University (університет; universytet). An institution of higher learning offering programs of study in all of the major academic disciplines, with the right to confer undergraduate, professional, and graduate degrees.

Proto-universities in Ukraine. The history of universities in Ukraine can be traced back to the confessional colleges run by Catholic orders, which served as models for similar Orthodox and Uniate schools (see Higher education). Their curriculum consisted of three lower grades (infima, grammar, and syntax) and two intermediate grades (poetics and rhetoric) and required six years to complete, which was a norm for the institutions of secondary education. Only a few such schools, almost all of them established by the Jesuits, offered courses of the higher grades (philosophy, requiring three years, and theology, requiring four years). On the territory of present-day Ukraine such colleges were opened in Lviv (1608), Ostroh (1624, added philosophy in 1636), and Kamianets-Podilskyi (1611, added philosophy at the end of the 17th century). Those Ukrainians who wanted to receive a full higher education) could do so in several Jesuit-run academies: in Lviv (1661–1773), Vilnius, Zamość (see Zamostia Academy), or Cracow. It has often been assumed that the Ostroh Academy (est ca 1580 by the Orthodox Prince Kostiantyn Vasyl Ostrozky) was the first proto-university in Ukraine, but in actuality it did not offer a higher education) curriculum.

The Kyivan Mohyla College (est. 1632) can be considered the first proto-university in Ukraine, although initially it provided only a partial higher education. The courses in philosophy and theology became a permanent part of the curriculum only in the 1680. In 1701 Kyivan Mohyla College was recognized officially by tsar Peter I as an academy (see Kyivan Mohyla Academy). Its highest grades consisted of a three-year philosophy program (including logic, physics, and metaphysics), followed by four years of theology. As the surviving philosophy manuals show, the instructors taught mainly the Aristotlean philosophy through the prism of Aristotle’s medieval interpreters, supplemented with the teachings of the Church Fathers (eg, Saint Augustine), medieval philosophers (eg, Saint Thomas Aquinas), humanists (Erasmus of Rotterdam), and early modern theologians (Protestant and Catholic). From the middle of the 18th century the academy adopted C. Wolff’s philosophy, one of the most important achievements of the German Enlightenment. The academy’s golden age was in the late 17th and the early 18th centuries, under the tenures of Hetman Ivan Samoilovych (1672–87) and Hetman Ivan Mazepa (1687–1709), who generously supported the school. Its enrollment reached all-time high of 2,000 in the early 1700s. After the period of a relative decay following Ivan Mazepa’s defeat at the Battle of Poltava in 1709, the school was revived under Metropolitan Rafail Zaborovsky (1731–42). Its curriculum added new courses in modern languages, history, mathematics, medicine, and geography, and its enrollment grew steadily from 490 in 1738–9 to 1,110 in 1744–5. Its graduates, particularly the sons of wealthy Cossack starshyna families, were encouraged to complete their education abroad, in leading European universities (such as Leipzig, Glasgow, or Konigsberg). The academy continued to educate the civil and clerical elites of the Hetman state and the Russian Empire (according to some estimates, up to fifty percent of Russia’s entire intellectual class active in Saint Petersburg and Moscow in the mid-18th century consisted of Ukrainians, most of whom had studied at the Kyivan Mohyla Academy). Its most prominent teachers included, at various times, Lazar Baranovych, Ioan Maksymovych, Dymytrii Tuptalo, Stefan Yavorsky, and Teofan Prokopovych. The academy’s final decline was the result of Catherine II’s abolition of the Hetman state in 1764 and secularization of the monasteries in 1786, a policy that deprived the school of its chief financial resources. By the end of the 18th century the Kyivan Mohyla Academy was reduced to the level of a provincial seminary, and most of its students were the aspiring priests (1,069 of its 1,198 students in 1811). The academy was closed down by the Russian church authorities in 1817 and two years later was reorganized as the Kyiv Theological Academy.

Universities in the Ukrainian lands in the Habsburg Empire. The first university in Ukraine was founded in 1784 by the Habsburg emperor Joseph II in Lviv, on the basis of the Jesuit Academy (1661–73). It consisted of four faculties: philosophy, law, medicine, and theology. The language of instruction was Latin, but literary Ruthenian was used in the Studium Ruthenum (1787–1806), the two-year courses that trained candidates for Uniate priesthood. In 1805 the university was transformed into a lyceum, in line with the reform of higher education in Austria, but the university curriculum and four faculties remained intact. In 1817 the university status was restored, the institution was renamed in honor of Emperor Francis I, and German became the language of instruction. The full university course lasted three years in the faculty of philosophy and four years in one of the ‘higher’ faculties (law, medicine, or theology). The predominantly Polish university students took an active part in the Revolution of 1848–9 in the Habsburg monarchy. As a result, the university was bombarded heavily by the governmental troops, which damaged the university building and destroyed most of its library. At the same time, the Ruthenians (as the Ukrainians were referred to at that time), who remained largely loyal to the Austrian authorities, won some important concessions in university education: a Ruthenian chair in the faculty of theology (1848) and the first chair of Ruthenian Language and Literature (1849), followed by two Ruthenian chairs in the law faculty in 1862. After Galicia gradually acquired autonomy during 1861–7, Lviv University was Polonized, as Polish first became the language of university’s internal administration (1871) and then the main language of instruction (1879). If in 1870 only 13 courses were taught in Polish (46 in German, 13 in Latin, and 7 in Ruthenian), in 1906 the vast majority of courses were taught in Polish (185), followed by Ruthenian/Ukrainian (19), Latin (14), and German (5). A few more Ruthenian (Ukrainian) chairs were established in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, most notably the Second Chair of Universal History, with special reference to the History of Eastern Europe (in 1894) held by Mykhailo Hrushevsky.

In spite of persistent demands voiced by the Ukrainians, Lviv University was never divided into two separate, Polish and Ukrainian, campuses. At the same time, the campaign advocating the establishment of a separate Ukrainian university was met with increasing violence on the part of the Polish students. It was only in 1912 that the Austrian authorities promised to establish a Ukrainian university in Lviv, but this plan was abandoned due to the outbreak of the First World War. Greek Catholic Ukrainians formed a minority of students at Lviv University, rarely exceeding 30 percent of the total number of students (29 percent in 1900; 20 percent in 1906–7). Most of them studied theology. Nonetheless, among the students and graduates were a number of prominent Ukrainians, including Ivan Franko, Mykhailo Pavlyk, Osyp Makovei, Stepan Rudnytsky, Volodymyr Hnatiuk, and Bohdan Ihor Antonych. Until the late 1890s women were only allowed to audit courses, but later could become students in the faculty of philosophy (in 1897) and in the faculty of medicine (in 1900). The enrollment grew from 699 in 1851 to 1,255 in 1890–1 to 5,871 in 1913–4.

Another university in Austrian-ruled Ukraine was opened in Chernivtsi in 1875, succeeding the Chernivtsi Higher Theological School, which had existed since 1827. Known until 1918 as Franz-Josefs Universität, it was the easternmost German-language university in Europe. It had three faculties: Orthodox theology, law, and philosophy. Since its opening, the university had the department of Ukrainian language and literature that belonged to the faculty of philosophy and was chaired by Klymentii Hankevych and Omelian Kaluzhniatsky (1875–6), Hnat Onyshkevych (1877–82), and Stepan Smal-Stotsky (1885–1918). The university attracted not only Ukrainians from Bukovyna, but also from Galicia, such as Ivan Franko, who finished his university degree here. Other Galician Ukrainians included Volodymyr Mylkovych, a professor of East European history at the university (1895–1919) and Oleksander Kolessa, who received a doctorate in the Ukrainian language. Several Ukrainians from Bukovyna and Galicia served as university rectors: Kostiantyn Tomashchuk (1875–6), Omelian Kaluzhniatsky (1889–90), and Yevhen Kozak (1907–8). As at Lviv University, Ukrainian students at Chernivtsi University constituted a minority, on the average about 20–25 percent of the total number of students enrolled (41 out of a total of 208 in 1875, and 303 out of a total of 1,198 in 1914). The majority of students were Jewish or German.

