The Top 20 Oldest Universities of India

It is amazing that some of the universities that still stand tall dates back to nearly two centuries. Saluting the spirit of such magnificent universities this is just a small effort to list the oldest universities in India.

Though this page doesn’t include the likes of Nalanda University which happens to be one of the oldest of the world; here you’ll only find universities that are still in their operations, which apparently Nalanda isn’t.

The criteria for compiling the list was to select institutions which started its operation as universities or were granted university status later in the years. The only exceptions are institutes which were opened earlier but only recently were granted university status.

It will come as a surprise to many as the oldest university in India is Senate of Serampore College/University which was established in 1818 and was the first to be granted as the university status in India. Serampore University received the status in 1829.

The University of Roorkee which is now known as the IIT Roorkee comes at the final position. The year 1857 seems to be the most fashionable year in the pre-independence era to start universities; namely University of Mumbai, Madras, and Calcutta came into existence.

The state of Uttar Pradesh has the most names (6) in the list with Aligarh Muslim University, Allahabad University, BHU (Banaras Hindu University), University of Lucknow, Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapeeth, and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar University (Agra University).

My home state of Maharashtra has 2 names on the list – Nagpur as well as Mumbai University. The all-important South Indian state of Tamil Nadu has two mentions.

  • Established: 1818, university status in 1829 (200 years old)
  • Motto: Wise will possess the glory
  • Description: Serampore institute is the first institute of India to be granted the university status and also the oldest. This only offers studies related to Theology/Divinity. There are 52 colleges affiliated to it from all over India.
  • Established: 1857 (161 years old)
  • Motto: Advancement of learning
  • Description: True to its motto this university is at the forefront when it comes to higher studies. The University of Calcutta has given many students who have done great work in their respective fields of expertise. Some of the notable students include Rabindranath Tagore, C.V Raman, and Amartya Sen.
  • Established: 1857 (161 years old)
  • Motto: The fruit of learning is a good character and righteous conduct
  • Description: One of the major universities in India, this provides affiliation to more than 700 colleges. This is also one of the largest when it comes to the number of students.
  • Established: 1857 (161 years old)
  • Motto: Learning promotes natural talent
  • Description: With six campuses and more than 100 colleges, this is one of the major centers of learning in South India. Among the affiliated colleges Loyola college, Presidency College, and Queen Mary’s college are notable.
  • Established: 1875 (143 years old)
  • Motto: Taught man what he knew not (Quran 96:5)
  • Description: AMU is one of the few institutions that are conferred with the prestigious Institute of National Importance (INI). INIs are considered to be at the forefront of developing highly skilled and creative thinkers.
  • Established: 1882 (136 years old)
  • Motto: Lead us unto the light from darkness
  • Description: This has more than 75 departments of teaching and research. Also has 3 regional centers and about 190 colleges. Has more than 550 acres of the campus area.
  • Established: 1887 (131 years old)
  • Motto: Every branch yields a tree
  • Description: It is also known as the Oxford of the East. This premier institute covers fields such as Arts, Science, Commerce, Law, and Medicine through its courses. This has the unique distinction of giving many notable politicians such as VP Singh, Madan Mohan Malaviya, Murli Manohar Joshi, Arjun Singh among others.
  • Established: 1916 (102 years old)
  • Motto: Knowledge imparts immortality
  • Description: Students from all over India come here for higher studies. In fact, it is the largest when it comes to resident students. More than 20,000 students live and study here. Banaras itself is an important place politically as well as spiritually.
  • Established: 1916 (102 years old)
  • Motto: Nothing is equal to knowledge
  • Description: The erstwhile princely state of Mysore’s Maharaja was instrumental in the foundation of this university. The University of Mysore is famous for its library all over India which has more than 800,000+ books.
  • Established: 1917 (103 years old)
  • Motto: Satya Tatveya Vijeyagyatsmeva
