Founded originally as an affiliated college of the University of Calcutta in 1878, Rangoon College was established under British rule. Its name changed to Government College in the early 1900s and then again in 1920 to University College. In that same year, the secular University College merged with the Baptist-affiliated Judson College to become Rangoon University. Judson Baptist church, in memory of Adoniram Judson an early nineteenth century American missionary who wrote the first Burmese – English dictionary, is still situated on the campus. All subsequent institutions of higher learning founded by the British were under Rangoon University’s administration until 1958, when Mandalay College became an independent university. Rangoon University became one of the most prestigious universities in Southeast Asia, attracting students from across the region.
During the Second World War the Japanese army took over the University and used the buildings for their offices.
Myanmar gained independence from British rule in 1948 and this was a golden period for Rangoon University, until the military coup in 1962.
The military authorities ended the University’s autonomy, placing it under central government control. The language of instruction was changed from English to Burmese. The 1964 University Education Act separated several professional departments from the university, establishing them as separate universities: the University of Medicine, the University of Economics, the University of Technology, the University of Education. At that point, the university was renamed the Rangoon Arts and Sciences University, concerned only with liberal arts, sciences and law. In 1989, the university was renamed the University of Yangon.
In common with leading universities worldwide, University of Rangoon / Yangon students have spearheaded much of Burma / Myanmar’s political activism. Students protested against British colonial rule and the Rangoon Act of the University of Rangoon in 1920. This strike started at the university and roused countrywide awareness of national identity and opposition to British colonial policies. Myanmar National Day commemorates the 1920 student strike at Rangoon University. Further, nationwide anti-colonial strikes followed in 1936 and 1938 all beginning at the university.
On 4 January 1948 Burma became an independent country, thanks in part to student-led actions.
The tradition of student protest continued in the post-colonial era. In July 1962 students marched from the Convocation Hall to a rally in the Student’s Union building on campus and held a demonstration outside the campus, protesting against stricter campus regulations, the end of the system of university self-administration, and the policy of the new military regime of General Ne Win. Soldiers and police stormed the campus. The following day the military blew up the historic Rangoon University Student Union which had been the symbol of the anti-colonial nationalism struggle since the 1920s.
In December 1974 students protested at the military government’s not allowing former Secretary General of the United Nations, U Thant, to be honoured with a state funeral. They hi-jacked his coffin en route to an ordinary cremation and burial, took it to UY’s Convocation Hall and protected it for six days while demonstrations were held and anti-government speeches made. The students buried U Thant on the site of the destroyed Students’ Union building, against the government’s will. Troops surrounded the campus two nights later, removed U Thant’s coffin and buried it near the Shwedagon. The next day they stormed the campus again.
1988 saw very large, continuing pro-democracy, anti-military rule protests. Starting in the University of Rangoon, students from around the country joined hundreds of thousands of people going into the streets to protest. The military responded with force. Despite this, and despite universities being closed down for two months, student protests continued, resulting in the resignation of U Ne Win in June 1988 with 5 of his senior leaders including the State President. The replacement of State President provided further fuel to the protests.
On 8 August 1988 (8.8.88) huge crowds of protesters gathered in the streets and at night there was a crackdown. The newly-appointed State President was toppled and a civilian President appointed but he was perceived as too close to Ne Win. Protests continued despite bloodshed. On 26 August, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi made a speech to 500,000 people at the Shwedagon and became the leader and figurehead of pro-democracy political change. Government control collapsed and the country slipped towards anarchy for a few weeks, providing the military with an excuse to seize control again in September 1988. Those who escaped fled over Myanmar’s borders out of the country.
In 1996, 2,000 students protested again about police brutality, demanding the right to form student unions and to demonstrate for democracy. There was again a crackdown and the military government closed all university undergraduate programmes except at the University of Medicine. Undergraduate programmes at the University of Yangon remained closed until 2013. Only graduate studies and a few professional diploma courses were conducted at UY’s main campus during that time.
For its former glory, for its involvement in the country’s politics and development and for the sacrifices made by so many of its students, the University of Yangon holds a special place in individuals’ and in the national consciousness.
|8||Total (Admin Staff )||530|
|3||MA, MSc students||371|
|4||BA (Hons:), BSc (Hons:) students||904|
|5||BA, BSc students||3290|
|6||Diploma (Eng, Psy, Anthro, Arch, Phy, Geol, IC, LS, CS, SW)||610|
|7||HRD Diploma (CS, Geol, IR, Law, OS, Geog)||2749|
|8||HRD Master students||931|
12 Arts Departments
8 Science Departments