- A brief survey of higher education in Assam ( Now North-East ) during the British rule in the 19th century reveals that facilities available to the students of Assam was far from adequate.
- Only the privileged few, those who were either rich or fortunate enough to receive merit scholarships offered by the government for obtaining college education in neighbouring Bengal.
- Nonetheless, no serious efforts were made until 1899. The urgency of the problem ultimately culminated in the establishment of a government college in Guwahati for which sanction from the secretary of state for India was received in June 1900.
- The chief commissioner Sir Henry Cotton took immediate steps to lay the foundation of the college which has been gratefully named after him – destined to be the alma mater, a common platform for the peoples of the hills & plains of Assam.
- It was formally opened on 27th May, followed by first admission on 17th June, 1901.
- To ensure success, the college was endowed with a liberal system of scholarship, excellent faculty, hostels, library facilities of co and extra curricular activities.
- The history of Cotton College is inseparably connected with the progress of the higher education in Assam especially in the Brahmaputra valley.
- Nevertheless, it will not be wrong to say that modern Assam is by and large product of Cotton College.
- The alumni from this premier institute have made their mark in every field of national activity in arts, literature, education, administration, trade and industry and politics helping thereby to shape the destiny of Assam.
- The building in which the college was first started had been constructed by the Public Works Department under the supervision of late Sri Subhrendu Mohan Goswami, Assistant Engineer, then a supervisor of the P. W. Department. In the opinion of Dr. Booth, the D.P.I. " the college building affords complete accommodation for all purposes for the classes. Indeed if it were desirable to change the status of the college from a second grade to a first grade college, no additional accommodation would be necessary."
- Mr. H. Sharp, D.P.I. of Eastern Bengal and Assam in his Quinquennial Report on Education 1901-02 to 1906-07, describes the building in the following manner :—
" The college is held in a spacious and lofty single-storied building containing three airy and well-lighted class rooms, besides the Principal's room, the Professors' room, the office, and two large halls, one of which is a combined laboratory and lecture theatre and the other an examination hall and library"
- The college which has grown with the passage of time is presently providing facility for both undergraduate and post-graduate study beside research.
- To conclude in the words of Mr. Sudmersen; "The principles which guided its past must guide its future. Avoiding all narrowness of thought of class or creed, with charity towards all, let students and staff remembers that education is only of value as it leads to greater service to mankind that, narrowly pursued, it produces but Dead Sea fruit of disappointment and embitterment."
- The Govt. of Assam of late declared the college as an Institute of Excellence to enable it to play increasing role in the field of higher education and research.
- In 2004 & 2011, the college was accredited with grade “A” by NAAC.