University of Khartoum..the ancient citadel of science and the arena of historical struggle

FFF Digital Team
5 min readAug 27, 2021

By: Alhassan Muhammad Othman, Journalist and Founder of Fridays For Future Sudan

The Main library of University of Khartoum

In 1902 what was known as “Gordon Memorial College” was established. , which was founded by Lord Kitchener, Governor-General of Sudan. In memory of Charles Gordon, British Governor-General of Sudan. Who was killed by the men of the “Mahdist revolution” in Khartoum. The day it fell to their hands on January 26, 1885, after a 10-month siege.

Foundation and development over the historical periods of Sudan

According to the University of Khartoum website, the beginning of the idea of establishing Gordon Memorial College, which later turned into the “University of Khartoum” dates back to 1898 when Lord Kitchener proposed, establishing a college in memory of General Gordon.

Funds for the proposed college were raised by private subscription, and construction plans were drawn up by the engineer, Khedive Fabricus Pasha. The new college, Gordon Memorial College, officially opened in 1902, although the buildings were not completed and the first batch of elementary students were admitted only by 1903.

The website adds that the college was not intended to be a primary school only, but a secondary class was added in 1905 for the purpose of training assistant engineers,land surveyors and in 1906 a four-year course was established to train primary school teachers.

In 1905,Sir Henry Wellcome donated a fully equipped laboratory for bacteriological analysis. Thus began the fruitful association between Khartoum and Wellcome Research Laboratories. In 1924, the college had evolved into a vocational high school focused on teaching the following disciplines: Sharia, Engineering, Teacher Training, Clerical, Accounting and Science. In the same year the Kitchener School of Medicine was founded. The year 1936 witnessed the beginning of higher education in Sudan with the establishment of the Faculty of Law

By 1940 the college included the Schools of Agriculture, Arts, Law, Science, Engineering, and Veterinary Sciences. Each school is attached to the government department in which graduates are expected to work.

In January 1945 all these schools were placed under a single administration in a special arrangement with the University of London. The college was upgraded in 1951 to become University College of Khartoum and in the same year, Kitchener School of Medicine merged into University College. At that time, the students of University College of Khartoum were sitting for the same exams for the University of London, and it was the Universiry of London that awarded them grades.

The outstanding students received their bachelor’s degrees from the University of London and the rest received diplomas.

The University of Khartoum, in its current form, is a result of the natural transformation of the University College of Khartoum upon the country’s independence in 1956. Parliament approved a draft law granting the college full university status on July 24, 1956. Since then,the university has witnessed a significant expansion.

The role of the university in the Sudanese National Movement

University of Khartoum, as one of the oldest Arab and African universities, has a leading role in the political process in Sudan and has gone beyond its role to include other countries.

In Sudan, since its early years, the university witnessed a wide activity of political organizations, especially in the stage of the national movement before independence. Its students and graduates played an important role in paving the way for independence and influencing Sudanese public opinion with the necessity of fighting colonialism and achieving complete Sudanese independence.

The role of the university, with its old name “Gordon Memorial College”, emerged in promoting the revolutionary, national and liberating values of the Sudanese people in the colonial era. In this context, the Gordon Memorial College students’ strike emerged in 1931. These peaceful manifestations followed, to express the real role and contribution of university students in the march of the national movement.

The Alumni Conference was established in 1938, and “Gordon Memorial College students” had the lion’s share of it and had the most influential role in it. Attributed to the fact that they are the educated and educated elite, and the conference was chaired by the college graduate, “Ismail Al-Azhari”. The role of the college was not limited to this conference, but it went beyond it to influence all the features of the political scene, which was dominated by the college graduates and they were the leaders of that stage.

The political impact of the university in the post-independence Sudanese political eras

Khartoum University College transformed after independence to become the University of Khartoum, and its first director was Professor Nasr Al-Haj Ali. After independence, political and intellectual parties and entities organized in a process of political activity and continuous movement, where the University of Khartoum was a major theater. Its squares witnessed the formation of the most prominent and influential political and intellectual organizations in Sudan.

The majority of the leaders of political, union and revolutionary action in Sudan graduated from it. Its squares witnessed the first steps in establishing most of the political movements and intellectual organizations that later took the lead in the political scene,The revolution of October 21, 1964, which overthrew the Ibrahim Abboud regime, was a clear evidence of the influence of the students of the University of Khartoum on the scene of politics and governance in Sudan.

The revolution began with a symposium held by university students and ended with the killing of one of its students, and then organized a revolutionary movement led by the university students which led to the overthrow of the Abboud regime, once again University students played an important role in the April 1985 revolution that overthrew the regime of Jaafar Nimeiri. University of Khartoum students and graduates in the trade unions led a broad movement that contributed to strengthening the spirit of the revolution.

During the era of ousted President Omar al-Bashir, the university’s courtyards were a theater that hosted opponents of the regime, and the “Pillars of Discussion” witnessed many rounds of student work rejecting the tyranny of al-Bashir and his regime, and Omar al-Bashir’s tyranny was an extension of the tyranny of previous military regimes.

In the December revolution, the university lost one of its sons, the student at the Faculty of Arts, Abdul Rahman Al-Sadiq Sumul, who was killed by the security forces, so that his name would be .immortalized on the honor and pottery lists.

“The Beautiful and the Impossible”

Since its establishment, “The Beautiful and the Impossible” has been the one that university students have been saying, expressing their love for this Sudanese symbol, which they consider to be equivalent to “the flag and the national anthem.” For them,University of Khartoum is not an ordinary university, but rather a great national symbol that expresses the history of Sudan and its various stages. The university at various levels and they were the best ambassadors for their university in international forums.

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FFF Digital Team

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