While most upwardly mobile Western Ukrainians studied at Lviv University and Chernivtsi University, some attended other Austrian and Hungarian universities, mainly in Vienna, Prague, and Budapest (especially the students from Transcarpathia). In 1901, there was a mass secession of Ukrainian students from Lviv University, when 600 of them left the university in protest against what they perceived as a violation of their national rights. Most of them continued their studies at other postsecondary schools of the Habsburg Empire.

Universities in the Ukrainian lands in the Russian Empire.
Russian imperial policies regarding university education. Prior to the Revolution of 1917 there were three universities in Russian-ruled Ukraine: Kharkiv University (est 1805), Kyiv University (est 1834), and New Russia University in Odesa (est 1865), which emerged in different political epochs, during the reigns of three different rulers, and were administered according to four general university statutes (1804, 1835, 1863, and 1884). Although all three universities were imperial institutions, their funding came not only from the central government, but also from local taxes, donations, and endowments. They were secular institutions, in theory open to all talented students. In practice, however, there existed limitations on the admission of students and employment of faculty from different religious and social groups. For instance, in the 1860s–1880s quotas were introduced on the number of Roman Catholic Poles and Jews permitted to study in Ukraine’s universities (the Polish quotas were imposed in 1863, followed by the Jewish quotas in 1887 which existed, with slight changes, until 1917). There were also social barriers affecting large groups of Ukrainian population: peasants, burghers, and Cossacks could not enter universities as full-time students without obtaining a ‘leave pass’ from their communities. As a result, children of nobles and state officials comprised either the majority or plurality of all students. Also, academic freedom and freedom of expression were always precarious, as both students and faculty faced expulsion for their noncompliant behavior and political views that contradicted the rigid imperial ideology. These policies, as well as their enforcement, differed from one tsar’s reign to another, and from one university statute to the next.

The statute of 1804, for instance, was a product of rational Enlightenment and neoclassical humanism; these principles stood behind the opening of Kharkiv University. By contrast, the statute of 1835 strengthened the power of central bureaucracy, a new trend that was especially pronounced in the newly founded Kyiv University. That university also reflected another key element of the new policy: making sure that nobles outnumbered the ‘plebeian’ classes in university halls. A high tuition fee served as an additional barrier for most non-nobles. Even more damaging to the university education were reactionary policies prevalent on the eve of the revolutionary unrest in Central and Western Europe in 1848. The most illiberal principles of the university statute of 1835 were rigidly enforced and new draconian measures were introduced: the rector and deans were appointed by the minister of education and approved by the tsar; lectures had to follow a prescribed program and were monitored by the rector; the teaching of philosophy was abolished; foreign scholars were denied teaching positions and Russian scholars were barred from studying abroad; and the student fees were doubled, while faculty salaries were frozen. As a result, many chairs remained vacant for years, and many professors needed outside income. The situation changed radically at the end of the 1850s when the new tsar, Alexander II, launched the so-called Great Reforms. One of them concerned higher education, and the new university statute, which was enacted in 1863, safeguarded university autonomy by restoring the election of rectors and professors, reducing administrative surveillance, and lifting censorship. During this period New Russia University in Odesa was established; it was formed in 1865 out of the Richelieu Lyceum. However, following the assassination of Tsar Alexander II, a new statute adopted in 1884 reinstated many reactionary policies typical of a pre-reform higher education, while revoking most of the concessions given to universities by the previous statute. Specifically, rectors, deans, and professors were once again appointed by the minister of education; state funds for universities were reduced; student fees were raised; and student organizations and meetings were banned. Such a dire academic situation began to change only in the wake of the Revolution of 1905, although no new university statute was signed into law. Furthermore, after 1907 reactionary forces increased their power over universities. It was not until the collapse of tsarist regime after the February Revolution of 1917 that the university system in Ukraine experienced a radical change.

Universities in Russian-ruled Ukraine. The first proposals to establish a university in Russian-ruled Ukraine began to appear in the 1760s. These proposals included an attempt by Hetman Kyrylo Rozumovsky in 1760 to establish a university in his capital, the town of Baturyn; the demands of Ukrainian deputies to the Legislative Commission of 1767–9 to open a university in Kyiv or Pereiaslav; the fundraising efforts of the nobilities of the Chernihiv region and Sumy region to found universities in their respective capitals; and Prince Grigorii Potemkin’s plan to open a university in Katerynoslav. All of these proposals fell through due to the lack of adequate financial resources and the reluctance of the central government to commit itself to such a costly undertaking.

It was only in 1805 that Vasyl Karazyn, an enlightened landowner from Slobidska Ukraine, benefitted from the generosity of the local society and the goodwill of highest ranking officials in Saint Petersburg and laid the foundations for the university in Kharkiv. Kharkiv University came to reflect the spirit of cosmopolitan Enlightenment and neoclassical humanism, but was also a result of liberal policies of Tsar Alexander I, which led to the opening of several other provincial universities and a number of secondary schools across the Russian Empire. During the first decade of its existence, the new university in Kharkiv enjoyed a broad autonomy, thanks to its liberal statute championed by the Polish aristocrat Count Seweryn Potocki. Potocki was appointed curator of the university and the university supervised the entire educational system in Slobidska Ukraine and the adjacent Russian territories until 1832. The university’s highest governing body was Professorial Council, which elected the rector and all of the professors. The majority of the university’s early faculty members were foreigners, mostly Germans and Frenchmen, including philosopher Johann Baptist Schad and historian D. C. von Rommel. In the 1820s through the 1840s Kharkiv and its university were home to the Kharkiv Romantic School that shaped the Ukrainian national revival of the 19th century. Kharkiv University’s faculty members actively participated in the publication of the first periodicals in Ukraine, including Ukrainskii vestnik (Kharkiv) (1816–9) and Ukrainskii zhurnal (1824–5), which combined European neoclassical ideas with the interest in Ukrainian culture and history. The university’s autonomy was notably curtailed in 1835, with the promulgation of the new statute that increased the subordination of the university to the authorities by strengthening the powers of a government-appointed curator. All publications and lectures were subjected to strict censorship in 1848. These measures were gradually lifted with the adoption of the new university statute of 1863 that restored the powers of the Professorial Council and increased funds for university museums, libraries, and research. In 1874 the university began to publish Zapiski Imperatorskogo Khar’kovskogo universiteta. In spite of a growing political reaction following the assassination of Tsar Alexander II in 1881, the university managed to retain its academic strengths. The Kharkiv Historical-Philological Society (est 1876) continued to promote the studies of Ukrainian history and culture, and several faculty members and many students were engaged in civic institutions, such as Kharkiv Literacy Society, and clandestine hromadas. In the wake of the Revolution of 1905 the university became a leading liberal institution in the empire, and the Professorial Council even demanded that government lifted restrictions on the use of the Ukrainian language. Kharkiv University became the first institution of higher learning in the Russian Empire to offer a few Ukrainian-language courses: a history of Ukraine taught by Dmytro Bahalii (university’s rector in 1906–10); a history of Ukrainian literature taught by Mykola Sumtsov; and the history of the Ukrainian language taught by Mykhailo Khalansky. As a sign of new academic freedom, the university conferred honorary doctorates on Mykhailo Hrushevsky and Ivan Franko in 1905, and on Aleksandra Yefymenko in 1910 who thus became the first woman in eastern and central Europe to have been awarded a doctorate in history. Student enrollment grew steadily from 1,500 in 1887 to 3,450 in 1907 (most students hailed from eastern Ukraine).

