The first definite move for the establishment of a university at Allahabad was taken in 1869. The local government drew the attention of the government of India to the desirability of founding a university for upper India and a college designed to be the nucleus of the proposed university. In reply dated January 12, 1871, the government of India sanctioned the establishment of the college without committing itself to any opinion as to the desirability of founding a university. On December 9, 1873, Lord Northbrook, the then Viceroy of India, laid the foundation stone of the proposed central college at Allahabad.
During the period of the construction of the college buildings, classes were held in the Lowther castle (now known to be Darbhanga castle). Thus the classes began on July 1, 1872 with the modest staff of seven teachers consisting of Augustus Harrison as principal. A H Wright, as professor of English, J Elliot, as professor of Mathematics, W Gordon as professor of Law, Pt. Ajodhya Nath as asstt. professor of Law, Maulvi Zakaullah and Pandit Aditya Ram Bhattacharya as professors of Arabic and Persian and Sanskrit respectively.
The new college buildings designed by the eminent architect, Emerson, took 12 years to complete and its high towers, domes, lecture halls and its rooms form altogether an edifice of singular beauty which is the pride of Allahabad and Uttar Pradesh. The central college was named after Sir William Muir Governor of these provinces.
On September 23, 1887, an act was passed (Act xviii of 1887) in the governor-general's council incorporating the University of Allahabad thus fulfilling the cherished dream of resuscitating holy Prayag. The act was a distinguished improvement on the previous Acts, in as much as it imposed no limitation on the scope open to it to assume teaching functions. Sir John Edge was the first V-C and AE Gough was appointed the first registrar by the senate on November 16, 1887
Among the well-known first grade colleges under the University were the Muir Central College, Allahabad, Queens College, Banaras, Canning College, Lucknow, Mohamedan Anglo-Oriental College, Aligarh and Agra College, Agra. Indian scholars and publicmen like Sir Sunder lal, Dr Satish Chandra Banerji, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, Pandit Aditya Ram Bhattacharya and Rai G. N. Chakravarty took active interest in shaping the growth of the Allahabad University
An MA Degree in Economics was instituted in 1907 followed by the introduction of Biology in the following year. The Medical Faculty was ushered into existence in 1910. The most important development was the institution of University professorship in Modern Indian History and Economics, the first incumbents, respectively being Dr. Rushbrook Williams and Prof. Jevons. In 1913 a Chair of Post Vedic-Culture was instituted to accommodate Dr Venice of the Queens College, Banaras. A full-fledged Faculty of Commerce was established in 1913. The University, School of Law had begun to function in 1906.
Active measures had also been taken to construct separate university buildings. A site was purchased on the Church Road at a modest cost of Rs. 25,000. Building operations for the Law College, the Senate House and the Library commenced in 1910. The Senate House formally opened on August 3, 1912 and the Law College building in 1914. The Law Hostels were constructed in 1916. .
On February 9, 1920, Sir Harcourt Butler, Chancellor of the Allahabad University, invited a Committee to meet and consider the question of the reconstitution of the Allahabad University, in the light of the recommendations contained in the Sadler’s Commission Report. It was agreed that there should be a Unitary Teaching University at Allahabad and that there should be an external side consisting of Mofussil colleges.
Thanks to the effort of late C Y Chintamani, the first Education Minister of UP, necessary legislation was passed for establishing a Unitary Teaching University at Allahabad with a council of affiliated colleges attached to it. The Control of the high schools and intermediate classes was transferred from the University to the Intermediate Board. The colleges of the Central Provinces were placed under the Nagpur University incorporated in 1923. Under the new set-up Sir Claude Frazer de la-Fosse was appointed the first Vice-Chancellor and given wide powers to place the working of the University on a new basis. In 1923 Dr. Ganganath Jha as Vice-Chancellor succeeded Sir Claude. By his patience, tact and forbearance Dr. Jha completed the work of reorganization. But it was soon found out that the dual system of affiliation and teaching proved unworkable.
The University repeatedly complained the hybrid constitution and complicated machinery was hampering its progress at every stage. In November 1923 the Council of Associated Colleges passed a resolution, demanding the separation of the external colleges and their organization in a separate University with its headquarters at Agra. The Agra University Act was passed in 1923.