HISTORY OF SPICER ADVENTIST UNIVERSITY
Ashlock Education Society’s Spicer Adventist University has been established by the State Government of Maharashtra (vide Maharashtra Act No. XIV of 2014) on June 14, 2014,and was inaugurated on August 28, 2014. It belongs to the Southern Asia Division of the Seventh-day Adventist Church which is one of the 13 large Divisions of the worldwide Church which operates an internationally renowned global educational system comprising of over fifty universities, about one hundred colleges and more than seven thousand schools which offer a distinctive and quality education to nearly two million students worldwide.
Though the history of Spicer Adventist University may seem brief, it is indeed the culmination of a kaleidoscopic saga nearly a century old. Its roots can be traced to two schools that were started in Coimbatore in the south and Lucknow in the north in 1915. The South India Training School at Coimbatore was started in July, 1915 with Gentry G Lowry as the Principal with 15 students, more joining later. While the “girls’ dormitory” was in one wing of their house, the boys stayed in the godown at the back of the house. Due to the threat of plague, the School was moved from Coimbatore to Bangalore, near Bamboo Bazaar, in 1917. The Christian Training School at Lucknow was also started with 14 students on November 3, 1915 when a visionary H R Salisbury, an educational pioneer in England and India, invited I F Blue to establish the school, but it was closed down in 1920 and many students joined the South India Training School in Bangalore.
The institution was again moved in 1922 to a new campus at Krishnarajapuram, seven miles from the city of Bangalore. As the premier educational institution of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Southern Asia region, it soon attracted students from all parts of undivided India which included the present day Pakistan and Bangladesh, Myanmar (Burma) and Sri Lanka (Ceylon). In 1937, the school was reorganized and a Junior College (Intermediate) section added and the name changed to Spicer Junior College in honour of William Ambrose Spicer, an early Adventist leader in India.
After twenty years at Krishnarajapuram, when the military wanted to use the facility during the Second World War, the college was relocated to its present site in Pune (erstwhile Poona), an ideal city and famous educational and cultural hub, also known as the Oxford of the East, and renamed as Spicer Missionary College. In 1945, the college was upgraded to a Senior College offering four-year liberal arts degree courses in Business, Education, English, History and Theology. In 1955, three years after the death of W A Spicer, the name was modified to Spicer Memorial College.
In 1966, the College Board of Trustees authorized the establishment of the School of Religious Studies by reorganizing the academic divisions of Christian Theology and Philosophy. This was followed by a decision to introduce the fifth-year degree programmes in theology and secondary education. In 1970, the Schools of Business and Education were added. With the introduction of the Plus-Two educational pattern in the country, Spicer Memorial College re-organized its courses in 1978 to accommodate the Plus-Two programme followed by a three-year degree curriculum.
In 1980, the College Board approved the introduction of Post Graduate Studies in Business Administration, Education, and Religious Philosophy. Accordingly, in 1981, the School of Business, the School of Education and the School of Religion have been set up and master’s programmes introduced offering the master’s diplomas, MDBA, MDEd and MDTh respectively. In 1983, a review of the academic programme in the context of the Plus Two and three-Year Studies was made and it was felt by the College Board that the three-year college programme does not adequately meet the needs of a liberal arts education, nor does it equip the student sufficiently to meet the needs and demands of present day life. Therefore, beyond the Plus Two, a four-year college programme was authorized and initiated. This meant that a student received a bachelor’s degree after a minimum of sixteen (10+2+4) years of schooling. The same year affiliation was confirmed from Andrews University, Michigan, USA, for the three graduate programmes in Business Administration (MBA), Education (MA) and Religion (MA). However, due to some technical reasons, affiliation to MBA programme was withdrawn in 1992 and the programme was wound up in 1997.
In 1996, the College and the Board of Trustees felt the need to equip the Southern Asia Division with pastors with a doctoral degree in ministry and a four-year cohort of Doctor of Ministry (D Min) programme from Andrews University was introduced. About 24 candidates, enrolled in this programme and earned this degree in 2000 or soon after. In 1997, Southern Adventist University, Collegedale, Tennessee, USA, offered off-site BBA programme , followed by MBA two years later.
In order to strengthen its educational infrastructure and offer marketable degrees, the college further sought affiliation with University of Pune which in 2001 with the permission of the Government of Maharashtra granted affiliate status to the college giving rise to the establishment of Spicer Memorial College of Arts, Commerce and Science. Under this affiliation, a broad spectrum of degree courses (with three-year curricula) in Arts (BA), Commerce (BCom) and Sciences like biotechnology, microbiology, etc (BSc) and Computer Applications (BCA) Degrees programmes were offered. Later MCom (2007), MA English (2008) and MCA (2009) were also added.
In 2003, due to some unforeseen circumstances, Southern Adventist University had to withdraw its affiliation to BBA and MBA programmes. Fortunately a year later, in 2004, Griggs University, Maryland, USA, stepped in its place and launched its own BBA programme, and in 2006, the MBA programme also.
In 2006, with the introduction of the B.Ed. programme, Spicer Memorial College of Education came into existence on the campus. The flourishing Spicer Higher Secondary School in the adjacent campus with its state-of-the-art buildings and infrastructure and an enrolment of over 4,000 students serves also as one of the best demonstration schools for the B.Ed. students. However, due to the accumulation of some technical problems with the University of Pune programmes, the affiliation was withdrawn from the university in 2012.
In 2009 a one-year M Ed programme affiliated to Andrews University, USA, was introduced. Simultaneously the College was negotiating with Andrews University, USA, with whom it already has affiliated graduate programmes in Education (MA and M Ed) and Religion (MA) to start a few undergraduate programmes in lieu of those closed down with Pune University. Finally Andrews University-affiliated bachelors programmes (BA) in Economics, English, History and Sociology and (BS) in Botany were started during the Academic year 2013-2014.
In the meanwhile, the Board of Trustees of the College, in response to the invitation of Maharashtra State Government, applied for the self-Financed Private University charter in July, 2013, and after a Herculean task of submitting the government various reports, documents and undertakings, was finally rewarded with the much looked-forward to Charter for Spicer Adventist University, Pune, issued by the Government of Maharashtra vide Maharashtra Act No XIV of 2014 in June, 2014.
Today, with the Charter of Spicer Adventist University allowing it to offer almost any programme except the medical and allied courses under its banner, all the existing programmes including Spicer Memorial College Autonomous programmes, and other affiliated programmes will be wound up and the Teach-Out Programme has started with the academic year 2014-2015. Indeed, Spicer Adventist University with its distinctive philosophy and programme of education and enviable experience of a nearly century old it is poised to attract students from all parts of the world.