Delhi School of Economics


The Delhi School of Economics (DSE) was established in 1949 as a centre for excellence and advanced learning and research in the social sciences with Professor V.K.R.V. Rao as the Founder-Director and the Department of Economics of the University of Delhi as the nucleus.

Guided by his vision of India's future and support from India's first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru, Professor V.K.R.V. Rao envisioned establishing an institution devoted to research and teaching in economics and allied areas in the social sciences, which would also produce students who would play an important role in the economic development and social progress of the country. Such students were to be not only well trained in rigorous theory with a quantitative orientation but also have a wider perception of important social issues facing the country.

Professor V.K.R.V. Rao was deeply inspired by a well-known prayer of Swami Vivekananda to serve the poor and downtrodden which is inscribed in the Swami Vivekananda Hall in the Delhi School of Economics.

“May I be born again and again, and suffer thousands of miseries so that I may worship the only God that exists, the only God I believe in, the sum total of all souls – and above all, my God the wicked, my God the miserable, my God the poor of all races, is the special object of my worship.”

This prayer is a reflection of Professor V.K.R.V. Rao’s conviction that God is one, but wise men describe him in different ways.

In pursuing his mission to establish an institution on the lines of the London School of Economics, Professor Rao had to search for talent and commitment. In the late 1940s, he was successful in appointing B.N. Ganguli as Reader and P.N. Dhar as Lecturer in the Department of Economics. He also got in touch with K.N. Raj at Cambridge well before independence and other reputed academicians over the subsequent years. By 1953, the Department of Economics had three professors – V.K.R.V. Rao, B.N. Ganguli and K.N. Raj – all of whom served the University later as Vice Chancellors. By the early 1960s, Amartya Sen, Jagdish Bhagwati and Sukhamoy Chakravarty joined as Professors. Over time, eminent economists helped shape the reputed Department. 

The Delhi School of Economics Society was formally registered on November 14, 1952 for the promotion and development of an all-India centre for training and research in Economics, with Honourable Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru as its President. The Society, in turn, appointed a Governing Body for the School, with Sir V.T. Krishnamachari as its Chairman.

For some years, the School operated in the barracks near the Vice Chancellor's office and later shifted to the Arts Faculty Building. On January 18, 1956, Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru inaugurated the main DSE building (which currently houses the Department of Economics) that had been built on University land. The President of India Honourable Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan was present at the inauguration of DSE. In response to the Prime Minister's remark:

What a magnificent building you have made, Prof Rao.

Dr. Radhakrishnan remarked:

It is not the building that counts. It is the kind of relationship between teacher and the taught that is more important.


In recognition of a generous grant of Rs. Six Lakhs from the Birla Educational Trust, which was used to build it, the DSE Society named the building as Birla Bhawan. The Ratan Tata Trust gave a grant of Rs. One Lakh to build a library which is today a premier library in social sciences in the country and is known as the Ratan Tata Library. Subsequently in 1980, the Ratan Tata Trust gave a grant of Rs. Two Lakhs to partly cover the cost of adding an annexe to the Library building.

Until 1957, the Delhi School of Economics functioned simultaneously as a Department of the University of Delhi as well as an autonomous body. At that point, a choice had to be made - to either retain its autonomous status or be fully absorbed into the University of Delhi. Ultimately, the Delhi School of Economics merged with the University of Delhi system and the DSE building that had been made with immense dedication and passion by Professor V.K.R.V. Rao, was handed over to the University in 1957. Consequently, the Ratan Tata Library also became a part of the University Library System in 1957.

Professor V.K.R.V. Rao guided the development of the School as Director from 1949 to 1957 before becoming the Vice Chancellor of the University of Delhi in 1957. Professor B.N. Ganguli was appointed Director in his place.

