Article : HMEE [1]

For archive (Updated on January 29, 2019)

University Engineering Education

Revised by Saya U Soe Paing (EE) – first installment

The “Brief History of University Engineering Education in Burma/Myanmar” project covers four periods. The draft document describes the first period 1920 – 1945. With the help of Sayagyi U Ba Than and Saya U Thaw Kaung, Saya U Soe Paing gained access to the archives in the Rangoon Central Library and compiled a summary of the first period. Based on that compilation and several other references from the MES journals, Saya U Aung Hla Tun (former Chief Editor of the RIT Annual Magazines, and National Literary Award winner) and his team produced drafts mostly in Burmese and some in English. Ko Ohn Khine volunteered to translate the needed sections from Burmese to English. Saya Desmond Rodgers edited the English version.

Note that the document covers the history of Rangoon University, partly because the early engineering students had to attend the college(s) under Rangoon University. Editors and reviewers should ensure that the names (e.g. Rangoon, Prome) reflect the usage of the period.

Part 1 (1920-1945)


To write a history of (University) Engineering Education in Burma/Myanmar (it) will not be complete without including the history of University Education in Burma.

The modern University Education in Burma began with the opening of Rangoon College in 1884. The earliest attempt in promoting higher education in Burma was traced to 1878 when some students of the Rangoon High School (Central High School, Latha 1 SHS) were given instructions to enable them to appear for the First Arts (Intermediate) examination of the Calcutta University. In 1884-85, a College Department of Rangoon High School was affiliated with the Arts department of Calcutta University under the name of Rangoon College. The College was under the control of the Educational Syndicate from 1st April 1886.

(On 1st January 1879, the College Department of Rangoon High School was recognized by the Calcutta University. At that time there were 4 Fine Arts students. In 1883, (under the 1857 Act(2),) it was formally affiliated under the Calcutta University. On 1st March 1885, it was recognized as a BA Degree College under Calcutta University. The College known as Rangoon College was placed under the administrative control of the Educational Syndicate from 1st April 1886.)

The British government formed the Burma Educational Syndicate on 25th August 1881, with government appointed members. The Administrative Sector was comprised of Chairman (1), vice-chairman (2), annually selected members (6), total (9), and (30) Syndicate members. Sir John Gerdain was the first Chairman, and served as chair from 1881 to 1884. The Vice-chairman was Mr. P B Gandat, and a Burmese national, U Bo Maung was also a member. The Administrative Sector (The British government formed the Burma Educational Syndicate on 25th August 1881, with 30 government appointed (out of a total of 39) Syndicate members. The Administrative body was composed of Chairman (1), vice-chairman (2), annually selected members (6), (giving a) total (9). (Chief Justice)Sir John Gerdain was the first Chairman, and served as chair from 1881 to 1884. The Vice-chairman was Mr. P B Gandat, and a Burmese national, U Bo Maung was also a member. (The duties and responsibilities of the Syndicate was to arrange and supervise the examinations held by the government and to raise standards of Medical, Engineering, Law, and handicraft?). The Administrative sector body was tasked with (given the responsibility) of arranging and supervising government held examinations, and raising the education standards of the Medical Sciences, Engineering and Arts and handicraft Sciences. (In 1886,) under the 1860 Act, Rule No. 21, the Education Syndicate became a registered association. The government abolished the Syndicate in 1921.

Rangoon College remained under Syndicate control till 1904 when the government assumed direct management and renamed it as Government College, Rangoon. For the first 15 years it was housed in the school building (a building of the high school.) The college building was built only in 1900-01 and the main additions, Chemistry and Physics Laboratories, were opened only in 1913 and 1915 respectively. Until the establishment of Rangoon University, the college was affiliated to (and under supervision of) the Calcutta University, and offered BA [Bachelor of Arts], BSc [Bachelor of Science] and BL [Bachelor of Law] degrees.

