From ancient times to the modern, India has been a treasure-trove of knowledge for travelers from all over the world. Taxila, Nalanda and Vikramsila universities were renowned centers of learning that attracted students from China, Korea, Tibet, Nepal, Burma (Myanmar) and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Higher education is something that has always occupied a centre stage in Indian culture since time immemorial.

The present higher education system in India goes back to 1823 when Mountstuart Elphinstone came up with minutes on education that emphasized the need to set up schools that would teach English and European Sciences to Indian students. The phenomenal thrust, however, came after the much talked about Macaulay’s minutes (1835) and Sir Charles Wood’s Dispatch (also known as the “Magna Carta of English Education in India”) in the year 1854 recommended a proper hierarchy in the educational system, right from primary classes to higher education in the universities. Consequently, the universities of Bombay (now Mumbai), Calcutta (now Kolkata) and Madras (now Chennai) were set up in 1857.

In the year 1925, the Inter-University Board (Association of Indian universities) came into being with an aim to further educational, cultural and extra-curricular activities in the various universities across the country. However, the first attempt at establishing a nation-wide uniform system of higher education in India came with the Sargeant Report of 1944. The report recommended the formation of a University Grants Committee that would supervise the functions of three central universities – the Universities of Delhi, Banaras and Aligarh. Subsequently, in the year 1947, the committee was assigned the responsibility to look after all the Indian universities existing at that time.

The University Education Commission (which was established in 1948) recommended the formation of a University Grants Commission to be formulated on the lines of a similar body existing in the UK higher education system. Consequently, the commission was officially inaugurated on December 28, 1953 by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, the then Minister of Education, Natural Resources and Scientific Research.

Over the years, the UGC established itself as a statutory body of the Indian government that takes care of the coordination and maintenance of norms of higher education in the country.

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