The Calcutta University Act came into force on 24 January 1857 and a 41-member Senate was formed as the policy making body of the university. The land for the establishment of this university was given by Maharaja Maheshwar Singh Bahadur, who was a Maharaja of Darbhanga. When the university was first established it had a catchment area covering the area from Lahore to Rangoon (now in Myanmar), and Ceylon, the largest of any Indian university.
The first Chancellor and Vice-Chancellor of the Calcutta University were Governor General Lord Canning and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Sir James William Colvile, respectively. In 1858, Joddu Nath Bose and Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay became the first graduates of the university. On 30 January 1858, the Syndicate of the Calcutta University started functioning.
Following its inauguration, many institutions gradually came under its jurisdiction. Kadambini Ganguly and Chandramukhi Basu became the first female graduates of the country in 1882. The Honourable Justice Gooroodas Banerjee became the first Indian Vice-Chancellor of University of Calcutta in the year 1890. Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee was the Vice-Chancellor for four consecutive two-year terms (1906–1914) and a fifth two-year term (1921–23). Four Nobel laureates were associated with this university: Ronald Ross. Rabindra Nath Tagore, C. V. Raman and Amartya Sen.
The university has a total of 14 campuses spread over the city of Kolkata and its suburbs. The major campuses are the Central Campus (Ashutosh Shiksha Prangan) in College Street, Rashbehari Shiksha Prangan in Rajabazar, Taraknath Palit Shiksha Prangan in Ballygunge and Sahid Khudiram Siksha Prangan in Alipore.