While Kharkiv University was established as a result of the civic engagement of the nobles and merchants of Slobidska Ukraine, Kyiv’s Saint Vladimir University was opened in 1834, during the reign of Tsar Nicholas I, as a result of the government’s action against the Polish national minority in Right-Bank Ukraine. The university was officially granted ‘primarily to the citizens of Kyiv gubernia, Volhynia gubernia, and Podilia gubernia’; that is, to the predominantly Polish-speaking and Catholic nobility of Right-Bank Ukraine. It also inherited a library, museum collections, endowments, and faculty of the former Polish Kremenets Lyceum,whose student body had taken part in the Polish Insurrection of 1830–1. The Polish national lyceum in many ways became a Russian imperial university, in which most of the professors were Poles, as well as most (34) of its 62 original students. In contrast to Kharkiv University, whose first statute reflected the liberal agenda of Tsar Alexander I’s early years, Kyiv Unversity’s autonomy was restricted from the very beginning (in its own two statutes of 1833 and 1842), as professors and faculty deans had to be approved by the minister of education, the elected rector had to be approved by the tsar, and the powers of an appointed curator of the school district over university affairs were considerably increased.

Although Kyiv University did foster the natural and exact sciences, which were often taught by foreigners (mostly Germans), it was also a leading ideological institution. As such it was entrusted with the promotion of the Russian cultural presence in Right-Bank Ukraine. As Russia’s Minister of Education Sergei Uvarov put it, a key political goal of Kyiv University was ‘to efface those characteristic features by which Polish youth differed from Russian [...], to bring them increasingly together with Russian ideas, and [...] to imbue them with the common spirit of the Russian people.’ An immediate consequence of these cultural politics was an emphasis on the Russian and Orthodox history of Kyiv and the surrounding area. In spite of the continuous Russian efforts to curb the Poles’ social dominance in the city and in Right-Bank Ukraine, the Polish-speaking Roman Catholics formed a majority of the student body until the early 1860s and thereafter comprised up to one-third of all students. The next largest group were Ukrainians from Left-Bank Ukraine. Most of the students belonged to aristocracy and nobility, which made Kyiv University one of the most socially exclusive institutions of higher learning in the Russian Empire.

The university reform of 1863 granted the universities greater control of their curriculum and research. Rectors, deans, and professors were again elected by the Professorial Councils. For the next two decades Kyiv University benefitted from the new liberal statute, which permitted it to establish new chairs and increase the faculty from 49 in 1863 to 66 in 1884. The lifting of censorship led to the increase in the number of works published by Kyiv academics, including the publication of the official monthly Universitetskie izvestiia (1861–1919).

From the time of its inception, Kyiv University was widely perceived as a major center of Polish national movement in the Russian Empire, which culminated in the Polish Insurrection of 1863–4. This in turn led to the expulsion of a number of Polish students from the university. At the same time, the university was home to a growing number of students and faculty members engaged in the Ukrainian national movement and cultural revival, including the clandestine Cyril and Methodius Brotherhood (1845–7), the hromada movement of the 1860s through the 1880s (see Hromada of Kyiv), and the student campaign in the wake of the Revolution of 1905 to open four chairs at Kyiv University with Ukrainian as the language of instruction. Known for its conservative professors, Kyiv University, in contrast to the more liberal faculty of Kharkiv University, forbade its pro-Ukrainian faculty members, such as Andrii Loboda, Hryhorii Pavlutsky, and Volodymyr Peretts, to deliver their lectures in Ukrainian in 1906 and 1907. It was not until 1917 that a limited use of the Ukrainian language at Kyiv University was permitted. In spite of the well-entrenched presence of professors hostile to the Ukrainian national revival at the university, its faculty included a number of prominent Ukrainian scholars and civic activists, including Mykhailo Maksymovych (its first rector in 1834–5), Mykola Kostomarov, Mykhailo Drahomanov, Volodymyr Antonovych, Oleksander Kistiakovsky, Ivan Luchytsky, and Volodymyr Peretts. Enrollment grew steadily from 1,700 in 1883 to 2,313 in 1895 to 5,107 in 1910. The student body consisted mostly of Ukrainians and Russians, followed by Poles and Jews (the latter were especially numerous in the faculty of medicine).

New Russia University in Odesa became the third, and last university to be established in Russian-ruled Ukraine before the Revolution of 1917. Opened in 1865 on the basis of the Richelieu Lyceum, it benefitted from the relatively liberal atmosphere of the 1860s. The university’s founding father was the noted liberal, world-renowned surgeon, and the head of the Odesa school district Nikolai Pirogov. Countering the opposition from government conservatives who saw Odesa as a hotbed of political unrest, Pirogov, backed by the local nobility and merchants, convinced Tsar Alexander II to grant the Richelieu Lyceum university status on 10 June 1862. Reflecting the cosmopolitan demographics of Odesa, the university students came from diverse social and ethnic backgrounds (Jews, for instance, made up 16.5 percent of all students in 1881, comprising an even higher share in the faculty of law, close to 41 percent). As in other imperial universities of the period, all instruction was in Russian, although Oleksander Hrushevsky in 1907 taught a Ukrainian history course in Ukrainian (supported by the dean but opposed by the majority of the faculty). One of the leading centers of natural sciences in the Russian Empire, New Russia University employed a number of prominent scholars, such as zoologist Illia Mechnikov, biologist Aleksandr Kovalevsky, microbiologist Danylo Zabolotny (president of the All-Ukrainian Academy of Scienced [VUAN] in 1928–9), and pathophysiologist Oleksander Bohomolets (president of the VUAN in 1930–46). The enrollment grew from 506 in 1894 to 3,288 in 1908.

Until the expansion of higher education through the introduction of commercial and technical institutes in the late 19th century, Kharkiv University, Kyiv’s Saint Vladimir University, and New Russia University represented virtually the entire higher learning in Russian-ruled Ukraine. The sciences and the humanities were also almost entirely concentrated in and around these three universities. In addition to university-run museums, astronomical observatories, botanical gardens, anatomical theaters, and laboratories, each of the three universities was affiliated with a number of learned societies that promoted research in a particular school, its host city, and/or the surrounding region. For example, Kharkiv University was affiliated with the Kharkiv Society of Naturalists (est 1869), the Kharkiv Historical-Philological Society (est 1876), and the Kharkiv Mathematics Society (est 1879). Kyiv University hosted a number of learned societies, including the Kyiv Society of Naturalists (est 1869), the Historical Society of Nestor the Chronicler (est 1873), the Kyiv Juridical Society (est 1877), the Kyiv Midwifery and Gynecology Society (est 1885), the Kyiv Physics and Mathematics Society (est 1890), the Kyiv Physico-Medical Society (est 1896), and the Kyiv Physics and Chemistry Society (est 1910). Likewise, the academics from New Russia University in Odesa organized the New Russia Society of Natural Scientists (est 1870), the Juridical Society (1879-1884), the Historical-Philological Society (est 1889), and the Odesa Bibliographic Society (initially Circle, est 1906). Members of these societies, among other activities, were actively engaged in the organization in their universities of all-imperial and international scientific congresses: archeological, natural scientific, statistical, agricultural, and others. Aside from publishing works by individual scholars, the university presses also published official periodicals: Universitetskie izvestiia at Kyiv University (1861–1919); Zapiski Imperatorskogo Novorossiiskogo universiteta at New Russia University (1867–1919); and Zapiski Imperatorskogo Khar’kovskogo universiteta at Kharkiv University (1874–84; 1893–1917).

