ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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J F Duff and the University Education Commission of India, 1948-49

It has been a difficult period for university education in India, with the controversy around the four-year undergraduate programme joining the old complaints about lack of autonomy, political interference, financial ill-health, and deteriorating standards of academics and administration. In these times, the thoughts of one who was present at the conception of independent India's university structure and contributed to its making are a fascinating window into the state of affairs 65 years ago.

A year after India’s independence a commission was set up by then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and Education Minister Maulana Abul Kalam Azad “to report on Indian University Education and suggest improvements and extensions that may be desirable to suit present and future requirements of the country” (Biswas and Agrawal 1986: 469). The University Education Commission of 1948 was the fourth such exercise in modern Indian history after the Hunter Education Commission of 1882, the Raleigh Universities Commission of 1902 and the Sadler Universities Commission of 1917 (Biswas and Agrawal 1986: 349–50).

Chaired by Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan (thus known as the Radhakrishnan Commission), this 10-member commission visited 25 major universities across the country between December 1948 and July 1949, and submitted a comprehensive report that laid afresh the foundations of university education in independent India as well as dealt with central–provincial relations in higher education. Indeed, today it is primarily remembered as the commission that played a critical role in outlining university autonomy and determining centre–state relations in higher education (Giri 1992: 60–64).

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