India made great progress in the field of education during the Gupta period. There were famous educational institutions at Texila, Varanasi, Ujjain, Ajanta and Kanchi. Different universities specializing in particular fields of study were there. For example, Taxila specialized in science and medicine, Varanasi in religion, especially Buddhism, Ujjain in astronomy, Ajanta in art and architecture etc.
Nalanda being the biggest of all seats of learning handled all branches of knowledge. Vallabhi and Vikramashilla were two other great centres of learning. The Buddhist and Jaina monasteries also were centres of learning and education. Besides helping the spread of religious education in India these monasteries often sent their teachers to different foreign countries. At least twenty-five Indian monks had gone abroad before the arrival of Fa-Hien. Fa-Hien has given a long list of centres of secular and religious education, which does not include the famous University of Nalanda.
The University of Nalanda was founded by Kumaragupta – I (traditionally believed as Sakraditya). It was a great international and universal cultural centre. It started as a Mahavihar of the Mahayana Buddhism but soon developed into a magnificent institution of manifold intellectual activities and a great centre of learning. It has been described as the ‘Oxford’ of ancient India. It attracted eminent scholars like Nagarjuna and his pupil Arya Deva from far south.
We get a vivid description of Nalanda University in the accounts of Hiuen Tsang who came to India during 7th century A.D. i.e. about 200 years after its establishment. Hiuen Tsang himself studied there for five years. During this period it was a six-storeyed building with 10,000 students on the rolls. It received lavish royal patronage and provided free education. Though the university specialized in the study of Mahayana Buddhism its curricula included Buddhist and Brahmanical literature, religious as well as secular.