Comparison between universities in Russian-ruled Ukraine and Austrian-ruled Ukraine. Compared to the universities in Galicia and Bukovyna, the universities in Russian-ruled Ukraine were more rigidly controlled by the government, less accessible to national minorities, and more reluctant to institutionalize the Ukrainian studies. Another difference pertained to the hiring of faculty. In the Habsburg Empire universities filled positions through public competitions, whereas in Russia, the general university statute of 1884 allowed the government to appoint faculty. In both empires, however, it was a common practice that the government or the emperor confirmed candidates chosen for academic positions. One of the most significant perks of an academic career in Russia was that a senior professor could attain the rank of the active state councilor in the imperial Table of Ranks, a civil service rank that was equivalent to that of a general and entailed hereditary nobility. The junior faculty with doctoral or master’s degrees were accorded the status of personal nobility. Other privileges of an academic career included orders, gifts from the royal family, advancements in rank, foreign research trips, paid sick leaves, old-age pensions, and stipends for professors’ children. The university careers in Russia attracted many educated non-nobles, primarily the sons of priests, teachers, civil servants, and burghers, but nobles by birth (many of them the sons of academics) comprised the single largest group of faculty members. For instance, between 1865 and 1919, out of 338 faculty members of New Russia University with known social backgrounds, nobles made up 34.6 percent, followed by burghers with 20.4 percent and the priests’ sons with 19 percent. In Kyiv University and Kharkiv University sons of hereditary and personal nobles comprised an even higher proportion (between 40 and 50 percent). The material status of the faculty varied greatly: from an upper-middle class life enjoyed by professors (with annual salaries of 3,000 roubles in the case of Russia) to a much more modest lifestyle of lecturers, adjuncts, and docents (with salaries not exceeding 1,200 roubles). In Russian universities academic positions could be ranked from the lowest to the highest as follows: adjunct (until 1863), docent (since 1884 replaced by privat docent), extraordinary professor, ordinary professor, and distinguished professor. A doctoral degree was a requirement for a professorial position (although a master’s degree was made sufficient for an extraordinary professor in the late 19th century). A doctoral degree did not guarantee the advancement from the lower to the higher position, and often academics, especially those deemed politically unreliable, lingered for years in the precarious position of privat docent (visiting or untenured instructor). In the early 20th century the share of the untenured and part-time instructors grew to almost half of all faculty members. The faculty members of the three universities in Russian-ruled Ukraine continuously made up around one-third of Russia’s all university-employed academics. In the Ukrainian lands in both empires the faculties were multiethnic. Russians, Germans, Poles, and Ukrainians comprised the largest ethnic groups among academics in Russian-ruled Ukraine. Poles, Jews, Germans, and Ukrainians dominated the universities in Austrian-ruled Ukraine. Ukrainians were much more numerous among the faculty in Russian-ruled Ukraine, but most of them self-identified as Russians or adhered to the dual Russian-Ukrainian identity.

Just like faculty, students were diverse in ethnic and social terms. In 1913–4, there were more than 7,000 students at Lviv University and Chernivtsi University and around 10,000 university students in Russian-ruled Ukraine where they made up one-third of all postsecondary students. These were minuscule numbers compared to the hundreds of thousands of youth who remained outside of the system of basic education in both parts of Ukraine. While no statistics on students’ ethnicity was collected in Russia, the students’ religious affiliation was always mentioned. The sources show that in the second half of the 19th century the Orthodox formed large majorities among students of all three universities in Russian-ruled Ukraine: 65.9 percent at Kyiv University, 86.6 percent at Kharkiv University, and 82.1 percent at New Russia University. Among the largest minorities were Jews and Catholics (presumed to be chiefly Poles). Even without the benefit of reliable ethnic data, it is almost certain that Ukrainians (also known as Ruthenians in Austria and Little Russians in Russia) were greatly underrepresented among students in both Austrian-ruled Ukraine and Russian-ruled Ukraine. Their share was the highest at Lviv University (29 percent in 1900) and the lowest at New Russia University. By some estimates, in the early 20th century Ukrainians comprised around 20 percent of university students in Russian-ruled Ukraine, but that proportion decreased significantly (to 11 percent in Kyiv around 1917) if all postsecondary students were included, among them students of technical and commercial institutes. It is very likely, however, that the proportion of Ukrainians among students was considerably higher due to the fact that Ukrainians were classified as Russians in most of the official statistics and many of them indeed self-identified as Russians. Most students came from the territory of present-day Ukraine.

In order to ensure the numerical prevalence of Orthodox ‘Russians’ over national minorities, the government introduced quotas on Poles and Jews (in 1863 and 1887 respectively). Before the quotas Poles, for instance, formed the majority among the students of Kyiv University, but after 1863 their share could not exceed 20 percent. In 1880 they comprised 16.8 percent of students at Kyiv, 4.3 percent at New Russia University, and merely 2.1 percent at Kharkiv University. The same year Jewish students in these universities made up 15.2 percent, 11.9 percent, and 5.2 percent respectively. With the introduction of Jewish quotas in 1887 (10 percent within the Pale of Settlement) the numbers of Jews in the three universities dropped significantly. For Kharkiv University, which was situated beyond the Pale, the quota was set at 5 percent. After the wave of student unrest in 1890–1901, the Jewish quotas were further reduced: to 7 percent at Kyiv University and 3 percent at Kharkiv University. To avoid quotas, minority students (mostly Jews, but also Poles) went to study outside of Ukraine, to Saint Petersburg and Moscow, and increasingly abroad. As a result, in 1902 more Jews studied abroad (2,200) than in Russia (1,757). In 1909 the Jewish quotas were increased: to 15 percent within the Pale and 10 percent outside of it. By 1915 Jews comprised 33 percent of students at New Russia University and 27 percent at Kharkiv University.

Despite the fact that the Russian system of higher education remained elitist in many ways, the student body of the three universities in Russian-ruled Ukraine was becoming increasingly diverse socially: between 1855 and 1878 a share of nobles among students decreased from 65.3 percent to 39.4 percent, a tendency that became even more pronounced by 1913, when children of burghers, artisans, and peasants came to comprise 38.8 percent of all students. What drove students from modest social backgrounds to university education was that it led to the careers in imperial civil service, a rank in the Table of Ranks, and a possibility of ennoblement. Most of the students were destitute (around 60–70 percent at Kyiv University and 80 percent at New Russia University), so that only a minority of them—30 to 35 percent—paid full tuition, with most expenses covered by the state (yet from the 1890s non-Orthodox students were disqualified from receiving material aid from the state). There was one particular aspect in which the universities in Russia and Austria were strikingly different: in Austrian universities students were free to create fraternities, national associations, and mutual-aid and athletic societies, while in Russian imperial universities students were banned from forming independent student organizations and from engaging in collective actions (except for a short period of liberalization in 1905–7). Consequently, the Ukrainian students from Western Ukraine participated regularly in congresses held legally in Lviv, as well as in international student assemblies taking place across Europe. This enabled a more efficient socialization of the future professional elites, while also contributing to the spread of national and social consciousness among the Ukrainian youth of the region. By contrast, a student life in Russia was much more restricted, which led to the expulsion of numerous students for breaking rigid rules, hindered the development of civil society, and pushed the more disaffected youth to radical politics, including terrorism.

Approximately one half of Ukraine’s population did not have access to university education until the early 20th century. Although some females in Russian-ruled Ukraine began to attend university lectures as auditors (with professors’ permissions) in the early 1860s, the university statute of 1863 saw to it that women were barred from entering universities as full-time students on the par with men. Instead, Ukrainian women from noble families went to study abroad, primarily to Switzerland. As described in Olena Pchilka’s proto-feminist novella ‘Tovaryshky’ (Girl-Friends, 1887), a growing group of enthusiastic young women from Ukraine studied medicine at Zurich University. For decades, a sole possibility for women in Russia to receive a university-level education were the Higher Courses for Women (opened in Kyiv in 1878). In the Austro-Hungarian Empire women were able to attend universities from 1900, and in the early 20th century they made up 10 percent of all university students in Western Ukraine. It was not until the Revolution of 1905 that women in Russia were officially allowed to attend universities as auditors. In 1906–7 there were already 450 female auditors at Kharkiv University, 130 at New Russia University, but only 51 at Kyiv University (infamous for its conservative faculty). Although in 1908 the tsarist government once again prohibited the admission of new female auditors, those attending universities in 1910 were allowed to pass state exams and obtain university diplomas. In 1911 the same rights were accorded the graduates of the Higher Courses for Women. In 1913–4 first females were permitted to teach as privat docents at New Russia University and Kyiv University (one of them taught medicine and another chemistry), followed by several female laboratory assistants, most of whom were employed in the Medicine Faculty. Among the first female instructors in the humanities was Natalia Polonska-Vasylenko who was appointed a privat docent of history at Kyiv University in 1916.

