You are here


Technical Education plays a vital role in human resource development of the country by creating skilled manpower, enhancing industrial productivity and improving the quality of life of its people. Technical Education covers programmes in engineering, technology, management, architecture, town planning, pharmacy, applied arts & crafts, hotel management and catering technology.

Technical Education - A Historical Perspective

Engineering and Technological Education in Pre-Independence Era

The impulse for creation of centres of technical training came from the British rulers of India and it arose out of the necessity for the training of overseers for construction and maintenance of public buildings, roads, canals and ports and for the training of artisans and craftsmen for the use of instruments and apparatus needed for the army, the navy and the survey department. The superintending engineers were mostly recruited from Britain from the Cooper's Hill College and this applied as well to foremen and artificers; but this could not be done in the case of lower grades- craftsmen, artisans and sub-overseers who were recruited locally. As they were mostly illiterate, efficiency was low. The necessity to make them more efficient by giving them elementary lessons in reading, writing, arithmetic, geometry and mechanics, led to the establishment of industrial schools attached to Ordnance Factories and other engineering establishments.

While it is stated that such schools existed in Calcutta and Bombay as early as 1825, the first authentic account we have is that of an industrial school established at Guindy, Madras, in 1842, attached to the Gun Carriage Factory there. A school for the training of overseers was known to exist in Poona in 1854.

Meanwhile in Europe and America, Colleges of Engineering were growing up, which drew to their men having good education and special proficiency in mathematical subjects. This led to discussions in Government circles in India and similar institutions were sought to be established in the Presidency Towns.

The first engineering college was established in the Uttar Pradesh in 1847 for the training of Civil Engineers at Roorkee, which made use of the large workshops and public buildings there that were erected for the Upper Ganges Canal. The Roorkee College (or to give it its official name, the Thomason Engineering College) was never affiliated to any university but gave diplomas considered to be equivalent to degrees. In pursuance of the Government policy, three Engineering Colleges were opened by about 1856 in the three Presidencies. In Bengal, a College called the Calcutta College of Civil Engineering was opened at the Writers' Buildings in November 1856; the name was changed to Bengal Engineering College in 1857, and it was affiliated to the Calcutta University. It gave a licentiate course in Civil Engineering. In 1865 it was amalgamated with the Presidency College. Later, in 1880, it was detached from the Presidency College and shifted to its present quarters at Sibpur, occupying the premises and buildings belonging to the Bishop's College.

Proposals for having an Engineering College at Bombay city having failed for some reasons, the overseers' school at Poona eventually became the Poona College of Engineering and affiliated to the Bombay University in 1858. For a long time, this was the only College of Engineering in the Western Presidency.

In the Madras Presidency, the industrial school attached to the Gun Carriage Factory became ultimately the Guindy College of Engineering and affiliated to the Madras University (1858).

The educational work in the three Colleges of Sibpur, Poona and Guindy has been more or less similar. They all had licentiate courses in civil engineering up to 1880, when they organised degree classes in this branch alone. After 1880, the demand for mechanical and electrical engineering was felt, but the three Engineering Colleges started only apprenticeship classes in these subjects. The Victoria Jubilee Technical Institute, which was started at Bombay in 1887, had as its objective the training of licentiates in Electrical, Mechanical and Textile Engineering. In 1915, the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, opened Electrical Engineering classes under Dr. Alfred Hay and began to give certificates and associateships, the latter being regarded equivalent to a degree.

In Bengal, the leaders of the Swadeshi Movement organised in 1907 a National Council of Education which tried to organise a truly National University. Out of the many institutions it started, only the College of Engineering and Technology at Jadavpur had survived. It started granting diplomas in mechanical and engineering course in 1908 and in chemical engineering in 1921.

The Calcutta University Commission debated the pros and cons of the introduction of degree courses in mechanical and electrical engineering. One of the reasons cited from the recommendations of the Indian Industrial Commission (1915), under the Chairmanship of Sir Thomas (Holland) against the introduction of electrical engineering courses, is given in the following quotation from their report: "We have not specifically referred to the training of electrical engineers, because electrical manufactures have not yet been started in India, and there is only scope for the employment of men to do simple repair work, to take charge of the running of electrical machinery, and to manage and control hydroelectric and steam-operated stations. The men required for these three classes of work will be provided by the foregoing proposals for the training of the various grades required in mechanical engineering. They will have to acquire in addition, special experience in electrical matters, but, till this branch of engineering is developed on the constructional site, and the manufacture of electrical machinery taken in hand, the managers of electrical undertakings must train their own men, making such use as they can of the special facilities offered for instruction at the engineering colleges and the Indian Institute of Science."

The credit of first starting degree classes in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering and metallurgy goes to the University of Banaras, thanks to the foresight of its great founder, Pt. Madan Mohan Malaviya (1917).

About fifteen years later, in 1931-32, the Bengal Engineering College at Sibpur started mechanical and electrical engineering courses in 1935-36 and courses in metallurgy in 1939-40. Courses in these subjects were also introduced at Guindy and Poona about the same time.

Quite a number of engineering colleges have been started since August 15, 1947. It is due to the realisation that India has to become a great industrial country and would require a far larger number of engineers than could be supplied by the older institutions.