Updated : August 5, 2019
By Saya U Soe Paing (EE)
Rangoon University (10) years after its inauguration
Buildings for Student use built during the first decade of Rangoon University
To place all the colleges under Rangoon University in one area the Burmese government allocated eight lakh kyats for purchasing land for a University Estate. With these funds more than 400 acres of land now known as University Estate was bought. At that time the land known as “Na Nat Taw” was a thick forest. The estate was surrounded by Inya Road on the East and North side, Prome Road on the West side, and Windermere Road on the South. In 1927, Rangoon University leased from the Government under a 90-year grant, Scout Island in Inya Lake where the Rangoon University Boat Club (RUBC) was located. The area of the University estate expanded up to Inya Lake in the North.
To construct buildings in the estate a University Building subcommittee was formed and the committee chose Mr. T. O. Foster as the Architect. Mr. Foster went to England and brought back with him the required staff and started drawing plans and designs of the buildings in the estate. The bushes and trees on the estate were cleared with the help with of Forest Officer Mr. A Roger and the building constructed.
The British Government support funds for the building of the Rangoon University was only about one lakh kyats annually. There was also no endowment/main funds for the construction. To get funds for the construction and for the expenses of the University, the Governor, Sir Harcourt Butler allowed gambling officially known as “Our Day” in the whole country. From the funds raised the buildings were slowly constructed.
Two years after Rangoon University was opened, the University Chancellor, Sir Reginald Craddock laid the foundation of the Convocation Hall on 2nd December 1922 but was completed only in 1931.
The number of students had grown and in December 1923 two double storey wooden buildings that can accommodate 224 students were built on Prome Road and completed in June 1924. One was named Tagaung Hall and the other Prome Hall and opened for occupancy. In 1925 Engineering students started staying at Tagaung Hall and in 1927 some Engineering students stayed at Prome Hall.
In 1927 Mr. Rao Bahadur S Ramanatha Reddiar donated 200,000 Kyats for building of the University Library. University Chancellor Sir Harcourt Butler laid the foundation for the library on 8th December 1927. Architect Foster designed and built the library, and finished it in 1931.
The BOC College building funded by the BOC Company was completed in 1927, and was inaugurated by the Governor Sir Harcourt Butler on 30th November 1927.
The University Avenue was built in 1928, and the University Hospital building on University Avenue was finished in June 1928. There was one Resident doctor and one assistant doctor at that time.
The foundation of the Rangoon University Arts Hall was laid by the University Chancellor Sir Charles Innes on 3rd November 1928, and completed in 1931. The Rangoon University Science Hall was also completed in the same year.
Merchant U Chan Chor Khine (son of Chan Mah Phee) donated Kyats 100,000 for the construction of the Rangoon University Gymnasium. Construction started in 1929, and was completed and opened in 1930.
Besides the above mentioned buildings, Medical College, Education College, Hostels for students, Houses for Professors, Staff quarters, University Post Office, University Bookshop, telephone exchange, the football and athletics fields, tennis courts, and the boat club were built mainly on the University estate. Apart from the two wooden buildings, the remaining buildings were built by the University Building Construction Committee. The committee formed in 1931 was disbanded in August 1932 when all the buidings were completed.
Rangoon University Students’ Union and Union Building
The most memorable development concerning all the college students occurred in 1930 when the Students’ Union building was finished and the Rangoon University Students’ Union was formed. Some of the engineering students became members.
Old documents and reports showed that when Rangoon University was first established, the University authorities believed that there should be a Students Union building. However in 1926-27 only when Dr. U Nyo (K.S.M. LL.D) generously donated 170,000 Kyats to build the Students Union building that construction started.
The Students Union building was constructed in 1929 in a plot at the corner of Chancellor Road and University Avenue and completed in the middle of 1930.
The senior students held meetings hall-wise and according to the decisions reached at the meetings Ko Kyaw Khin, Ko Tint Swe and Ko Ba Gyan representing the students met with University Vice-Chancellor U Ba on 12/9/1930 and discussed forming of a committee to set up rules and regulations for the Students’ Union. As agreed at the meeting Ko Kyaw Khin chaired a students mass meeting at the University Gymnasium where there was unanimous agreement to form a students’ union. A committee to draft the rules and regulations of the union was formed with the following students: Ko Kyaw Khin (Chairman), Ko Ba Gyan (Secretary), Ko Kyaw Thein, Ko Tint Swe, Ko Htun Tin, Ko Ba Thein, Mr. M. A. Raschid, Ko Ohn, Mr. Paratasan, Ko San Phaw Aung, Ko Ba Pe and Ko Nyunt.