Universities during the Ukrainian Revolution. During Ukraine’s struggle for independence (1917–20) the dramatic changes in higher education were in full view in spite of political interference and inadequate funding. After the February Revolution of 1917, several new universities and ‘institutes’ appeared in Ukraine, among them the Ukrainian People’s University in Kyiv. Opened in October 1917 on the premises of Kyiv’s Saint Vladimir University, it consisted of three faculties: history and philology; natural sciences and mathematics; and law. The student enrollment was 1,370 and included both males and females. Some of them joined the Student Battalion of Sich Riflemen that participated in the Battle of Kruty. In 1918 the school was transformed by Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky’s decree into the Ukrainian State University of Kyiv, in which teaching was to be conducted in Ukrainian. The university added a faculty of medicine, and by 1920 the student enrollment increased to 1,600. Among its faculty was historian Oleksander Hrushevsky, jurist Bohdan Kistiakovsky, economist Mykhailo Tuhan-Baranovsky, and philologist Ivan Ohiienko. At the same time Kyiv Saint Vladimir University was preserved as a Russian institution due to the opposition of many of its faculty to the policy of Ukrainization. Only a limited use of the Ukrainian language was permitted in it in September 1917. At that time the Provisional Government approved its use as the language of instruction for four new chairs in Ukrainian studies: literature, language, history, and the history of Western Ruthenian law. Chairs of Ukrainian language, literature, the history of Ukraine, and legal history were also set up at Kharkiv University and New Russia University.

Under the Hetman government of Pavlo Skoropadsky two more universities were set up: in Katerynoslav (now Dnipro National University) and Kamianets-Podilskyi (Kamianets-Podilskyi Ukrainian State University). Opened in August 1918 as a private institution financed from the city budget and private donations, Katerynoslav University offered a comprehensive curriculum taught mainly in Russian, with only courses in Ukrainian studies taught in Ukrainian. Its student enrollment was among the highest in Ukraine at that time: 2,750. When the Bolsheviks took over the city in winter 1919, they changed the status of the university from a private to a state institution and in March 1919 the student enrollment increased to 4,100. Kamianets-Podilskyi Ukrainian State University was chartered by Hetman Skoropadsky in October 1918. Even though the university was initiated by the local Ukrainian intelligentsia, its autonomy was limited, as its rector, deans, and professors were not elected but appointed by the minister of education of the Ukrainian State and later of the Ukrainian National Republic. It had five faculties: history and philology, natural sciences and mathematics, theology, law, and agriculture. By the summer of 1920 there were 65 faculty members, including 11 professors, and the enrollment reached 1,400 (80 percent of students were Ukrainians). The university employed several of the most prominent Ukrainian scholars of that time, including Leonid Biletsky, Vasyl Bidnov, Dmytro Doroshenko, Mykhailo Drai-Khmara, Pylyp Klymenko, and Mykola Plevako. When the Bolsheviks gained control of the city at the end of 1920, they proceeded to dismantle the university, eventually reorganizing it into the Kamianets-Podilskyi Institute of People's Education and Kamianets-Podilskyi Agricultural Institute. Still earlier, in 1919 the Bolshevik authorities created Kyiv University by merging a number of institutes, Higher Courses for Women, and the recently founded Ukrainian State University with the old Saint Vladimir University.

Universities in Soviet Ukraine in the 1920s and 30s. Technically speaking, there were no universities in Soviet Ukraine in the 1920s. When the Bolsheviks came to power in Ukraine, they carried out a total overhaul of the educational system, which affected every level of education, from elementary schools to higher education. Designed by Soviet Ukraine’s people's commissar of education Hryhorii Hrynko (1920–3), a reform known as the Hrynko System presupposed a transformation of universities into institutes of people's education (INO). Most INOs, however, emerged on the basis of the teachers' institutes. Medical faculties of universities were reorganized into separate medical institutes, while the faculties of law were absorbed by the new institutes of the national economy. Institutes were devoted exclusively to teaching, while research and science were concentrated around scientific research institutes and scientific research chairs, largely free from teaching. By 1929 there were a total of 42 institutes, including medical, socioeconomic, agricultural, technical-industrial, fine arts, and pedagogical institutes. The newly created institutes lacked autonomy, as their rectors were appointed by the people's commissar of education. In many cases the decisive factor was not academic excellence, but rather political reliability.

Higher education became much more accessible to the children of workers and peasants at the expense of the formerly privileged classes, including the offspring of civil service employees. By 1929 the children of workers and peasants represented 61.3 percent of students at various institutes. The children of workers and poor peasants could also enter the so-called workers' faculties (robitfaky) to prepare themselves for higher education. The graduates of the workers’ faculties were admitted to institutes and technikums without entry exams. A prerequisite to admission was a reference from the authorities: the Communist Party, a trade union, or the Communist Youth League of Ukraine. By the end of the 1920s 15.5 percent of students were members of the Communist Party (Bolshevik) of Ukraine and further 24.6 percent, members of the Komsomol.

In the spirit of the policy of Ukrainization, the courses in Ukrainian studies were introduced in the curriculum of all institutes: the history of Ukraine, Ukrainian language, literature, and economic geography were made compulsory for all students. Another element of the new policy—instruction in Ukrainian—proceeded much slower. By 1928, out of 38 institutes, only 11 offered instruction fully in Ukrainian, while 24 in both Ukrainian and Russian. Among Soviet Ukraine’s major institutes of people's education, including four former universities, the percentage of classes taught in Ukrainian was as follows: 100 percent in Kherson and Mykolaiv; 94 percent in Kyiv; 91.7 percent in Chernihiv; 86.2 percent in Nizhyn; 74.4 percent in Kharkiv; 62.2 percent in Odesa; 50 percent in Luhansk; and 46.6 percent in Dnipropetrovsk. Between 1925 and 1927 a knowledge of Ukrainian became a condition for admission to postsecondary institutions or for graduation. And yet ethnic Ukrainians were still underrepresented among both students and faculty members. In 1929 they accounted for 56 percent of the 40,890 students at institutes (with Jews representing 23.3 percent and Russians 15.8 percent). Still weaker was the share of Ukrainian students if taken as a ratio per 10,000 ethnic Ukrainians. In this case, Ukrainian students comprised merely 9.9 percent, compared to 24 percent of Russian, and 60.5 percent of Jewish students per 10,000 people of their ethnicity. Ukrainians made up the largest percentage of students in agricultural institutes (73.6 percent), followed by INOs (64.9 percent). In 1925 only one-third of the teaching staff in institutes self-identified as Ukrainians. Although the Ukrainian system of higher education was underfunded, by 1929 Soviet Ukraine had a higher per capita enrollment in higher education than Soviet Russia. One important part of the reform was that women were finally granted full access to all institutions of higher learning, and by the mid-1920s they accounted for approximately 25 percent of the students at institutes.

Between 1929 and 1934 the system of higher education in Ukraine was reorganized once again to confirm with that in the rest of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. In 1934 Kyiv University, Kharkiv University, Odesa University, and Dnipropetrovsk University were restored, along with traditional requirements and teaching methods. Programs, textbooks, and examinations were standardized. Universities once again became the centers of scientific research. Between 1929 and 1940 the number of universities remained the same (4), but the total number of postsecondary institutions grew from 42 to 173. The number of students expanded, too: from 40,890 to 196,800. More importantly, after the social experiments of the 1920s the preferential admission of children of workers and poor peasants to universities was gradually abandoned and instead academic credentials of aspiring students were emphasized. In 1936, of all university students 44 percent were children of civil servants; 40 percent, of workers; and 13 percent, of peasants. At the same time, as the policy of Ukrainization was stopped in 1933, the proportion of Ukrainians among students dropped from 55 percent in 1933 to 53 percent in 1934. The share of Ukrainians among the faculty and research staff decreased even more dramatically: from 49 percent in 1929 to 31 percent in 1934. This was due in no small part to the Stalinist terror that decimated universities in the 1930s, beginning with the show trial of the Union for the Liberation of Ukraine (SVU) in 1929–30 and culminating in the ‘great purges’ of the mid-1930s.

