GUWAHATI: The legacy of 116 years came to an end leaving many in tears in Guwahati. Cotton College, one of the oldest and most prestigious educational institutes in eastern India set up in 1901 by then Assam province Chief Commissioner Sir Henry Cotton, now is Cotton University.

In a significantmove, the Assam government decided to merge Cotton College and Cotton College State University (CCSU) and upgrade it to Cotton University.

This was done amidst protests from a section of students, former students and students’ bodies.

“The merger will pave the way for the institution becoming a centre of excellence in the future. With this we want to make it one of the best universities in the country and in the coming years, a centre of excellence in the South-east Asia,” said state education minister Himanta Biswa Sarma after the formalities.

The state legislative assembly had passed a Bill to this effect in the 2016 budget session. The Cotton University Act, 2017, was brought in to ensure the merger of Cotton College and Cotton College State University (CCSU). The Act provides for a teaching and research, unitary, residential university at Guwahati.

Sarma said that Cotton University will be second to none in the world with more than 500 teachers. He said that all the vacant posts in the faculty will be filled soon.

The upgrade of the century-old Cotton College to Cotton University, adds up to a total of 17 universities in the state including private-owned universities.

Cotton College was set up in 1901 by Sir Henry John Stedman Cotton, the then chief commissioner of the erstwhile British province of Assam. It was recognized as a centre of excellence in 1992 by former President Shankar Dayal Sharma.

The University Grants Commission (UGC) has identified it as a ‘College with Potential for Excellence’ in 2005. The UGC has also identified the college as a ‘Special Heritage College’ under the scheme ‘Special Heritage Status to Colleges’ in 2015.

The CCSU was created via an Act of the Government of Assam (Act XIX of 2011), with Cotton College as a constituent College of this new University.

Students staged a protest wearing black masks in front of the university.“We don’t have any objection in setting up Cotton University. But the existence of Cotton College should be there. We request the state chief minister, education minister, speaker of Assam Assembly and all representatives of the assembly to reconsider the decision,” said Dipanka Nath, president of All Assam Students’ Union (AASU).

Sitanath Lahkar, a former principal of the college said, “A historic day, of course of anguish and sadness. Cotton College that had been lighting entire North East, flowering innumerable talents like Sona Ram Chutia, Bhupen Hazarika, T Ao, Hiren Gohain, Jitendra Nath Goswami..., creating countless histories for long, has breathed its last yesterday - the 31st May 2017”.