Lviv Polytechnic National University
Lviv Polytechnic National University (Національний університет «Львівська політехніка»; Natsionalnyi universytet “Lvivska politekhnika”). The oldest polytechnical school of higher education in Ukraine, founded in Lviv as a technical academy in 1844 on the basis of an Austrian Realschule (opened in 1817). Founded by the decree of the Habsburg emperor Ferdinand I, it had the status of higher technical school and included two sections: a three-year technical and one-year commercial. The technical section had six departments: mathematics, physics, descriptive geometry, technical drawing, chemistry, and geodesy. Its instructors were made equal to university professors. During the Austrian bombardment of Lviv on 2 November 1848, during the Revolution of 1848–9 in the Habsburg monarchy, the academy’s building was severely damaged and its archives, equipment, and precious library perished in the fire. The commercial section was reorganized in 1853 into a two-year secondary commercial school which remained part of the academy until 1875. The language of instruction was German and virtually all initial professors were Germans or Czechs. The first Pole to be appointed to the faculty was Wawrzyniec Żmurko, professor of mathematics in 1851–72, considered to be the founder of the Lviv school of mathematics.
Following the creation of the dual monarchy of Austria-Hungary and the proclamation of Galicia’s autonomy in 1867, the academy was gradually transformed into a Polish-language institution. In 1871 Polish became the primary (and after 1872, the sole) language of instruction, and the last German-speaking professors left the academy. New departments were added in response to the growing needs of the autonomous Galicia’s industry and economy. As a sign of a new academic freedom, rectors were now elected annually by professorial college instead of being simply appointed by the Austrian minister of education. In 1872–3 the academy was divided into three separate professional sections (faculties): engineering, architecture (both 5 years of study), and technical chemistry (4 years). The faculty of machine-building was added in 1875. The same year the commercial school was detached from the technical academy and transformed into Lviv Commercial Academy. By 1875 the technical academy had 4 faculties and 15 departments. The enrollment grew from 77 in 1850–1 to 201 in 1867–8 to 325 in 1875–6. As for students’ ethnic profile, in the early 1850s around half of all students were Poles (43 percent), followed by Jews (23 percent), and Austro-Germans (22 percent); while Ukrainians (or Ruthenians) comprised around 9 percent of the academy’s students. In the 1860s and the 1870s, the academy’s Greek Catholic students (both populist Ukrainophiles and Russophiles) participated in student groups together with their coreligionists from Lviv University; these groups included Moloda Rus’ (the Young Rus’), Akademicheskii kruzhok (Academic Circle), and Druzhnyi Lykhvar (A Friendly Usurer). The Ukrainian/Ruthenian presence in the academy, however, remained marginal, and the proportion of Polish students only increased over time: in the early 1870s Poles (including a dozen Greek Catholics and Armenian Catholics who gave their nationality as Polish) stood at 86 percent (or 75.6 percent if only Roman Catholics were counted), followed by Ukrainians/Ruthenians (9.9 percent) and Jews (5 percent). Remarkably, all Jewish students but one declared their nationality as Polish. Overall, between 1844 and 1872 Lviv Technical Academy trained 700 graduates (80 percent of whom were students of civil and hydraulic engineering).
