Mumbai: Mumbai will have a new university. Once-upon-a-time government colleges of academic excellence like the Institute of Science, Elphinstone College, Government Law College and Government BEd College look set to get their lustre back by making up a cluster university in south Mumbai.
Under the leadership of the Institute of Science, this will be the state's first such venture into an interdisciplinary varsity planned under the Rashtriya Uchchatar Shiksha Abhiyan (RUSA) programme.
The Union ministry of human resource development has approved the proposal to set up this cluster university and has granted Rs 55 crore under the 12 th five year plan.
The institutes will break free from Mumbai University and the state will draw up a cluster university Act and set up a fresh structure that will define its working. Students will be allowed to pick courses of their choice from the units and will graduate as pass-outs of the new university.
Founded in 1920 as the Royal Institute of Science, the first Indian institution dedicated to pure science and related research, the Institute of Science will act as the lead college or the headquarters of the university.
Renowned scientists like Homi Bhabha, M G K Menon, V V Narlikar and chemical technologist R D Desai are among its distinguished alumni. Housed in the magnificent Cowasji Jehangir Hall designed by George Wittet, the institute, like its neighbour Elphinstone College, has seen better days.
A kilometer away, the Government Law College too has been long hobbled by lack of funds and attention. The Government BEd College, located next to St Xavier's, also has seen a slow and painful decline. While the state government had included Sydenham College as a part of the cluster university proposal, the project approval board dropped it as the college did not have accreditation beyond 2004.
The college, famous for its Romanesque Transitional style building, is the oldest college of the city. The citizens of Mumbai collected Rs.2.29 lakh for teaching the English language, the Arts and Literature of Europe as a tribute to the departing governor of Bombay, Mountstuart Elphinstone and the college was formally constituted in 1835. Classes commenced in 1836 with two professors, Arthur Bedford Orlebar (natural philosophy) and Harkness (general literature).
The Government Law College, founded in 1855, is the oldest law school in Asia dating back even prior to the University of Mumbai. Government Law College has had guidance from eminent legal luminaries such as Dr B R Ambedkar, Lokmanya Tilak, Justice M C Chagla, Nani Palkhivala and several others.
Until the 1850s there was no formal legal education for legal officers and lawyers in this country.
Sir Erskine Perry, the then Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Bombay, would deliver lectures on law after court hours. These classes were held on a very informal basis and were attended only by a select group.
However, it was not till Sir Perry left for England in 1852, that a conscious effort was made to collect funds in order to institute a chair in jurisprudence at the Elphinstone Institution. It was called the 'Perry Professorship of Jurisprudence'. In 1855, Dr R T Reid (LLB Bar-at-Law & the first judge of the Small Causes Court, Bombay) was appointed as the first Perry Professor of Jurisprudence and the Government Law School (GLS), as it was then called, was established at the Elphinstone Institution.
The Government Law School has been affiliated with the University of Bombay since 1860 and is in fact older than the University of Bombay and the Bombay High Court itself
Over time, a sort of academic torpor has set in, said many experts. With staff shortage, no academic revival, fund crunch, poor leadership and asphyxiated by the Maharashtra government's apathy, these high-wire institutes have been lost on public memory.
While naysayers had written them off, the state now plans to revive their halcyon days by clubbing them into a university. Other cluster universities have been approved in Himachal Pradesh, Odisha, Manipur and Jammu and Kashmir.
Overall, Rs 251 crore has been approved for the state. Mumbai University was allotted Rs 20 crore for infrastructure development.