Writing The History of Colonial University
The first was the narrative of Progress and Enlightenment, favoured by the British historians then and now. The shortcomings of this narrative is clear: The universities in India were part of the oppressive imperial structure rather than institutions of freedom and liberation. They were designed, from the very start, to be different from the American Colonial Universities, which were started by the settler initiatives (backed by the Crown) and which were blamed for whatever happened in the American colonies thereafter. In fact, East India Company successfully argued against establishment of universities in India, proposed by William Wilberforce in the 1790s at the juncture of renewal of its charter, citing the debacle in the United States. The Colonial Universities in India were not in any way similar to the 'Colonial Colleges' such as Harvard, William and Mary or Yale (named after the East India Company clerk who made his fortune in Madras). The Colonial Universities in India were designed to be tools of economic exploitation of India, to turn it into a huge 'back-office' of the imperial enterprise.
This narrative is wrong because the eventual dissatisfaction of the college-trained Indian elite with the discrimination at the workplace was not the fountainhead of Indian national consciousness. India was not, as some British historians would like to claim, an entity conceived in Imperial terms. India was an ancient geographical, cultural and political entity, and both outsiders - early British merchants, for example - and people in India, knew it as such. Mughal empire was very much an entity, and it would be wrong to read the demise of India in the political fragmentation after Aurangzeb. There were several competing parties, and the British was one of those parties, and they sealed their dominance only in the mid-Nineteenth century. The colonial university as the fountainhead of nationalism denies this pre-existent reality, and inadvertently promote the idea of India as a British political construct (as indeed the modern India, reflecting the imperial boundaries, have become).
As I mentioned, this also bundles all other 'conflicts' - peasant revolts, Sepoy Mutinies, workers's struggles - in a subordinate role to the national struggle, as the National Consciousness seemed to belong exclusively to a group of college educated people. This is largely anomalous, as most of these college graduates devoted themselves, as they were expected to, in the colonial service, and, on the other hand, when Mutineers were being tied to the cannons and blasted away, they were not dying for 'special interest' but for their battles against the British (in many cases, for loyalty to the Mughal Emperor). This is not to undermine what the educated leaders of a later generation did in India, but while the Colonial universities may have played a role in creating a new 'imagined community', but that was not the only game in town.