Hundreds of individuals were prosecuted across Ukraine on trumped-up charges in the wake of the trial of the Union for the Liberation of Ukraine. Dnipropetrovsk University (then still an institute of people's education) lost two prominent professors: philologist Petro Yefremov and historian Volodymyr Parkhomenko. In 1932 few more professors of the humanities (including the eminent historian Dmytro Yavornytsky) lost their jobs, having been accused of ‘bourgeois’ and ‘anti-Soviet’ tendencies in their teaching and research. One scholar—the pioneering linguist Ivan Zavadovsky—became a target of particularly vile attacks in the press and denunciations, and died prematurely of a heart attack in 1932. In 1934 several professors accused of ‘national opportunism’ and ‘bourgeois nationalism’ were expelled from the Communist Party, and two first rectors of the restored university were fired from their academic jobs and later arrested and executed. Then in 1937 more than a dozen faculty members (including four more rectors) and several students were arrested; most of them were executed or perished in the GULAG labor camps. At Kharkiv University, the faculty of philology alone lost no fewer than 20 people (most of them executed), including such famous writers and literary critics as Maik Yohansen, Valeriian Polishchuk, and Volodymyr Koriak. Kyiv University suffered an especially heavy damage during the Stalinist terror. By some estimates, up to 80 percent (!) of its faculty, including several rectors, were subjected to some form of persecution between 1933 and 1941. Among those who were executed were: mathematician Mykhailo Kravchuk; literary scholars Mykola Zerov, Pavlo Fylypovych, and Makar Rusanivsky; historians Iosyp Hermaize and Natalia Mirza-Avakiants; and orientalist Ahatanhel Krymsky. In Odesa University the victims of repressions belonged to various categories of ‘counter-revolutionaries,’ such as members of the Bund, Mensheviks, Trotskyites, Ukrainian nationalists, ‘great-power chauvinists,’ and so on. In total, more than 100 faculty members and students, including two rectors, were purged from Odesa University in the 1930s. The persecution of academics in all four Ukrainian universities devastated the entire areas of study, above all the history of Ukraine and its archeology, the history of the Ukrainian language and literature, ethnography, social science, and philosophy. The universities have never fully recovered from the losses they sustained in the 1930s.

Universities in Western Ukraine and abroad in interwar period. After the First World War two universities that had been established in Austrian-ruled Ukraine found themselves within two new national states: Poland (Lviv University) and Romania (Chernivtsi University). The Polish authorities in Galicia renamed Lviv’s Francis I University to Jan II Casimir Vasa University, abolished the Ukrainian chairs (even Ukrainian philology had to be taught in Polish), and restricted the admission of Ukrainian students to those who had served in the Polish army. Ukrainians largely boycotted the university in the early 1920s. Instead the leading Ukrainian intellectuals associated with the Shevchenko Scientific Society, including Vasyl Shchurat, Ilarion Svientsitsky, and Ivan Krypiakevych, opened private ‘university courses’ in 1920. The courses consisted of three faculties: philosophy, law, and medicine. Its enrollment was 101 students in 1921. That same year these courses were reorganized into Lviv (Underground) Ukrainian University, and Shchurat was elected its first rector. The Polish authorities responded with the arrests of its students and faculty (including Shchurat). There were 54 departments and 1,260 students in 1921, and 65 departments and 1,500 students in 1922–3, primarily the children of peasants, workers, and secular intelligentsia. Virtually all Ukrainian scholars and professionals living in Lviv taught at the university, which was financed by private donations. Its program was recognized by foreign universities. The university remained illegal in Poland, with classes taking place on the premises of various Ukrainian civil organizations and even in private apartments. In spite of the negotiations with Polish intellectuals and government to legalize the university, a government commission decided against the Ukrainian proposal. Without official recognition and undermined by the continuous persecution of Ukrainian education in Poland, the university shut down its operations in the late 1925.

In the mid-1920s Ukrainians stopped boycotting Lviv University and their share among students began to grow. Already in 1925 Greek Catholics (virtually all of them Ukrainians) made up 14 percent of all students, while Poles and Jews comprised 50 percent and 35 percent respectively. There were several Ukrainian student organizations at the university, and the first and largest of them, the Student Hromada, was founded in 1924. Until 1933 not a single Ukrainian professor worked at Lviv University. That year Ilarion Svientsitsky was appointed docent, and later, already after the Soviet takeover of Western Ukraine, he headed the Slavic philology department at Lviv University (1939–41, 1944–50). The chair of the ‘Ruthenian’ language was opened in 1928 and was headed by the Polish linguist Jan Janów. Lviv University was one of the largest in interwar Poland. The student enrollment grew from 2,647 to 5,205 between 1919–20 and 1937–8. The most discriminatory policy was the so-called numerus clausus, according to which Ukrainians could not exceed 15 percent of all university entrants, while Poles were guaranteed 50 percent. But it was the Jewish youth who were subjected to the most stringent measures, including the segregation in lecture halls and physical assaults. Under the pressure from Polish nationalist students, the Jewish quotas were introduced in different faculties in 1922–3, followed by the enforcement of the so-called ‘bench ghetto’ in 1938 which forced Jewish students either to stand during lectures, or to sit on separate benches. As a result, the share of Jewish students dropped drastically: in 1937–8 Jews made up merely 10 percent, Ukrainians (Greek Catholics), 14.3 percent, and Poles, 72.5 percent of all students. Although the share of Ukrainians remained stable after 1925, it was considerably lower than the pre-1918 level. But those few Ukrainians who did become students at Lviv University were able to take advantage of the rich intellectual resources the university had to offer, including a group of world-renowned philosophers, logicians, and mathematicians (Kazimierz Twardowski, Kazimierz Ajdukiewicz, Roman Ingarden, Hugo Steinhaus, and Stefan Banach).

After the collapse of talks on the establishment of a state-run Ukrainian university, the only legal Ukrainian institution of higher learning in interwar Poland was the Greek Catholic Theological Academy in Lviv (est 1928). At the same time, chairs of Ukrainian studies existed at Polish universities in Cracow and Warsaw, in addition to the one at Lviv University. After the annexation of Western Ukraine by the USSR in 1939, Lviv University was Ukrainianized in language and Sovietized in spirit.

The other existing university in Austrian-ruled Ukraine, Chernivtsi University, found itself under Romanian rule after 1919. Until 1940 it was officially called the Universitatea Regele Carol I din Cernauti, with instruction in Romanian. During this period the Ukrainian departments were abolished, and the Ukrainian professors dismissed. For many years the university’s rector was I. Nistor, who was hostile toward Ukrainians. While the student enrollment increased from 1,671 to 3,247 between 1920 and 1933, the share of Ukrainian students dropped drastically: from 14.3 percent to 4.8 percent. In 1940 when northern Bukovyna was annexed to the Ukrainian SSR, the Ukrainian language for the first time became the primery language of instruction at Chernivtsi University.

Besides the two existing universities in Western Ukraine, the Ukrainian émigrés (chiefly from Galicia) founded the Ukrainian Free University (UVU) in Vienna in 1921. During the interwar period it was a sole Ukrainian university outside of Soviet Ukraine. Having received recognition and financial support from the Czechoslovak government (including personally from Tomáš Garrigue Masaryk), it was transferred to Prague. Aside from financial assistance from the Czechoslovak government, the Ukrainian Free University enjoyed the right to use the resources of Charles University. Upon its transfer, the university consisted of two faculties: philosophy and law. Its enrollment increased from the initial 702 to 874 by 1922–3, with many students studying at both the UVU and Charles University. The UVU soon became the main center of Ukrainian academic life in the Czechoslovak Republic. In the 1930s the institution underwent a crisis. It continued to exist with substantial financial cuts, and its enrollment fell to just 61 in 1939. The UVU improved its financial situation when the Nazi Germany partitioned Czechoslovakia and new students began arriving from the Generalgouvernement (107 in 1940–1).

