Bethune College has a rich heritage. It was founded as Hindu Female School and turned into Bethune School on May 7, 1849 after the name of the founder Sir John Elliot Drinkwater Bethune. The college started functioning in 1879 with one enrolment of Kadambini Bose. In the year 1883, another student called Chandramukhi Basu was enrolled. In 1883, both Kadambini and Chandramukhi qualified in the degree examinations of the University of Calcutta. In the year 1888, Bethune College received affiliation to the university of Calcutta up to BA standard. Chandramukhi Basu, who was an MA with Honours in English, became the first Principal of Bethune College.
Bethune College has 16 Undergraduate Departments combining both Arts and Sciences and faculty strength of sixty-nine. The various course studies offered in this college are-Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, Botany, Zoology, Psychology, Statistics, Computer Science, Economics, English, Bengali, History, Philosophy, Political Science, Sanskrit and Hindi. Honours courses are taught except Hindi and Statistics. General courses are taught along with. There is no independent general course curriculum for the students.
The B.A., B.Sc course are divided into two Honours and general course. The college admits students only in the Honours Course.
The Academic session starts from July-June every year. Third year classes for non-laboratory based subjects commence after the completion of B.Sc. Part-II practical examinations. It is the responsibility for the students to find out the exact dates of the commencement of the third year classes. No individual intimation is sent to them.
The College alumnae include some of the outstanding women who are stalwart in their fields and pioneered the educational movement as well as brought liberation of women. Few of the most important names are Sm. Kamini devi, Sm Sarala Devi Chaudhurani, Sm Sita Devi, Santa Devi, Sm. Lila Roy, Dr. Dipti Tripathi who contributed a lot in the field of Bengali Literature and culture. Chameli Basu was the first science graduate of the college, while Dr. Asima Chatterjee, an alumna of this college set an example of scientific achievement. Sm Bina Bhowmick, Sm Pritilata Waddedar, Sm Kalpana Joshi, Ila Mitra, Pramila Gupta and Kamala Dasgupta contributed a lot in India's Freedom fighting movement. Alumnae of this college made its signature in the performing arts too. Sm Sobha Sen was a renowned actress, Sm Purabi Mukherjee, Debarati Shome are eminent singers. The College also boasts on Sm Manjusree Chaki as a dancer, Bratati Bandyopadhyay as a elocutionist and many others like Sm Manjulika Das, Sm Meenakshi Sinha and Sm Aparna Roy.
The Bethune College has preserved its rare documents and valuable records in the newly constituted archives. Not only that, the college has a Central Library which conserves recent titles and publications along with a rare book section. The College has a well-equipped canteen. It provides many scholarships and stipends to the students. The aid comes from the State Government, from College fund and teacher's fund. The scholarships are purely on the merit basis, which are as follows-
The other scholarships provided by the well-wishers are-