In 1877 Lviv Technical Academy was renamed the Lviv Higher Polytechnical School (Szkoła Politechniczna in Polish or Technische Hochschule in German) and remained under this name until 1921 when it became known as the Lviv Polytechnic (Politechnika Lwowska in Polish). According to its statute, the polytechnical school had four faculties: civil and hydraulic engineering, construction, technical chemistry, and machine-building. The famous Polish architect of Armenian-German descent Julian Zachariewicz became its first rector. It was Zachariewicz who designed the school’s main building (opened in 1877). Lviv Polytechnic became the first institution in Austria-Hungary where telephone was demonstrated to the public in 1877. The enrollment declined somewhat during the 1880s—to 200 students in the middle of that decade. Yet, Lviv Higher Polytechnical School was among the largest in the Austrian half of the empire (behind similar schools in Vienna and Prague, but ahead of those in Graz and Brno). The school’s growth was facilitated by Vienna’s investments and policies favorable to Galicia’s Poles. The new statute approved by Galicia’s legislature in 1891 strengthened the school’s autonomy. As a result, the number of faculty members, students, and academic units increased dramatically, especially between the late 1880s and early 20th century. New departments were added: railroad traffic (1889), general electrotechnics (1889), zoology, botany, and merchandising (1891), mining (1897), technical mechanics (1904), theory of thermal machines (1904), and water pumps and engines (1908). The number of faculty members grew continuously between 1877 and 1914: from 17 to 41 professors, from 9 to 47 docents and lecturers, and from 11 to 70 assistants and adjuncts. The enrollment increased even more dramatically: from 175 in 1889–90 to 1,865 in 1913–4 (around 30 percent of students were Poles from the Russian Empire), which made Lviv Higher Polytechnical School the second largest higher technical school in the Austrian Empire after the one in Vienna. Education was not free but students from poor families with good grades were granted free tuition (or at least half that). The school’s graduates found employment in industry (primarily roads and railways), science, and local administrations. After 1901 the school was permitted to award degrees of doctor of technical sciences (doctor rerum technicorum). Three experimental stations were opened: petroleum industry, ceramics (both 1886), and the study of construction and engineering materials (1901). In 1907 the faculty of engineering was divided into two separate faculties: engineering of roads and bridges (civil engineering) and hydro-technical (hydraulic) construction. In 1914 the school had 5 faculties (civil engineering; hydraulic works; civil construction and architecture; machine-building; and technical chemistry), 30 museums, 11 laboratories, 3 experimental stations, and an astronomic observatory. Its library had 20,000 volumes and subscribed to more than 200 periodicals.
The language of instruction was Polish, and most students and professors were ethnic Poles. Ukrainians formed a small but growing minority among the school’s students: between 3.7 percent and 5.6 percent in the late 19th century, increasing to 7 percent in 1906–7 (but decreasing again to around 5.6 percent in 1912). Numerically, however, the Ukrainian (Greek Catholic) presence grew continuously: from 14 students in 1893–4 to 22 in 1897–8 to 50 in 1900–1 to 103 in 1905–6. Together with their Polish and Jewish peers, Ukrainian students were active in the mutual-aid student society called the Brotherly Assistance of the Polytechnic’s Students. The most radical of them participated in the variety of socialist activities, ranging from public debates and readings to publishing underground newspapers and organizing strikes. For instance, the school’s senior student and a member of the Brotherly Assistance S. Kozlovsky published Ivan Franko’s socialist paper Tovarysh (Comrade) in 1888. The school’s largest Ukrainian student group at the time was the Osnova (Foundation) society, established in 1897 by a dozen students led by Volodymyr Dydynsky, an engineering student. Among the society’s honorary members were Ivan Franko (from 1897), Mykola Lysenko (from 1903), and Mykhailo Pavlyk (from 1904). Osnova had its own library with more than 1,000 volumes in 1907, including scholarly literature and literary fiction; it also subscribed to 70 periodicals. There was a handful of Ukrainian faculty members who were also active in the institutions of Ukrainian civil society (such as the Prosvita, Shevchenko Scientific Society, or Osnova student society). Among them were Yuliian Medvedsky (Julian Niedźwiedzki), a professor of mineralogy and geology (1873–1912), who also served as the school’s rector (three times between 1879 and 1888). He donated his valuable library (2,000 volumes) to the Shevchenko Scientific Society and bequeathed 50,000 Austrian crowns for the benefit of Ukrainian education. Bohdan Maryniak was professor of machine building (1876–1912) and the school’s rector in 1886–7. Ostap Voloshchak was a botanist and an expert on the flora of the Carpathian Mountains, who headed the department of zoology, botany, and merchandising (1891–1908). He donated part of his herbarium to the Shevchenko Scientific Society. Roman Zalozetsky-Sas was the most prominent Ukrainian chemical engineer and the co-founder of the Ukrainian Technical Society. At the school, he taught chemical technology and petroleum technology (from 1894 as docent, after 1905 as extraordinary professor), while also heading its experimental station of petroleum industry (1891–1916). Also, architect Ivan Levynsky led the department of applied civil engineering (1902–18) and later served as a dean of the faculty of architecture (1911–4). In his designs and writings, he conceptualized the idea of a Ukrainian national architectural style.