In 1958, a few units which had formed part of the School -- the Rural Development Section (financed by the Ministry of Health of the Government of India) and the Orientation Centre for Foreign Technicians in India (financed by the Ford Foundation and the United States Technical Cooperation Mission), were separated and transferred to the Institute of Economic Growth (which was established by the Delhi School of Economics Society in that year as a completely autonomous institution). Another unit in the School, the Agricultural Economics Research Centre (financed by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture of the Government of India), was also administratively separated and placed under the direct charge of the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Delhi.

Widening Umbrella

While the initial impulse for its creation came from the challenges of planning and policy making in India and other newly independent developing countries, the academic activities of DSE soon came to encompass a wider canvas.

In the 1950s, courses in Commerce, Business Management, Economic Statistics, and Economic Administration were organized as part of the programme of the Department of Economics. The Department of Sociology and Geography were also added to the Delhi School of Economics in 1959. By 1960-61, M. A. Economics, M. A. Economic Statistics, M. Com, M. A. Human Geography, M. A. Sociology, PG Diploma in Economic Administration, PG Diploma in Business Management and Ph. D. Courses were taught in the School.

The Department of Sociology was established under the leadership of internationally renowned sociologist, Professor M.N. Srinivas. He was able to put together an excellent team of eminent sociologists including Professors M.S.A. Rao, Andre Beteille and A.M. Shah. Professor J.P.S. Oberoi joined the reputed team a decade later. On September 27, 1971, the present building of Department of Sociology was inaugurated by Professor V.K.R.V. Rao in the presence of Dr. Sarup Singh, then Vice- Chancellor, University of Delhi.

The Department of Human Geography was added to the DSE family of departments in the same year under the leadership of Professor George Kurian. Reputed geographers, Professors V.L.S. Prakasa Rao and R. Ramachandaran joined him later. The name of the Department was changed to Department of Geography in 1976. The foundation stone of the 'Teaching Block' was laid by Professor V.K.R.V. Rao, then Vice-Chancellor, University of Delhi on May 29, 1960 in the presence of Professor B.N. Ganguli, then Director, Delhi School of Economics, where the entrance of the Department of Geography (and the back entrance to the Economics Lecture Theatre) is now located.

The Department of Business Management and Industrial Administration was added to the Delhi School of Economics in 1961 and relevant courses were shifted to this Department. In 1972, the Department of Business Management and Industrial Administration was re-organized into Faculty of Management Studies. Commerce grew to become a separate Department in 1967 and has been a full-fledged Faculty since 1993. Both Faculties are independent and separated from the Delhi School of Economics.

Therefore, currently the Delhi School of Economics comprises the Departments of Economics, Geography, and Sociology which are part of the Faculty of Social Sciences of the University of Delhi.

Tradition of Excellence

The Departments of Economics and Sociology have the distinction of being the earliest departments in their respective disciplines to have earned the recognition of Centres of Advanced Study by the UGC. The teaching and research focus of all the three departments of the Delhi School of Economics has evolved over the years to reflect changing economic and social needs of India and their respective disciplines.

All three departments support M.A., M.Phil. and Ph.D. programmes and have maintained what was envisaged by Professor V.K.R.V. Rao as “…a marriage between theory and practice and a balanced mixture of both…” which makes these disciplines “…useful for policy purposes and the promotion of human welfare.”

Faculty members of the three departments actively carry out research in diverse fields and continue to publish in top-notch journals in their fields. Their specializations span a wide spectrum of sub-disciplines. Faculty members also continue to influence the planning process and policymaking through involvement in various national committees and bodies.

Thus, the tradition of excellence continues. The Delhi School of Economics is considered to be a premier centre for excellence in post-graduate teaching and research in Economics, Geography and Sociology. This is indeed reflected in the recognition garnered by its distinguished alumni, the world over. The School has inspired generations of students to excel in their career goals in diverse streams such as academia, research, and involvement in the social, government and corporate sectors. Undoubtedly, the Delhi School of Economics has made a distinct mark both in the Indian as well as the global arena, fulfilling the conviction of the Founder-Director:

“After all there are many universities, but only one Delhi School of Economics.”