The other constituent college of the Rangoon University at its founding was Judson College, known until 1918 as Baptist College. It was a product of American Baptist Mission’s educational work in Burma and the immediate outgrowth of (Rangoon Baptist/)Cushing High School (Ahlone 4 SHS), which was founded in 1872. Collegiate instruction began when affiliation for “First Arts” was obtained from Calcutta University in 1894. Affiliation for the BA degree followed in 1909. ( After a year or two, it was allowed to give honors courses in English and Philosophy.)

These two colleges could offer Arts, Science and Law subjects but could not offer Engineering subjects up till the establishment of Rangoon University.

Establishment of Rangoon University

The arrangement of affiliation with the Calcutta University had never been satisfactory, and voices were raised from time to time for the establishment of a separate university in Rangoon. The first proposal to establish a university in Burma was made in 1892. The desire for a higher institution of university standard — free from the control of Calcutta University — was fostered by the Press, the Educational Syndicate, and a group of Burmese leaders, and the support grew steadily thereafter. It was believed that a separate university in Burma would encourage higher education in the (country) province by stimulating? the opening of the colleges to provide degree courses not only in Arts and Science subjects but also in Medicine and Engineering.

It was not till 1907 that concrete proposals were made for the founding of a university in Burma. ( In 1910 representation of Burma’s needs was presented by the Under Secretary of State of India and there were discussions in the British House of Commons.) In 1910 representation of Burma’s needs drew an announcement in the British House of Commons from the (The) Under Secretary of State of India (reported) that the Government of India hoped to establish a separate university in Burma, as part of their general policy in higher education.

In 1913 the Government of India passed an Education Resolution that the establishment of a university at Rangoon was part of a general educational policy. Draft rules to constitute a University were submitted by the Government of Burma to the Government of India in 1913 and 1916. The first World War however, held up the 1916 scheme.

At the end of the WW I, the Government of India expressed its wish to defer the scheme until the Royal Commission on Calcutta University had made its report. The protest in Burma against the delay tactics influenced Sir Harcourt Butler, then Lieutenant Governor of Burma, to establish as soon as possible a fully independent university (as soon as possible), and the (draft of the University organization including major points was written.) main lines of University Organization were drafted.

In June 1918 a Committee of Experts with the newly appointed Director of Public Instruction, Mr. Mark Hunter (later Sir Mark Hunter) as its head was formed to develop courses of study, and a (draft plan necessary for establishing a University) scheme for constituting the necessary establishment. The committee had the advantage of studying the report of the Calcutta University Commission and adopted the following recommendation(s) of the Commission.

(a) that the University should be of a centralized residential type

(b) that provision be made to enable academic matters to be dealt with by solely academic bodies.

(c) that there should be provision for coordination of the academic and administrative bodies, and

(d) that University affairs be regulated (administered autonomously) under Government protection on a self governing basis.

The University of Rangoon Act was passed by the Burma Legislative Council in September 1920, and received the (agreement and permission) assent of the Governor-General (of India) on 24th October 1920.

It was (planned to establish) first conceived to found the University as a “unitary” institution. (It) The attempt was not successful due to the opposition of the American Baptist Mission authorities. Rangoon College and Judson College therefore became the first two constituent colleges at the founding of the Rangoon University on 1st December 1920. However, a provision was made for possible amalgamation of the two colleges, if it could be agreed upon within five years of the Act coming into force.

Rangoon University had a total of 829 students attending the two colleges. The first University Chancellor (of the University) was Sir Reginald Craddock, and Sir Charles Morgan Webb the (was appointed) Vice-Chancellor. The College Principals were Professor M. Hunter for Rangon College, and Reverend E. W. Kelly for Judson College. Mr. C. W. Ainley served as its first registrar.

Rangoon University began with 6 professors in Arts, Science and Law. One of them was a Myanmar(/Burmese), U May Aung, Professor of Law(, was a Myanmar(/Burmese)). In 1921 two more professors were appointed.

The first convocation of Rangoon University was held on the 28th November 1921 at Jubilee Hall. The new Chancellor Sir Reginald Craddock conferred B.A., B. A (Hons), BSc., BSc. (Hons), BL, MA (Honorary), and LLD (Honorary) degrees to (43) 48 graduates.

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