Kazi Nazrul University was established under the West Bengal Act XIX of 2012. The Assent of the Governor was first published in the Kolkata Gazette Extraordinary 16th August 2012. Named after the rebel poet, Kazi Nazrul Islam(1899-1976) of India – who is also the national poet of Bangladesh – this university aims at achieving an ideal of creative freedom that marks the life of the mind and the intellectual traffic of ideas. The revolutionary poet, Kazi Nazrul, has been immortalised in Bengali cultural memory because of his acute thirst for a spirit of independence and his attentiveness to the syncretism that characterises knowledge traditions as well as transactions. This university has been established with the explicit aim of achieving this same syncretism of purpose and its allied commitment to the dream of a transformed future. Thefoundingvision of Kazi Nazrul University is to function effectively as an institutional space encouraging and providing instruction, teaching, training and research in various branches of learning and courses of study – with a view to promoting advancement and dissemination of knowledge, and extending higher education to meet the immediate needs ofsociety. While teaching activities are the mainstay of any higher educational institution, KNU has been modelled after the Humboldtian fashion of a research university – with specific emphasis on the need for knowledge production alongside processes of dissemination. There have been notable endeavours within the university to set up centres for advanced interdisciplinary exchange and intensive research collaboration, apart from rigorous daily routines of classroom instruction.
For a long time there has been a demand for a university in this area. The setting up of Kazi Nazrul University was primarily intended at responding to these local-material needs of democratizing higher education, outside of urban-metropolitan centres of cultural dominance. Professor Anuradha Mukhopadhyay, the first Vice Chancellor, assumed office on 3rd December, 2012 at the Asansol Durgapur Development Authority (ADDA) building. On 10th January 2013, the Hon'ble Chief Minister of West Bengal Smt. Mamata Bandopadhyay laid the foundation stone of Kazi Nazrul University on its own campus –close to the birthplace of Kazi Nazrul Islam at Churulia, 31 kilometres away from the city of Asansol. Aligned with its original goal of spreading the reach of higher education along hitherto-neglected vectors of geographical development, the Universityhas been established to promote teaching and advanced research in Asansol and its adjoining areas in the district of PaschimBardhaman.
In July 2013, the University inauguratedits teaching programmes by commencing postgraduation classes in four core disciplines – Bengali, English, History and Mathematics – with about one hundred and twenty students.In the academic session 2014-15 four new Postgraduate courses, including M.A in Education, Hindi, Political Science & M.Com., had been introduced. Professor Sadhan Chakraborti joined as the Vice-Chancellor of Kazi Nazrul University in April 2015. Over time, 17 PG departments have started functioning with all necessary infrastructures on the campus of the university, and with an actual intake of 1269 students in the academic year 2018-19. Most of these departments have gone on to introduce full-time M.Phil. and Ph.D. programmes, in complete accordance with UGC guidelines. A total of 20 colleges from adjoining areas are affiliated to the university, with an actual intake of 14,833 students at the undergraduate level in the academic year 2018-19. While a large number of students enrolled at the university departments as well as in its affiliated colleges are first-generation learners, an astounding 66 percent of the total student strength comprises women. It is also noteworthy that KNU’s commitment to cultural and demographic diversity reflects in its efforts at extending the benefits of higher education to minority communities and those from socially deprived backgrounds.
Situated in the Damodar River valley, historically enveloped amidst a setting of coal mines and industries in the city of Asansol,Kazi Nazrul University has been envisioned as more than a source of general education for building careers in the Humanities, General Science, Commerceand Law. Heeding the policy need for embedding tertiary education within local contexts and conditions for development, the University has recently introduced two engineering departments in Mining and Metallurgy with opportunities of hands-on training in the vicinity. KNU thus represents an effective and significant investment in students’ potential development in the context of targets set by the Ministry of Higher Education, Government of West Bengal. The Nazrul Centre for Social and Cultural Studies, an advanced research centre pledged to the principle of conscientious and socially translatable scholarship, has been established in the University and research collaborations have been initiated with renowned institutions of Bangladesh. With generous support from the Hon’ble Chief Minister of West Bengal, this centre is pursuing crucial research on the life and work of Nazrul and will soon publish some very significant scholarship by acclaimed researchers. In this, KNU is proud to be seen as an agent of deep cultural and diplomatic alliances across borders.
The abiding ideal of this University is to contribute to the economic, social, intellectual and cultural development of the country through the pursuit of excellence in teaching and learning and other creative-academic endeavours – such as seminars, symposia, training in various service schemes, progressive research initiatives and comprehensive outreach programmes. Teaching effort is carefully attuned to enable students to overcome their weaknesses, to expand their knowledge and skills, to develop a penchant for critical thinking, to arm themselves with a depth of perspective that goes beyond disciplinary limits, and to enable them to perform to their fullest potential so as to cope with the future needs of the working world.As a public university, KNU sees itself as not only harnessed to the cause of providing affordable higher education of the highest quality possible, but also as a powerful instrument of social inclusion among constituencies that are both geographically remote and culturally alienated. It is by imagining the university as a space for reconnecting with histories of social deprivation and cognitive damage that public-funded education might serve its purpose, and this University is part of that transformative agenda.