Universities in Soviet Ukraine after the Second World War. At the beginning of the Second World War the existing universities of Soviet Ukraine were evacuated to the USSR interior. While there, Kyiv University and Kharkiv University formed together the United State Ukrainian University located in the town of Kyzyl-Orda, in Kazakhstan. Dnipropetrovsk University was evacuated to three different regions of the USSR (the largest part to Chkalov (today Orenburg). Odesa University was evacuated to Krasnodar, RSFSR. The universities suffered enormous material losses due to the bombings and looting of their properties by the Nazi occupiers. Countless faculty members and students lost their lives, others left for the West (among them Oleksander Ohloblyn and Kostiantyn Shtepa from Kyiv University and George Yurii Shevelov from Kharkiv University) .

After the war the system of higher education in the Ukrainian SSR expanded, but its accessibility to Ukrainians remained to be problematic, partly due to the introduction of tuition fees between 1940 and 1956. During several postwar decades four new universities were established in the Ukrainian SSR: Uzhhorod University (1945), Donetsk University (1965), Simferopol University (1972, having been abolished in 1925), and Zaporizhia University (1985). Lviv University and Chernivtsi University were purged of their faculty, Ukrainianized, and incorporated into the Soviet educational system. Formally the universities in Ukraine were administered by the republican Ministry of Higher and Specialized Secondary Education (with the exception of Dnipropetrovsk University which in 1966 was placed directly under the all-Union ministry in Moscow due to its leading role in the Soviet missile program), but it was the central government in Moscow that had a final say in a variety of academic matters. For instance, postgraduate programs in Ukraine could only be established with Moscow’s permission. It was also not possible to obtain in Ukraine a doctorate in pedagogy.

The 1950s and 1960s saw the increased Russification of higher education in Ukraine. In 1954 the compulsory entrance examination in the Ukrainian language and literature was dropped, which further benefitted ethnic Russians and Russian speakers. Accordingly, ethnic Ukrainians continued to be underrepresented among students and faculty. For instance, in 1965, of the 75,027 students attending the republic’s eight universities, only 61 percent were Ukrainians (compared to 64 percent ten years earlier). Ukrainians were even more poorly represented among the faculty, comprising only 56 percent of university instructors, and still fewer of them—only 34 percent—lectured in Ukrainian. Almost 70 percent of the subjects taught at the universities were not supplied with Ukrainian-language textbooks. This led to the dominance of Russian in higher education and an unequal playing field for Ukrainian-speaking students in university admissions. An early Soviet policy of favoring the working-class applicants was largely reversed by the 1960s. In 1965, for example, 70 percent of first-year students at Kharkiv University were the offspring of white-collar workers; 23 percent, of workers; and only 7 percent, of collective farmers. At the same time, the percentage of women among students grew from 47 percent in 1970–1 to 54 percent in 1983–4. Ukraine was slightly underrepresented when it came to the proportion of its students among the total number of students in the USSR: while Ukraine represented 18.5 percent of the USSR population, the republic’s students comprised only 16.6 percent of all Soviet students.

Apart from the increasing Russification that affected all university faculties (except for a few subjects in the humanities still taught in Ukrainian), the universities lacked autonomy in teaching, internal administration, and in granting degrees. It was the Supreme Attestation Commission in Moscow that conferred scholarly degrees on academics, which encouraged them to write their dissertations in Russian (even at Lviv University 86 percent of dissertations accepted between 1944 and 1960 were written in Russian). Most university periodicals were published in Russian. There was also a growing pressure from the Communist authorities to create a uniform ideological curriculum mandatory for all universities and postsecondary students across all areas of study. In 1978 special departments within the Ministry of Higher and Specialized Secondary Education of the Ukrainian SSR were created in order to supervise the teaching of a few highly ideological subjects, such as the history of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, scientific communism, and political economy, in all institutions of higher learning. This happened at the height of the period of stagnation in the USSR associated with the tenure of Leonid Brezhnev. As a consequence, even sciences and technology were not immune to the ideological pressure from outside of the universities.

In the mid-1980s Kyiv University was by far the largest university in Ukraine as far as student enrollment was concerned (see the list below). Remarkably, of four universities established in the Ukrainian SSR after the Second World War three were located in the south and east: the most industrialized, but also the most Russified regions of Ukraine. It was only in the end of the 1980s that the universities were allowed to restore a degree of academic freedom in the spirit of perestroika launched by Mikhail Gorbachev. During that time universities took advantage of a significant waning of the monopolistic power of the Communist Party, the lifting of censorship, and a growing freedom of expression. The humanities and social sciences experienced a renaissance; the worst effects of the Russification began to be reversed as more and more classes were taught in Ukrainian; and the universities became the breeding grounds for political dissent and a natural constituency for national democratic movement, which culminated in the student hunger strike in Kyiv in fall 1990 known as the Revolution on the Granite.

The student enrollment at the universities in the Ukrainian SSR circa 1985 were: Lviv University (est. 1784), 12,000; Kharkiv University (est. 1805), 12,000; Kyiv University (est. 1834), 18,000; Odesa University (est. 1865), 12,000; Chernivtsi University (est. 1875), 10,000; Dnipropetrovsk University (est. 1918), 13,000; Uzhhorod University (est. 1945), 9,000; Donetsk University (est. 1965), 11,000; Simferopol University (est. 1972), 7,000; Zaporizhia University (est. 1985), 980.

Universities in Ukraine after 1991. By the time Ukraine regained independence in 1991, there were 10 universities in the country, with a total enrollment of 110,000 students. They were Chernivtsi University, Dnipropetrovsk University, Donetsk University, Kharkiv University, Kyiv University, Lviv University, Odesa University, Simferopol University, Uzhhorod University, and Zaporizhia University. As in Soviet Ukraine, the program of study lasted five to five and a half years and until 1992 universities were under the jurisdiction of the USSR Ministry of Higher and Specialized Secondary Education. In 1992 the Supreme Attestation Commission (VAK) in Moscow was replaced by the Ukrainian institution under the same name and with similar functions. It was in charge of conferring all university degrees and academic appointments in Ukraine, and of designating fields in which each institution could conduct degree training. This vestige of the Soviet academic system in independent Ukraine considerably restricted university autonomy in granting academic degrees. As it was prior to 1991, the specialized scholarly councils created by the VAK in particular disciplines were responsible for accepting dissertations from scholars and for their public defense. One novelty was the introduction of new academic degrees, such as bachelor, specialist, and master.

The greatest changes in the sphere of higher education after 1991 pertained to the classification of all schools based on their educational level and on the type of ownership (public or private). Four levels of accreditation have been established for institutions of higher learning: first (for tekhnikums and vocational schools); second (for colleges); and third and fourth (for institutes, conservatories, and universities), fourth being the highest level. Accreditation and licensing by the state ensure control over the quality of education in all institutions. The emergence of private schools was an even greater break with the Soviet past. Among the first private institutions to emerge after 1991 was the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, the National Academy of Management, the Interregional Academy of Personnel Management (all of them in Kyiv) and the Academy of Finances in Donetsk. Another trend in the 1990s was the dramatic increase in the number of universities. Most new universities were established on the basis of the existing schools (known as institutes) that upgraded to the university status. Among the first state pedagogical institutes that were granted a university status were the Subcarpathian in Ivano-Frankivsk (1992; now the Subcarpathian National University), Volhynian in Lutsk (1993; now Volhynia National University), Cherkasy (1995; now Cherkasy National University), and Kherson (1998; now Kherson State University). In the next decade some state pedagogical universities were reorganized to receive a state university status; these included former pedagogical universities in Mykolaiv (2002; now Mykolaiv National University), Kamianets-Podilskyi (2003; now Kamianets-Podilskyi National University), Nizhyn (2004; now Nizhyn State University), and Zhytomyr (2004; now Zhytomyr State University). These new universities (including the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy), together with the ten older universities that had been established before 1991, are known in Ukraine as ‘classical’ universities. The concept is usually referred to the comprehensive curriculum that includes the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences, and economics. Among other criteria are the long-standing academic traditions, the enrollment of at least 6,000 full-time students, the permission to train doctoral candidates, and the conditions permitting scholarly research in a variety of fields.

