The education scenario in Bengaluru might currently be defined by a wide array of institutions — right from public schools to state-of-the-art private schools, international schools, private universities and colleges and much more, but looking back at the pages of history, the city was the home to some of the oldest educational institutions of the country.
Most of such historical institutions, along with some which even have heritage value, have been providing education to students even to this day. Many such institutions are also bound by a common thread — the patronage of the erstwhile Wadiyar dynasty.
In the recently presented budget, the State government announced that a feasibility study would be taken up to create a Heritage and Educational District in a five-kilometre radius of the Central Business District, which would involve all the historical educational institutions in the area. The Hindu visited five such iconic institutions which stand proud in the heart of the city to check on their current status.
Renowned alumni and the legacy of Central College
In 1858, to promote education, the British government established the Bengaluru Central High School, which later came to be known as Central College, one of the country’s oldest colleges. While it was first affiliated with the Madras Presidency University, by 1917, it became a constituent college of Mysore University and was later brought under the umbrella of Bangalore University.
Bengaluru City University (BCU) has been established on the same campus. Lingaraja Gandhi, Vice Chancellor, BCU, rightly described it as a blend of old and new. The physics, chemistry, mathematics, zoology, botany and life science departments have remained on this campus for over 100 years now. The chemistry department even houses nine different labs. There is also a 100-year-old library on the campus.
The 160-year-old red heritage building is now being restored for ₹155 crores by the BCU. “A hall of fame, good drainage system, roads, a thematic park and a huge sports complex are among the things which are coming up here,” said Prof. Gandhi.
Although there is construction activity going on around the vast campus, one cannot help but admire the building for its beauty. Speaking about the historical events and alumni of Central College, Prof. Gandhi said, “C.V. Raman disclosed his Nobel Prize-winning discovery on this very campus. Homi J. Baba was an atomic teacher here. Poet laureate Kuvempu was a teacher here. Both Sir M. Visvesvaraya and Sir Mirza Ismail graduated from here, and so did other notable figures like C. Rajagopalachari, C.N.R. Rao, seer Sivakumar Swami and Justice M. N. Venkatachaliah among others.”
It is also noteworthy that over a century-old building is being used in the present day to teach new-age subjects like Data Science, Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, indicating that the campus has always adapted to the needs of the students of every generation.
University of Visvesvaraya College of Engineering
With a plan to match the colour of the High Court and the Central College, the University of Visvesvaraya College of Engineering (UVCE) followed the same red colour scheme. The heritage building was inaugurated in 1917 by Sir M. Visvesvaraya, who also planned its architecture, under the name of Government Engineering College. It was the first engineering college in the State and fifth engineering college of the country.
Today, around 4,100 students, across eight undergraduate, 24 postgraduate and many PhD programmes, study on this campus. “Sir M. Visvesvaraya had this rule where he had said that nothing should be named after him while he was alive. Only after his passing the college was renamed as UVCE,” said Professor H.N. Ramesh, Principal, UVCE.
He added that recently during the construction of the canteen, it was noticed that the UVCE building was built on a stone which had sloped in an architecturally beneficial manner. “It all goes to show how brilliant Sir Visvesvaraya’s planning was.” The heritage value of the building is being protected, thanks to the grants by the State government.
What has changed in the span of 100 years? Prof Ramesh said, “Back then, there were no placements, nor any research. Today, we have almost 98% placements here, and we conduct extensive research, publish papers and also provide consultancy services for various government departments. Now, we also have faculty from IITs, IISC and those who have completed PhDs from foreign universities who can provide hands on experience to the students.”
UVCE was also recently in the news for the fund crunch as the government did not allot the money after it was granted autonomous status in 2022. Bangalore University had also rejected UVCE’s request to maintain the status quo as a constituent college until March 2023. However, after much outrage, earlier this month, the government approved the release of ₹35 crore for the operations of UVCE while also extending its status quo with Bangalore University.
S.J. Government Polytechnic College
During the reign of the Wadiyars, the Bhadravathi Steel Company was drowning in losses, and Sir M. Visvesvaraya was entrusted with the responsibility of its revival. He turned it around in such a way that the company recovered from its losses and recorded a profit.
Subsequently, he was given an honorarium of ₹2 lakh by the king. Refusing to take it personally, he diverted the same amount towards establishing an occupational institute, which was later converted into Sri Jayachamarajendra Government Polytechnic (SJP).
One of the biggest polytechnic colleges in South East Asia, SJP, now has over 2,000 students enrolled across 16 technical courses. The college has also established two twinning programmes with Athens University in the United States where students will be sent next year.
Although the college has a vast campus, adjoined by a huge playground, like any old building, it also needs some infrastructural improvements. A few students on campus revealed that the number of restrooms is not enough for the strength of the college and said that more washrooms were an immediate requirement. An official from the management seconded it and said labs also need upgradation.
Government Polytechnic for Women
Located behind the S.J. Polytechnic College is the Government Polytechnic for Women, which was established in 1963. In the heat of the mid-afternoon, there were young women walking around the campus in their blazered uniforms with big aspirations ahead.
With an aim to provide an educational institution for women to study technical courses, the queen of the Wadiyar dynasty, Tripura Sundari Ammanni, provided the land and also inaugurated this college. From 30-60 students enrolled in four courses to 1,160 students across seven courses now, this institution is thriving. Not just in the country, but this women’s polytechnic college was the first in Asia.
Situated within the long corridors of the building was the principal’s office, where Pavana P. spoke about how there is a need to upgrade the infrastructure at the college. “We need more buildings added to the campus with upgraded labs, restrooms and water facilities. We are reaching international levels with our students now, and we need amenities like smart classrooms and a common resource centre to help them compete outside.”
Like with any other institution, the courses and curriculum have improved drastically here. The recently introduced gaming and animation course has attracted a lot of students, the principal said.
Sri Krishna Rajendra Silver Jubilee Technological Institute
To honour the completion of Nalwadi Krishnarajendra Wadiyar’s 25-year reign, Sir M. Visvesvaraya and Sir Mirza Ismail established the Government Sri Krishna Rajendra Silver Jubilee Technological Institute (SKRSJTI) in 1938.
“It was a premium institution for textile technology in India from the British Era,” said M.B. Patil, Head of the Department, Civil Engineering. He added that while textile technology was the first course which was started there, then came silk technology department. Even to this day, the students of the textile technology course secure the highest placements here, but the government is not recruiting any new teachers for the course, Prof. Patil said.
There are now around 850 students studying at the institute in various branches including civil, electronics, and computer science. The classrooms are huge and there are cement bags and other construction supplies lying around in the corridors.
The textile technology workshop here is being renovated by the State government at a cost of ₹38.5 crore. A new building is also coming up which is expected to accommodate several labs and new age machinery purchased by various departments. “The new building is coming up, but we feel happy when we are sitting inside this very architecturally fine, stone building itself,” Prof. Patil said with a smile.