After the outbreak of the Frirst World War, the school was closed for one year, during which the main building housed a military hospital. The school partly reopened in 1915–6. During the Ukrainian-Polish War in Galicia, 1918–19, many students and faculty members fought on the Polish side. Meanwhile, at least two dozen Ukrainian students from the Osnova society and 129 engineers (most of them the school’s graduates) fought during the war and the Polish-Ukrainian war as members of the Ukrainian Sich Riflemen units and the Ukrainian Galician Army. Several Osnova members perished on the battlefields of Ukraine’s struggle for independence (1917–20). The teaching was fully renewed in 1918–9, and the enrollment reached 989. In 1919 the Dubliany Agricultural Academy (est 1891) and the Lviv School of Forestry (est 1874) were incorporated into the school’s Department of Agriculture and Forestry. In 1921 the school was officially renamed as Lviv Polytechnic (Politechnika Lwowska in Polish) with 6 faculties: communications (from 1926, overland- and hydro-engineering); architecture; chemistry; mechanics; agriculture and forestry; and general (for the training of science teachers for secondary schools). In 1921–5 the Lviv (Underground) Ukrainian Higher Polytechnical School was run by Ukrainians to counter the discriminatory, anti-Ukrainian educational policies of the Polish authorities. Initially, it had three faculties: machines, general engineering, and forestry. The enrollment reached 156 in 1922–3. It received financial aid from Metropolitan Andrei Sheptytsky and was located on the territory of Saint George's Cathedral.
After 1925 Ukrainian students started to return to Lviv Polytechnic. In contrast to other higher educational institutions of interwar Poland, the polytechnic was more ethnically diverse. Nonetheless, the relations between Ukrainian and Jewish students on the one hand and Polish students on the other hand, were tense, especially at the height of the Pacification policy in 1930. Eventually, after 1932, the numerus clausus (quota system) and the so-called “bench ghetto” for the Jewish students were introduced (although not fully enforced), and protests organized by Ukrainian and Jewish students as well as Polish leftist student groups were violently suppressed. The Ukrainian students (if all Greek Catholics and Orthodox are included) formed a larger group in the interwar period than anytime before, especially after the closure of the Lviv (Underground) Ukrainian Higher Polytechnical School in 1925. Their highest share was 14 percent in 1928–9. Their absolute numbers were growing steadily throughout the 1920s: from just 50 in 1920–1 to 367 in 1929–30 to 431 in 1931–2 (although thereafter the numbers declined). Among these students were some Ukrainian nationalist activists, including Stepan Bandera (1928–34, not graduated) and Roman Shukhevych (graduated in 1934). Many Ukrainians, including Bandera, were members of the student club Osnova (est. 1897, legalized in 1926–9).
Poland’s interwar government invested heavily in its leading technical school, and so several cutting-edge facilities were constructed, including the laboratory building of the Faculty of Mechanics (1927), aerodynamic laboratory (1930), scientific library (1934)—the largest technical library in interwar Poland—and aircraft engines laboratory (1838–9). The enrollment grew from 989 in 1918–9 to 2,660 in 1929–30 to 3,606 in 1938–9. There was a small but growing presence of female students (170 in 1938–9). Between 1918 and 1939 Lviv Polytechnic trained 4,572 graduates (compared to 2,013 graduates between 1877 and 1918). In 1939, following the Soviet invasion of Western Ukraine, the school was renamed Lviv Polytechnical Institute (LPI) and brought in line with the Soviet higher education system. It had 6 faculties: energy and machine-building; electrotechnical; chemical engineering; architecture and civil engineering; roads and waterways; and agriculture. The faculty of forestry was added in 1940. LPI’s new director, Maksym Sadovsky, a Soviet technical manager without higher education, was sent from Kyiv. The enrollment was 2,058 in 1939–40, of whom Jews comprised 56.7 percent, Poles 26.6 percent, and Ukrainians 16.7 percent (for comparison, the shares of Poles, Jews, and Ukrainians at Lviv University at that time were 22.4 percent, 44.2 percent, and 33.4 percent respectively). With the German invasion of Lviv in June 1941 LPI was closed down. In July 1941 eight Polish professors, including a former rector—world-famous mathematician and interwar Polish statesman Kazimierz Bartel—were executed by the Nazis. Under Nazi occupation, the polytechnic functioned in 1942–4 under the name of “technical professional courses” (Technische Fachkurse in German), in which many prewar faculty members continued to teach.
