The great French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau once said 'a university, the seat of the highest learning, will be located in a solitary place, away from the uproar of people, a free and fair environment, where the students will be brought up in the serene abode of nature. The nature will be their teacher'. The University of Chittagong, established in Fatepur village under Hathazari upazila of the district, some 22 kilo metres north of the port city met, at least some of those conditions.
The university started its journey on 18 November, 1966, just 50 years back. It is the country's third university but the largest one in respect of campus area. It was founded on an area of 1753.88 acres spreading over both hilly and plain land. The University authority observed a two-day programme on the occasion of the Golden Jubilee of its journey on November 18 and 19, 2016.
It is a multi-faculty public university having a rich tradition of research in education. There are about 24, 000 students and nearly 1, 000 teachers. The university played a very important role in the liberation war of Bangladesh. It was a hotbed of progressive and democratic movement since inception, as the university was established when the movement for autonomy of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) from Pakistan was at its height. At that time the students and teachers of Chittagong University played a vital role in the Bengali nationalist and ultimate independence movement.
In the beginning of the twentieth century there was no centre of the highest academic learning in Chittagong. The residents of Chittagong felt such a vacuum very badly. On 28 December 1940, the All-India Conference of Jamiyat-E-Ulamaye Hind under the chairmanship of Moulana Maniruzzaman Islamabadi raised a demand to set up a university in this region. Moulana Islamabadi initially purchased land in Deyang Pahar (Deyang Hills) area under Anwara on the south bank of the Karnaphuli River for setting up the university. Two years later, Nur Ahmed raised the demand for setting up a university in Chittagong in the then Bengal Legislative Assembly on February 28, 1942. During the 1960-65 - second five year plan of Pakistan - it was decided that a Science University would be established in Chittagong and the site of Chittagong Government College was selected for the university.
In 1962, Md Ferdous Khan, the then deputy director of Education in East Pakistan, drafted the plan for establishing a university. In the same year, Fazlul Quader Chowdhury, a Muslim League leader of Pakistan, took up the issue of establishing Chittagong University in his election campaign and said that if elected, he would set up the university in Chittagong. As he won the election and was appointed central Education Minister of Pakistan he played the key role for bringing the university to Chittagong from Comilla.
As the decision to set up the university in the Chittagong College compound was dropped a protest meeting was held at the Chittagong Muslim Hall on May 7, 1961. Professor Dr Mohammed Shahidullah spoke at the protest meeting as chief guest. He argued that a university would be established in Chittagong and for augmenting the demand he formed Chittagong University Action Council. Another committee named as Chittagong University Chhatra Sangram Parishad was also formed on 30 December, 1962. Different movements were launched under these forums, followed by a strike in the academic institutions and Chittagong on December, 8, 1963 and a public rally at Laldighi Moidan on the next day.
In November 1963 Fazlul Quader Chowdhury was made speaker of the Pakistan Parliament. Simultaneously the people of Sylhet and Comilla demanded that the country's third public university be located in Sylhet or Comilla. Comilla was almost decided as choice for the university. During a foreign tour of Pakistan President Ayub Khan Parliament speaker Fazlul Quader Chowdhury was Acting President of Pakistan as per law of the land. During that time Fazlul Quader Chowdhury, who presided over the cabinet on December 12, 1963, instructed Central Education Minister ATM Mostafa to take necessary actions to set up the university in Chittagong.
Allotment of the necessary fund was made at the National Economic Council meeting on 9 March, 1964. Later, a site selection commission was formed with Vice Chancellor of Dhaka University Dr M Osman Gani as chairman and Dr Qudrat-E Khuda, Dr Mohammed Shahidullah, M Ferdous Khan and Dr Mafiz Uddin Ahmed as members. The committee selected the site at Jungle Pashchim Patti Mouza of Fatepur union of Hathazari, the site on which the university now stands. President Field Marshal Mohammed Ayub Khan laid the foundation stone for construction of the University buildings on 29 August, 1964.
The Railway Authority introduced a shuttle train between Chittagong Railway Station and University Campus. Probably this is the only university that has its own shuttle trains system in the world. Sanfrancisco University of the United States had the shuttle train system but it was withdrawn last year, it is learnt. Some 8, 000 to 9, 000 students go to the university using the shuttle trains and come back to their city residences everyday. Even the time schedule of examinations of the university is fixed on the basis of arrival of the shuttle trains. The university initially started with four subjects - Bengali, English, Economics and General History - of the Arts faculty with only seven teachers including Vice Chancellor AR Mallick.
The prominent scholars who have made immense contribution to the university becoming as a historic seat of highest learning include Professor AR Mallick, Dr Ahmed Sharif, Dr Humaun Azad, Professor Anisuzzaman, Professor Abul Fazal, Professor Abdul Karim, Professor UN Siddiqui, Professor Innas Ali, Professor Fazle Hossain, Professor MA Aziz Khan, Professor Syed Ali Ahsan, Professor Alauddin Al Azad, Professor Mohammed Ali, Professor Alamgir Md Sirajuddin, Professor Rafiqul Islam, Professor Jamal Nazrul Islam, Professor Mohammed Yunus, who won Nobel Peace Prize, Professor Sikander Khan, Professor Moinul Islam, Professor Abu Hena Mostafa Kamal, Professor Moniruzzaman, Professor Anupam Sen, Professor Abu Yusuf, Professor Murtaza Bashir, Professor Abdul Mannan (currently UGC chairman), Professor AJM Nuruddin, Professor Badiul Alam, Professor Alauddin, Professor Anwarul Azim Arif, Professor Harendra Kanti Dey, Professor Saroj Kant Sinha Hazari, Professor Moyukh Chowdhury, Professor Muhit Ul Alam, Professor Dhali al Mamun, Professor Devabrata Chakraborty and Syed Abdullah Khalid.
At the beginning of the Liberation War of 1971, the independence movement basically started from Chittagong University on 8 March, 1971. Upon hearing the historic 7th March address of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at the Race Course Moidan in Dhaka, the Chittagong University Independence Action Council in a meeting chaired by then vice chancellor Professor Abdur Rahman Mallick launched resistance movement against the Pakistanis. It is assumed that this resistance movement was the first ever movement of the teachers of the then East Pakistan.
Those who sacrificed their lives in the early pro-liberation days include the then CUCSU (Chittagong University Central Students Union) general secretary Shahid Abdur Rab, part-time teacher of the University Professor Shahid Abani Mohan Datta, final year student of History department Shahid Forhad, M.Com final year student Shahid Khondakar Ehsanul Huq, chainman of the Engineering section of the University Shahid Mohammed Hossain Bir Pratik and Shahid Abul Mansur of the Political Science department. Later in the liberation war period, Monirul Islam, Mostafa Kamal, Abdul Mannan, Nazim Uddin Khan, Ashutosh Chakraborty, Prabhash Kusum and Syed Ahmed, among others, embraced martyrdom.