The Foreign Mission Committee (later Board of World Mission and Unity) of the Church of Scotland was responsible for the Church's mission work around the world. In 1824 the Church's General Assembly resolved to become involved in educational work in India. In 1829 Alexander Duff, the first Church of Scotland missionary, was appointed and he arrived in India in 1830. He founded the General Assembly's Institution to be run on western principles of higher education using the English language and the work was an immediate success with a number of Indians from high caste families being converted.
With the Disruption of 1843 Duff joined the Free Church of Scotland and founded another college in Calcutta which, after his death, was named Duff College. After some years of tension between the two churches in Bengal there was an increasing desire for co-operation, an example of which was the merger of the two colleges in 1908 to form the Scottish Churches College. Both the Church of Scotland and the Free Church had by this time established mission stations in other areas of India. In Madras a similar college to the one founded by Duff had been opened in 1837 by John Anderson. Originally the Central Institution, it was later named the Madras Christian College and became an outstanding centre of Christian higher education. Its success was due largely to William Miller, a Free Church missionary, who took charge of the school in 1862 and in 1887 persuaded the Church Missionary Society and the Weslyans to join to make the College interdenominational.
The Free Church did not concentrate just on education, it tried to establish Christian communities and churches amongst Indians and amongst various other tribes. In the 1870s the Free Church began working among the Santal (Santhal) people of Bengal and Bihar, an undertaking which expanded to several stations with churches, schools and medical care. In Rajputana the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland, which had been formed in 1847, had been working since the 1860s and when the Church joined with the Free Church in 1900 this work was continued under the United Free Church. In 1929 all missionaries became once again the responsibility of the Foreign Mission Committee of the Church of Scotland when the United Free Church joined with the Church of Scotland.