering an environment that promotes academic curiosity, cultural enrichment, and holistic development.
Established in 1917, Ramjas College holds a special place among the oldest colleges of DU.
It was founded by the philanthropist Rai Kedar Nath, along with a group of visionaries, with a mission to impart an education that fosters critical thinking, social consciousness, and nation-building.
Ramjas College offers a diverse range of undergraduate and postgraduate programs across disciplines such as arts, sciences, and commerce. The college has a highly qualified and dedicated faculty, known for their expertise in their respective fields.
They employ innovative teaching methodologies, including interactive lectures, research projects, and field visits, to enhance the learning experience of students.
The college ranked #1 out of 171 colleges in the Arts category in a ranking published by India Today.
Ramjas College has a vibrant campus life, with a multitude of student societies, clubs, and events. The college’s sports teams have also excelled in various intercollegiate tournaments, reflecting the importance given to physical fitness and sportsmanship.
Which is the Oldest College at DU?
Zakir Husain Delhi College
If seen through the viewpoint of the year of establishment, the answer would be Zakir Husain College.
Zakir Husain College was established in 1692 as the Delhi College by the British East India Company, making it one of the oldest educational institutions in India, and the oldest college at DU. It was primarily meant to provide education to the British officials’ children.
In 1975, the college was renamed Zakir Husain Delhi College in honour of Dr Zakir Husain, the former President of India, who was an alumnus of the college.
Zakir Husain College became affiliated with the University of Delhi, in 1924, making it one of the oldest colleges affiliated with DU.
Zakir Husain Delhi College is committed to providing quality education and empowering students from diverse backgrounds to achieve their aspirations.
The college offers undergraduate programs in arts, sciences, and commerce, and also has a strong focus on research and innovation.
The faculty members are known for their expertise and dedication, and they play a vital role in shaping the academic and personal growth of students.
The college has received an A accreditation from NAAC.
Contributions and Relevance, and Adaptability
The relevance of these colleges lies in their ability to adapt to changing times while upholding their core values. They have embraced interdisciplinary approaches to education, recognizing the importance of holistic development.
Furthermore, the cultural significance of the Oldest Colleges of DU cannot be overlooked. They serve as platforms for artistic expression, promoting cultural diversity and creativity. They serve as a key element in the history of DU as well as the secondary educational institutions of the country.
The oldest DU colleges have adapted themselves to the new world by embracing various changes and implementing modern practices. Here are some ways in which they have adopted:
- Infrastructure Development
The oldest colleges of DU have undergone significant infrastructure development to modernize their campuses.
This includes the construction of new buildings, renovation of existing facilities, and the integration of modern technology in classrooms and laboratories.
- Curriculum Updates
The oldest DU colleges have revised their curriculum to include contemporary subjects, emerging fields, and interdisciplinary courses to meet the demands of the evolving job market.
They have introduced new programs and diversified their course offerings to provide students with a wider range of academic options.
- Industry Partnerships and Internships
Recognizing the importance of industry exposure, these colleges have developed strong partnerships with industries, organizations, and startups.
They offer internships, industry-academia collaborations, and guest lectures by industry experts to bridge the gap between academia and the professional world.
The oldest colleges of DU—St. Stephen’s College, Hindu College, Ramjas College, and Zakir Husain Delhi College—embody a collective heritage of knowledge, intellectual pursuit, and holistic growth.
With their rich histories, academic excellence, and contributions to society, these institutions continue to inspire generations of students.
As they march forward, these colleges preserve their esteemed legacies while adapting to meet the challenges of the future, remaining at the forefront of education in India.