The committee submitted the report on 23/11/1930. The suggestions made by the University authorities and students were considered and some incorporated into the amended report which was accepted and approved by the student mass meeting on 9/1/1931. An executive committee was formed at the meeting with Chairman Ko Kyaw Khin (who later became Barrister-at-Law), and Secretary Mr. M. A. Raschid (who later became Minister of Mines, Industry, Labor).
However the meeting did not like some of the paragraphs regarding handing over of the union building in the agreement between the University authorities and the student union and authorized the executive committee to continue discussions. Eventually an agreement was reached and on 27/2/1931 the working meeting accepted it. The executive committee of the Rangoon University Students’ Union signed accepting the agreement at 11AM on 28/2/31.
When writing the rules and regulations to establish the Rangoon University Students Union, Students Unions at Oxford and Cambridge universities in England were taken as standard examples. However those students unions are primarily associations that emphasize debating. Under Chapter (1), Section (3) of the University Rules and Regulations, it was stipulated that, for the objectives of the Rangoon University Students Union to be met, debates, talks, discussions, fun fairs should be organized and provided for the benefit of the students.
But it was inevitable that the colonized countries’ attempt to gain independence and educated youths would come together sooner or later.
Situation after the first ten years
When Rangoon University was first established in 1920 there were 839 students and 6 Professors and. In 1930 there were 1550 students and 21 Professors. Out of the 21 Professors, one was the Professor of Engineering. Professor Elgood had retired at that time and Prof. C. H. E. Cherry was the acting Professor.
Two remarkable developments in 1930 were the opening of the Teachers’ Training College and Medical College under Rangoon University as constituent colleges. The Honors courses for the Arts and Sciences were changed from a 2-year course to a 3-year course. The more important modifications in academic policy during the year were the lengthening of Honors courses leading to the B.A. and B.Sc. degrees from two to three years duration; amendments of the Matriculation Regulations to take effect from June 1934 requiring all candidates for admission to the University to have passed in Burmese in the High School Final Examination.
Recognition of BSc (Engineering) degree by the Institute of Engineers (India)
In the 1930-31 academic year, a special committee formed by the Boards of Study wrote the new regulation regarding the curriculum. The new regulation was approved by the Boards of Study and used starting from the 1931-32 academic year.
At the time the new regulations were used, the Engineering College made approaches for the Institute of Engineers (India) to recognize the B.Sc. Engineering degree awarded by Rangoon University starting in the 1930-31 academic year.
There were only 4 teaching staff at the Engineering College up to 1930. See Appendix (1D). In the academic year there were no plans to appoint more staff or to get external lecturers, and the number of teaching staff was still below the minimum advised by the Sandes Committee report. Hence the Institute of Engineers (India) did not recognize the B.Sc.Engineering degree from Rangoon University. This demand for increased staff came at an awkward time. The Rangoon University Engineering graduates were ruled ineligible for any of the Government of India competitive exams for professional appointments in the Railway and Telegraph departments.
Financial stringency and the need for rigid economy loomed large in University administration throughout the 1931-32 academic year. Faced with the possibility of a radical reduction of income the University examined ways to reduce the expenses and to use the existing resources effectively.
Among the proposals for a very substantial reduction of the cost to Government of Engineering Education by adjustments of courses between the Insein Technical Institute and the B.O.C. College. This involved the opening of Diploma Courses in the B.O.C. College with but small addition to the staff of the College and the closing down of the advanced courses in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering in the Insein Technical Institute involving considerable reduction of staff in that institution.
The recognition of the B.Sc. Degree in Engineering of the University by the Institution of Engineers (India) was again addressed. The Institution appointed Mr. C. Innes, Deputy Chief Engineer, P. W. D., to report on the standards of the Courses and Examinations in Engineering. The Inspection was carried out during the University Examinations of March 1931 and a report submitted.
