From niche schools to research centres
The city once known as Madras has set the bar high when it comes to education in the country
What began as small schools to teach a trade for the British, who were building a new city called Madras, established the roots which turned this city into a hub for higher education in the country.
In 1794, the East India Company founded the School of Survey in Fort St. George, primarily to fill their need for surveyors. Soon engineering subjects began to be taught and in the next 125 years, it grew and metamorphosed in to the College of Engineering and eventually moved to Guindy. In 1978, College of Engineering, Guindy, popularly known as CEG, became part of Anna University, the seat of technical education in the State.
In 1664, the British established a military hospital in Fort St. George. In the next century, the British began teaching Indians and Europeans the allopathic method of making drugs. Half a century later in the 19th century, the first batch of medical students graduated. Today, 356 years later, the city has four medical colleges with an intake of around 750 students each year.
In 1840, the British established a University Board with the aim of introducing college education along the lines of the University of London. In the next century, this institution grew and led to the development of several universities across south Indian States. In the 20th Century, the State government created universities based on disciplines of study. Chennai is now home to universities for for medicine, veterinary sciences, engineering and technical sciences, agriculture, law, teacher education, sports, fisheries and distance learning.
The thirst for knowledge led to establishment of even more colleges. Initially, all colleges had government support but now the city’s education map has grown to accommodate self-financing colleges.
Soon after Independence, just across the road from CEG, an Indian Institute of Technology was set up. In the last 60 years, this institution put the city on the map as a place known for embracing modern technology.
In the late 20th century, a new journey began with the government permitting the establishment of private universities. These deemed institutions brought youngsters from all across the country and wards of non-resident Indians.
Music and fine arts
Chennai has nurtured fine arts, Indian systems of medicine and the liberal arts as well. It has a university for music and fine arts with the Chief Minister as its Chancellor. The Kalakshetra Fondation, a temple for fine arts, receives students from across the world. The College of Fine Arts in Egmore is an unique institution that showcases the thriving arts.
Ever since the Central government’s National Institutional Ranking Framework was introduced, at least half a dozen of Chennai’s institutions have remained among the top 10 in any given category.
Anna University and IIT-Madras have been tipped for the Institute of Eminence status, a befitting tribute to a city that has and continues to nurture education.
Several other institutions, which has historically prioritised education, and remains a seat not only for higher learning and conventional pedagogy, but also increasingly accepting alternate methodologies and innovations.