While researching some of our Indian students of the early 1900s using our Archives and the India Office papers at the British Library, we came across an interesting story about Indian government state scholarships and their restrictions.
One such government state scholarship introduced in 1886 stipulated that the holder could only attend the Universities of Oxford or Cambridge. This stipulation was put in place on account of 1) climate, 2) the fact that at the Scotch universities there were no limits of residence and hardly any supervision, and 3) the opportunities at Oxford and Cambridge for a specialised as well as a general education. (IOR/L/PJ/6/897, File 3766). However, one student disagreed and was able to convince his sponsors that Glasgow was the best choice for him.
Babu Satis Chandra Majumdar became the exception, and opened the door to others who wanted to decide on the best course for their own educational and professional development. Born in Faridpur, East Bengal, British India (modern day Bangladesh), and educated at the University of Calcutta, Majumdar resigned from his job as Deputy Magistrate and Deputy Collector in the Provincial Civil Service of Eastern Bengal and Assam to take up the Government of India State scholarship for higher education (of £200 annually).
In India, Majumdar had hinted that he would attend St John’s College, Cambridge, but on arrival in the UK asked for Glasgow. Majumdar persuaded the authorities that the BSc course at Glasgow would be much better than at Cambridge in preparation for employment in the Public Works Department (PWD). Majumdar also requested a concession upon graduation, as in 1911 he recognised that he would be one month over the age limit for candidates for the PWD, and this was to be based on previous service in the Provincial Civil Service. The Central Public Works Department was established in July 1854, and became known for recruiting highly qualified professionals in all areas of civil, electrical and mechanical engineers, who played a pivotal role in the development and implementation of government construction and infrastructure projects throughout India.
Concessions granted, Majumdar successfully graduated BSc from the University of Glasgow in 1910, the climate or lack of supervision not seeming to impede his success.
Our Club21 volunteer, Matthew Dawson is about to embark on his project looking at Indian students of the University immediately before and during the period of the First World War – if anyone has any hints, tips or stories to share, please contact us. Our current graduates from India until 1913, can be viewed on the Internationals Story’s country page.