With the Soviet takeover of the city in 1944, LPI was reopened, while all but nine Polish faculty members left Western Ukraine for Poland. Instead, more than a hundred academics from other parts of the USSR (mostly from central and eastern Ukrainian SSR and from the RSFSR) were transferred to LPI, including geophysicist Volodymyr Selsky, mathematician Hurii Savin, and radio engineer Aleksandr Kharkevich—all three full members of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian SSR or the USSR Academy of Sciences. The enrollment was 1,013 in 1944–5. In the first two postwar decades several faculties were reorganized and a number of new faculties were opened: petroleum (1944), food (1944), geodesy (1945), evening education (1950), cement technology (1950–1), radio technology (1952), automatics, energetics, electro-mechanics, mechanics and technology, and mechanics and machine-building (all in 1962), engineering and economy (1965), and thermal technology (1971). By the early 1970s LPI had 12 faculties. During the 1960s and 1970s, under the tenures of rectors Hryhorii Denysenko (1963–71) and Mykhailo Havryliuk (1971–91), a number of educational and research facilities were constructed, including the problematic chemistry building (1962), a study building No. 1 with an assembly hall for 1,000 people (1965), and a main dining hall (1975). As most other polytechnical institutes in the Ukrainian SSR, LPI opened its own branches or satellite campuses: in Drohobych (1959), Ternopil (1960), Ivano-Frankivsk (1960), and Lutsk (1971). Later these branches became separate higher schools. With the strengthening of the ties between LPI and the industrial sector, which reflected a general trend in Soviet technical education in the 1980s, more than 60 percent of student diploma projects were commissioned by individual industrial enterprises, with almost half of those projects set to be implemented. In 1985 LPI had the second largest enrollment (27,000) of all polytechnical institutes in Ukraine, behind only Kyiv Polytechnical Institute that had more than 31,000 students.
The late 1980s saw a growing demand for academic freedom and autonomy at LPI, with the result that the election of school administration was gradually introduced. LPI also became one of the main centers of Ukrainian national-democratic movement during the perestroika period, and the chapter of the Popular Movement of Ukraine (Rukh) was set up in the school in spring 1989. In 1991, for the first time in half a century, LPI rector was democratically elected by an academic community. Since 1991 the Ukrainian language has been the sole language of instruction. In 1993 LPI was reorganized into a university under the name of Lviv Polytechnic State University and in 2000 was granted the national university status and assumed its present name.
After 1991 several new academic units were created at the university, including the center for information technology; the humanities institute (with the chairs of the history of Ukraine, science, and engineering; philosophy and cultural studies; sociology and political science; the Ukrainian language; and foreign languages) (1992); faculty of computer engineering and information technology (1992), and faculty of applied mathematics (1993). New areas of study and majors were added: telecommunications, economics, philology, pharmacology, biotechnology, arts, culture, sociology, publishing, and applied physics. The amount of funding coming from international contracts and grants expanded from just US$3,600 in 1993 to US$253,700 in 1997. One of the largest collaborative programs was the one between Lviv Polytechnic and the University of Manitoba (Canada) titled ‘Reforming Social Services’ (with the amount of funding around US$1.5 million). It lasted from 1999 to 2004 and helped train specialists in social work for the region of western Ukraine, as well as expand regional infrastructure in medicine, education, and social services. The biggest internal transformation at the polytechnic occurred in 2001, when 16 existing faculties were transformed into 12 vertically integrated institutes that combined educational and research functions. Each institute united departments that trained undergraduate and graduate students in related areas of study and majors, thus strengthening inter-departmental ties, improving fiscal efficiency, and fostering collaboration between scholars.
