City College is one of the remarkable heritage institutions of Calcutta ( now , Kolkata ) which played a prominent social role in the wake of the Bengal Renaissance of the nineteenth century. This college has passed through the meandering course of time and various stages of change before reaching its present status.
City College owes its origin to the intensive effort for spread of English education in Bengal, towards the end of the nineteenth century, by several educationists and philanthropists. In a fledgling form this institution was founded as a High School on 6th January 1879, by late Ananda Mohan Bose in collaboration with two other educationists, Pandit Shibnath Sastri and Sir Surendra Nath Banerjee of Sadharan Brahmo Samaj. Sivanath Sastri was the first Secretary of the school committee and also its first Headmaster. After Only two years in the year 1881 the High School was developed into a College and F.A classes were opened. The college was founded by late Ananda Mohan Bose, M.A., Barrister-at-Law and the first Indian wrangler of Cambridge University. Pandit Sivanath Sastri, some veteran educationists, and a few other stalwarts of Sadharan Brahmo Samaj rendered their best help to the cause of the Institution and joined its tutorial staff. Umesh Chandra Dutta, also a Brahmo stalwart, became the first Principal of City College. The College was first established in an old house. After a short while, that house at 13, Mirzapur Street (Now Surya Sen Street) was purchased for the City College.
From the inception, the City College has been managed by Sri Ananda Mohan Bose, Sri Sivanath Sastri and other Brahmo leaders who handed over the management to Sadharan Brahmo Samaj which founded the Brahmo Samaj Education Society (B.S.E.S.)
In 1883 a Law Department was added to City College; and in 1884, it was elevated to a First Grade College when B.A. courses in several subjects also commenced. A branch of this institution, the City College at Mymensingh was established in 1901 and is still imparting education in Bangladesh. In the year 1905, the college had been placed under the control of a society, known as the Brahmo Samaj Educational Society (BSES). The new and present mansion of City College at 102/1 Raja Rammohan Sarani, Kolkata – 9 was erected in 1917 along with the Rammohan Hostel. The new building was inaugurated in 1918. In 1939 a Commerce Department was opened and City College attained the position of the biggest college in Asia. This was followed by the inauguration of the Women’s Department in 1943. And from 1947 to 50, honours courses in several branches of science were also started here. In course of time City College opened many branches. Several institutions originated and were fostered at the City College Buildings, among which may be mentioned the Calcutta Deaf and Dumb School, the Anath Bandhu Samity, the Central Bengal Union, and Dr. M.M. Bose’s Homeopathic Institution. In the year 1961 the branches of the City College evolved into separate colleges under instructions of the University Grants Commission. While the original college retained the earliest title “City College”, the branches were named as i) Rammohan College, ii) Ananda Mohan College, iii) Umesh Chandra College, iv) City College of Commerce and Business Administration, v) Sivanath Sastri College, vi) Heramba Chandra College, and vii) Prafulla Chandra College.
From its inception, the Institution was conceived with the intention of educating Indian students of all races and creeds on an improved and comprehensive plan. Hence, apart from the university syllabi, students were given training in various other subjects including music, science, gymnastics and moral science for building their character. Special care was taken for the moral education of the pupils. Even a society called Asabahini (Band of Hope) was founded with a view to motivate the students towards this direction. Many luminaries taught at City College ; among them were Sivanath Sastri, Umes Chandra Dutta, Krishna Kumar Mitra, Surendranath Banerjee C. R. Das, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, Dr. Harendra Kumar Mukhopadhyay, poet Jibanananda Das and Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah to name a few. The legendary Heramba Chandra Maitra was one of its illustrious Principals. Among the eminent patrons of the College were the Late Director of Public Instruction Sir Alfred Croft, Lord Ripon, Viceroy and Governor-General of India; Lord Dufferin, Viceroy and Governor-General of India; Sir Alexander Mackenzi, Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, Sir John Woodburn, Lieutenant Governor of Bengal, and the Maharaja of Kooch Behar.
City College from its modest start has grown into a mighty institution during the period of about 130 years. At present it has a strength of nearly 3000 students. The college now offers a wide range of subject options to the students so that a majority of them may find a subject suited to his/her aptitude and career objectives. There are 14 subjects in which Honours courses are offered - Bengali, English, Sanskrit, Political Science, History, Philosophy, Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Economics, Botany, Zoology, Physiology and Commerce. Besides, general courses are offered in three different streams – B.A., B.Com. and B.Sc. (Physical Science and Biological Science).
The present scenario of City College is vibrant with several expansive activities. Several extensions like career counseling and placement cell, health unit and social service unit have been added to enhance the infrastructural support to the students and several other projects are on the anvil. This heritage institution is still poised to attain new echelons.