In 1931-32, the teaching staff increased to 5 and the Institute of Engineers (India) eventually recognized the B.Sc.(Engg) degree starting at the time of the degree examinations in March 1932.
The high standard of the B.Sc.(Engg) degree conferred by Rangoon University was maintained for the March examinations in 1934. In the opinion of the External Examiner the standard was up to that of a British University. Nevertheless in spite of the high aggregate of marks required two students secured a distinction without any serious overwork.
When the Rangoon University engineering department opened in 1924, there were only 2 teaching staff. It increased to 4 in 1928. One workshop superintendent was appointed in 1931. In the 1930-31 academic year due to financial difficulties in the University administration the minimum required number of teaching staff cannot be reached. In 1932 with an addition of one teaching staff, the number was 5 teaching staff and a workshop superintendent making it a total of 6. The situation remained the same till 1939. Only in the 1940-41 academic year the number of students increased substantially and the number of courses were increased that the number of teaching staff became 7 with a workshop superintendent making it a total of 8.
During 1934 to 1939 the Engineering department added diploma courses in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, degree courses in Mechanical and Electrical Engineering, Honours courses in Civil Engineering. However during the period no additional staff was appointed and the existing staff had to bear more teaching loads than they could.
All this time the teaching staff appointed up to 1940 were only English and Indians. Only in the 1940-41 academic year, a Rangoon University Engineering graduate and Burmese national, U San Shin was the first to be appointed. It was evident that during that time there were no plans to develop nationals as teaching staff for the long term.
The list of all the teaching staff of the Engineering department from 1924 to 1941 giving names, position and period of service are shown in Appendix (1D).
Although there were not enough teaching staff in the engineering department, the staff from other departments of the Rangoon University had helped in teaching related engineering subjects all this time. Especially the Mathematics department took responsibility for teaching mathematics. Geology and Chemistry departments also helped.
A Library was opened in BOC College and a Librarian, one upper division clerk and one lower division clerk were appointed for the library.
Prof. W. N. Elgood was the first Head and Professor of the Engineering Department. He retired in the 1930-31 academic year and Prof. H. .C. E. Cherry took over his duties temporarily. In 1932-33, Prof. F. Webster took over from Professor Webster and served as Head and Professor) until 1940. In 1940-41 Professor Webster took leave for war duties, and Prof. D. P. Davies took over his duties.
Job opportunities for the graduates
Since the time the Rangoon University Engineering Department started producing engineers, graduate engineers had difficulties finding employment and even some were jobless. Besides in 1922-23 academic year the government had financial difficulties and stop the government departments from recruiting graduates. It however had the effect of directing the attention of such graduates to the necessity of securing adequate practical experience and also to the greater possibility of employment with private industry. Thus practical industrial training was emphasized more in the engineering instruction.
That year Head of Engineering Department Prof. Webster went to various private industries and factories and spent a great deal of time discussing about employment for the engineering graduates. The private engineering industry organization in their search and recruitment of new engineers for their industries, helped in making the Engineering College a regular source to supply qualified graduate engineers.
That’s why in the 1934-35 academic year, the prospects of employment graduates increased and became better. In the first examination of the Publice Service Commission for the Superior Engineering Services in which graduates of this College were allowed to appear, one of them Mr. Sen Gupta, secured one of the two vacancies in open competition with the rest of India.
At that time, there was good rapport with BOC and arrangements were made for the students to undergo training in the fields of BOC, and fresh graduates to serve a short term apprenticeship with the ultimate prospect of joining the technical services of the company. For this purpose, Prof. Webster was invited to the oil fields and to consult with Mr. Bowlby, the Field Manager. This also permitted him to make a tour of the fields to satisfy himself that students would be capable of providing the required services. As a result, arrangements were made to get at least 15 students send to Yenangyaung and Chauk oil fields for the summer training.
All engineering graduates in the 1938-39 academic year got employment in industry and the job opportunity for engineering graduates was very good.
BOC played a major role in employing most of the graduates in 1940-41. All 4 engineering graduates got jobs, and out of the 11 combined Mech/Elec diploma holders, 10 were employed. It could be clearly seen that employment prospects and opportunities had become better.
This year for the first time for several years inquiries have been made for the services of engineering graduates for the public sector.