Today the university has eighteen research and educational institutes including architecture and design; civil engineering and building systems; geodesics; computer science and information technologies; mechanical engineering and transport; applied mathematics and fundamental sciences; power engineering and control systems; chemistry and chemical technologies; the humanities and social sciences; distance education, and others. Its library had approximately 2 million volumes. The university’s main building was designed (1873–7) by Julian Zachariewicz. The university also operates ten colleges, a Tech StartUp School, Tech Business School, SID CITY science park, an astronomical observatory, and geodetic landfill.
Lviv Polytechnic remains the second largest technical university in Ukraine (after Kyiv Polytechnical Institute National Technical University of Ukraine). As of 2021 the enrollment is 25,500. As a leading research-intensive technical university, Lviv Polytechnic is consistently ranked among the country’s best institutions of higher learning. For instance, it was placed sixth in the 2021 Consolidated Ranking of all Ukrainian institutions of higher learning (more than 240 featured) according to the influential educational web portal Osvita.ua. It was also ranked the second best technical university in Ukraine and the second best higher school in western Ukraine. Lviv Polytechnic has also been featured in major international academic rankings. For instance, Times Higher Education Ranking in 2022 placed Lviv Polytechnic in the group of 601–800, while QS World University Rankings in 2020 listed it in the group of 751–800. Many noted scientists have worked at Lviv Polytechnic at different times of its history, including Oleksander Andriievsky, Witold Aulich, Stefan Banach, Gustaw Bisanz, Stanisław Fryze, Tykhon Hubenko, Konstantin Karandeev, Adam Kuryłło, Markiian Medvid, Gabriel Sokolnicki, Maksymilian Thullie, Yurii Velychko, Ihor Vyshenchuk, and Kasper Wajgel. The university publishes a newspaper Audutoriia (formerly Lvivs'kyi politekhnik) and more then two dozen scientific journals, including Arkhitekturni studiї (7 vols, 2015–); Theory and Building Practice (4 vols, 2019–); Heodynamika/Geodynamics (31 vols, 1995–); Humanitarni viziї/Humanitarian Vision (8 vols, 2015–); Computational Problems of Electrical Engineering (11 vols, 2011–); Enerhetyka ta systemy keruvannia (7 vols, 2015–; formerly known as Teploenerhetyka. Inzheneriia dovkillia. Avtomatyzatsiia, 1964–2014); Elektroenerhetychni ta eletromekhanichni systemy (3 vols, 2019–); Ukrainian Journal of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science (8 vols, 2015–); Visnyk natsional'noho universytetu ‘L'vivs'ka politekhnika’ Informatsiini systemy ta merezhi (1997–); Ukraїns'kyi zhurnal informatsiinykh tekhnolohii (3 vols, 2018–); and Economics, Entrepreneurship, Management (8 vols, 2014–).
Popławski, Zbysław. Dzieje Politechniki Lwowskiej 1844–1945 (Wrocław and Cracow 1992)
Natsional'nyi universytet ‘L'vivs'ka politekhnika’ (Lviv 2004)
Natsional'nyi universytet ‘L'vivs'ka politekhnika’: Istoriia ta suchasnist' (Kyiv 2009)
Ditchen, Henryk. Die Politechnika Lwowska in Lemberg: Geschichte einer Technischen Hochschule im multinationalen Umfeld (Stuttgart 2015)
Vid Real'noї shkoly do L'vivs'koї politekhniky: narysy z istoriї L'vivs'koї politekhniky (1816–1918) (Lviv 2016)
Lviv Polytechnic’s official website: https://lpnu.ua/
[This article was updated in 2022.]