University of Calcutta is one of the three universities in modern India, the other two being Bombay (now Mumbai) and Madras University. It was set up by the British in Calcutta in 1861 as a means of spreading western philosophical thought among the elite in India. It also aimed to create, in the words of Lord Macaulay, "a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect." This initiative was furthered by the passing of the Universities Act of 1904. This resulted in the reorganization of the Calcutta University's Senate and Syndicate by the nomination of more white members into them, which in turn would enable the government to control its policies. The government also decided to disaffiliate many private Indian colleges, which had come up lately and were regarded by the government as hotbeds of nationalist agitation. The measures stirred the educated middle class to move for alternative systems of education. Even the diplomas awarded by Jadavpur University were not recognised by the UGC / Govt. of India in the past until it was upgraded to a university in 1955. Its diploma awarded by National Council of Education was not recognized til 1954.
The nationalists in the freedom struggle of India dubbed the Calcutta University, another pillar of India's education movement, as "Goldighir Ghulamkhana", or the slave house of Goldighi, with reference to the lake adjacent to Calcutta University, and the number of graduates it churned out who were used in the British era as ICS officers. Hence, the need for setting up an institution which would impart education along nationalist lines was strongly felt by the luminaries of the period. The real impetus though was provided by the partition of Bengal by Lord Curzon, the then Governor-General of India, into East Bengal on the one hand (the area that was eventually to become Bangladesh in 1971) and West Bengal and Odisha on the other. The young men of Bengal were amongst the most active in the Swadeshi movement, and the participation of university students drew the ire of the Raj. R.W. Carlyle prohibited the participation of students in political meetings on the threat of withdrawal of funding and grants. The decade preceding these decrees had seen Bengali intellectuals increasingly calling for indigenous schools and colleges to replace British institutions.