  • Description: Patna University is the first university that was established in Bihar. Among all the list of universities in Bihar, this is the most famous. With 10 colleges, it reaches many parts of the state.
  • Established: 1918 (100 years old)
  • Motto: Lead us from darkness to light
  • Description: If we analyze the above table then this is the oldest university in Telangana and the third oldest in South India. Built in the huge campus area of 1600 acres and its engineering and the law college are ranked among the best in India.
  • Established: 1921 (97 years old)
  • Motto: Knowledge imparts immortality
  • Description: Varanasi is obvious to be on the list as its an ancient city. This varsity was established in the early 20th century.
  • Established: 1921 (97 years old)
  • Motto: Light and learning
  • Description: Lucknow university is the 16th oldest university in India. Uttar Pradesh is the largest state when it comes to population. This list has seven universities from UP. Lucknow University is another one apart from the other five above and the last one being Dr. B. R. Ambedkar University which is at the 20th place.
  • Established: 1921 (97 years old)
  • Motto: Where the world makes a home in a single nest
  • Description: This has given many esteemed thinkers and people who have made a tremendous impact on the society. People like Mahasweta Devi, Satyajit Ray, and Amartya Sen are alumni of this historically important institution.
  • Established: 1922 (96 years old)
  • Motto: Dedicated to truth
  • Description: The second oldest university in Delhi. In my opinion, DU is the most sought after among students in this whole list. DU has 77 colleges with campuses’ viz. the North campus and the South Campus.
  • Established: 1923 (95 years old)
  • Motto: Not mentioned in the official website
  • Description: The second oldest university in Maharashtra after the University of Mumbai. This has been accredited as a grade A varsity by NAAC. The university has two campuses, the old one near Maharajbagh zoo which serves as the administrative section and the new one at Futala lake which caters to other departments and students.
  • Established: 1926 (92 years old)
  • Motto: May the divine light illuminate our studies
  • Description: There is something about the motto of the universities which stresses upon the larger truth about the importance of education. Andhra universities motto seeks the divine powers of the almighty to lighten the lives of those seeking education. One more thing I quite like about all these places is the entrance. The entrance of all major ones is excellent examples of fine architecture. Below is one such.
  • Established: 1927 (93 years old)
  • Motto: Tumso Maa Jyotigarmay
  • Description: The last one is again from Uttar Pradesh which was formerly known as Agra University. Agra is known for its history and the Mughal reign. Ambedkar University is known for its department of Institute of Engineering and Technology, Institute of Social Sciences, Dau Dayal Institute of Vocational Education, and School of Life Sciences.
  • Established: 1929 (89 years old)
  • Motto: With courage and faith
  • Description: Besides being on this list, it is also the first private university in India. This was recently taken over by the state government. With more than 500 courses being offered it serves thousands of students.
  • Established: 1847, university status in 1949 (171 years old)
  • Motto: Nothing can be achieved without hard work
  • Description: This premier engineering college was earlier known as the University of Roorkee. Later it was given the status of an IIT to re-brand itself as a sought-after destination for engineering. Most engineering aspirants vie for a seat here.

These are some of the institutes which do not make the cut as they were granted full status later or only recently.

  • Established: 1911, university status in 2002 (107 years old)
  • Motto: Sincerity-Service-Sacrifice
  • Description: Ranked among the top 10 medical colleges in India by various ranking organizations, Newspapers, and magazines. This was earlier known as King George’s Medical College.
  • Established: 1920, university status in 1988 (98 years old)
  • Motto: He taught man what he knew not
  • Description: Jamia is the oldest university in Delhi which was given the status of a central university in 1988. It has around 9 faculties of studies, some of which are: Faculty of Law, Faculty of Engineering and Technology, Faculty of Architecture and Ekistics, Faculty of Fine Arts.
  • Established: 1946, university status in 1972 (72 years old)
  • Motto: Excellence in action is yoga
  • Description: This has now branched out to having centers at Hyderabad and Kakinada. JNTU now boasts of tech and management programs.