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Jasmit Singh
posted on: 05 Mar, 2022
1890's Sikh Students studying Engineering in UK

This is the account of young Sikh students studying in the first Indian UK engineering college.


One of the earliest accounts of Sikh students, studying in the UK for an engineering degree !!

This is an unknown but very interesting fact, which I am going to share with you today.

IIT (Roorkee) is understood to be the FIRST Indian engineering college in the whole world, which was started during the British Empire in 1847. However, that is based undoubtedly in India (Roorkee), but the first Indian Engineering College within the UK was started as the British college of Civil Engineering run by the India Office to train civil engineers for service in the Indian Public Works Department. It was located on the Cooper's Hill estate, near Egham, Surrey (outskirts of London).

The history of The Royal Indian Engineering College, at Coopers Hill, is quite fascinating. It began with just 100 students in 1872 and then slowly expanded, but the college was ultimately closed on 13th of October 1906 after 31 years of running. After being shut for a few more decades, while also passing along to various owners, organisations (such as Shoreditch College and Brunel University), the Cooper’s Hill estate is currently the site of Audley Cooper’s Hill, a luxury retirement village of 78 apartments for over 55s.  

During the term of 1872 to 1906, there were several Indian Students and most importantly Sikh Students, who were enrolled in various engineering courses. A few important documents (see sources below) showcase the names of the Sikh Students who were enrolled between the period of 1872 to 1906. I have summarised few names as follows:

  • Baba Sundar Singh - MIEE  association and studied from 1896 to 1898
  • Bawa Ramnick Diwan Bahadur Singh Baura - studied from 1899 to 1901


I couldn't find any information about Baba Sundar Singh. So please collaborate and help me find this.


Bawa Ramnick Diwan Bahadur SINGH is presumed to be a Sikh Student, who is documented to have been studying Engineering Degree at The Royal Indian Engineering College. This piece of document (see source below) states few important things:

  1. The Royal Indian Engineering College's register records were not complete and hence the document was adding an important list of students and staff from the period of 1871 to 1906. 
  2. Bawa Singh was admitted in 1899 to study engineering, as he was born in 1880 (18th March). 
  3. Bawa Singh was appointed to State Railways 1902, then progressed as an Executive engineer in 1909. It was then that, he was made a 'Rai Bahadur' rank in 1915, followed by a Deputy chief engineer in 1927 and a Chief engineer in 1930.
  4. Bawa Singh was finally made an Agent rank in 1934 and then retired in 1935.


An important fact is that the students upon graduation, entered the service of the Government of India as engineers at a starting salary of £420 per annum. There must be several records of Singhs and possibly Kaurs too, who must have graduated from this college, as early as 1872. Therefore, I request all others to dedicate some time to research about this too, as it will help us to get credible information about the brightest Sikh minds, who we may have not recognised, but their contributions were invaluable :)


There are many more records of Sikh engineers who studied, lived and worked in the UK, but have not been explored or recognised by us yet. For example, SINGH, K. D.F.H.(Hons.), F.R.S.A., A.M.I.E.E. Chief Engr. (since 1932), Beethoven Elect. Equipment, Ltd., Chase Road, North Acton, N.W.10. Private Address: 53 Mount Pleasant, South Ruislip, Middlx. Age: 31. Career: Univ. Training and Educ; (First Hons. Diploma in Elect. and Mech. Eng); Asst. Chief Engr., British Talking Pictures, Ltd., 1930-31.


Feel free to contact me and collaborate smiley



Sources of both names -

Document Sources for Bawa Singh -

Brief History of the Royal Indian Engineering College Coopers Hill -

K. Singh 1932 -