Apart from from ‘classical’ universities, there are also the so-called ‘specialized’ (profil'ni) universities in Ukraine, many of them reorganized from the polytechnical, technological, and other institutes that had existed prior to 1991. The areas of specialization of the newly minted universities include: agrarian; technical; technological; medical; pedagogical; economic; judicial; fine arts; military; and sports. As of 2017, there were 184 universities in Ukraine, representing different types of ownership (146 state, 36 private, and 2 communal) and areas of specialization. The number of students in all schools of third and fourth levels of accreditation (mostly of universities and academies) was 876,200 in 1992–2. It was growing steadily after 1993, reaching its peak of 2,372,500 in 2007–8, but since then it has been on the decrease, reaching its lowest point of 1,266,100 in 2019–20. These figures reflect, in part, Ukraine’s notoriously low birth rates in the 1990s and, in part, the continuous emigration of young people from Ukraine.

Since the early 1990s a number of leading universities have been granted the status of the national institution of higher learning. This is the highest and most prestigious status that an institutions of higher learning of the fourth level of accreditation can receive by the decision of the president of Ukraine. The first schools to have been granted the ‘national university’ status in 1994 were Kyiv University (today Kyiv National University), Kyiv-Mohyla Academy (today the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy), and the Ukrainian State Agrarian University (today the National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine). As of 2019 there were 93 national universities in Ukraine, including those evacuated from the Russian-occupied Crimea and the occupied parts of Donetsk oblast and Luhansk oblast. The numbers of national universities in each oblast of Ukraine are as follows: Kyiv oblast, 17; Kharkiv oblast, 17; Odesa oblast, 7; Lviv oblast, 6; Ternopil oblast, 4; Mykolaiv oblast, 4; Donetsk oblast, 4; Dnipropetrovsk oblast, 3; Poltava oblast, 3; Vinnytsia oblast, 3; Luhansk oblast, 3; Ivano-Frankivsk oblast, 3; Chernihiv oblast, 2; Khmelnytskyi oblast, 2; Rivne oblast, 2; Sumy oblast, 2; Volhynia oblast, 2; Zaporizhia oblast, 2; Cherkasy oblast, 1; Chernivtsi oblast, 1; the Crimea, 1; Kherson oblast, 1; Kirovohrad oblast, 1; Transcarpathia oblast, 1; and Zhytomyr oblast, 1. Critics explain such a high number of national universities by the system of political patronage whereby the ‘national university status’ was granted in exchange for an electoral support for the president of Ukraine and his chosen political party in cities and regions where such institutions were located (the highest number of ‘national statuses’—79—was granted by President Leonid Kuchma between 1994 and 2004). Nonetheless, national universities dominate the academic rankings in Ukraine. As seen from an independent academic ranking Top 200 Ukraine, the list of country’s ten best universities in 2020 consisted almost exclusively of national institutions of higher learning, predominantly of ‘classical’ and technical types: 1. Kyiv Polytechnical Institute National Technical University of Ukraine; 2. Kyiv National University; 3. Sumy State University; 4. the National Technical University «Kharkiv Polytechnical Institute»; 5. Lviv Polytechnic National University; 6. Kharkiv National University; 7. the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy; 8. Lviv National University; 9. Kharkiv National University of Radio Electronics; 10. Vinnytsia National Technical University.

Another noticeable trend after 1991 has been a growing presence of the Ukrainian language in higher education. In 1990 the staggering 95 percent of teaching was conducted in Russian. In order to change that situation, the chairs of the Ukrainian philology were introduced in all non-special faculties. As a result, by 1996 almost half of all academic groups (49.8 percent) were studying in Ukrainian. Three years later, according to the official data, up to 69 percent of all universities, academies, and institutes used the Ukrainian language as the main language of instruction. The most fully Ukrainianized universities were located in western and central Ukraine, while those located in the south and the east of the country lagged far behind. For instance, the share of student groups learning in Ukrainian was 40.56 percent in Kherson oblast; 39.3 percent in Odesa oblast; 36 percent in Dnipropetrovsk oblast; 33 percent in Mykolaiv oblast; 21.64 percent in Kharkiv oblast; 17.6 percent in Zaporizhia oblast; 11.21 percent in Donetsk oblast; and 6.23 percent in Luhansk oblast. In reality, the figures for a Ukrainian-language education were still lower because many universities were listed officially as the Ukrainian-language institutions despite the fact that only a minority of their faculty taught in Ukrainian. Nonetheless, the number of university students taught in Russian continued to drop: from 395,605 in 1999–2000 to 280,767 in 2008–9, or around 11.5 percent of all students enrolled in the institutions of third and fourth levels of accreditation. The new Language Law enacted in 2019 made it compulsory for universities to offer instruction exclusively in Ukrainian (with some exceptions reserved for foreign students who can take particular courses in languages other than Ukrainian).

Since the early 1990s independent Ukraine saw several serious attempts at reforming its, in many ways outdated, system of higher education. The university students and staff have continually challenged the absence of university autonomy through participation in ‘student parliaments’ and student trade-unions. Student representatives have also participated in the elections of university rectors. Outside of their universities, students have been active in a variety of social and political causes, including democratic protest movements such as ‘Ukraine without Kuchma’ in 2000–2001, the Orange Revolution of 2004–5, and the Euromaidan Revolution of 2013–4. Numerous students, graduates, and faculty members of Ukraine’s universities have participated since 2014 in the Russo-Ukrainian war in the Donbas. Some of the major reforms in higher education were indirect reactions to such a growing student activism.

The pace of the reforms in higher education has intensified following the Orange Revolution. In 2005 Ukraine joined the Bologna process, a series of international agreements that ensure comparability in the standards and quality of higher-education qualifications across Europe. As a signatory to these agreements, Ukraine promised to adjust its system of higher education to European standards, and, in particular, to harmonize its academic degrees, the system of evaluation, and course certification with those of other European countries. One of the most tangible benefits of the Bologna system is that it has considerably enhanced academic mobility of both faculty and students by allowing exchange visitors from Ukraine to study and do research at leading European institutions of higher learning. A single most successful educational reform in Ukraine has been the introduction of the External Independent Evaluation (ZNO) of secondary school graduates willing to pursue higher education. Conducted by the Ukrainian Center for Educational Quality Assessment, a governmental body created in 2005, ZNO became mandatory in 2008, replacing the university entrance exams and thus considerably reducing the corruption in the admission process.

However, universities in Ukraine have continued to face significant challenges. Some of them stem from the Soviet-era mentality of many university administrators; others from chronic underfunding of higher education and incompatibility of teaching and research due to an excessive workload of most faculty members (18 academic hours per week on average); still others from the hastily implemented reforms that only increased the power of governmental and university administrators over the faculty and created the highly convoluted academic procedures (among them an excessive role ascribed to scientometrics). Educational experts also point out that there are too many universities in Ukraine, and that there is a chasm growing between a handful of leading universities and all of the others. The academic job market is plagued by lack of transparent job searches, a minimal geographic mobility, and low salaries. All these factors further confound the hopes of university academics and students in Ukraine for a European-quality education. Students themselves consistently evaluate the quality of higher education in Ukraine as below average, particularly those studying the humanities and social sciences. Among the most frequent student complaints have been an ongoing corruption of the faculty members and the inability of the education to meet market demands. As a consequence, more and more young people choose to study abroad, thus causing a significant brain drain in Ukraine’s system of higher education, a trend that has become particularly notable after 2015.

The presence of Ukrainian universities in major international academic rankings has been very modest. For instance, Times Higher Education Ranking in 2021 lists only two Ukrainian universities: Kharkiv National University of Radio Electronics (ranked 801st) and Lviv National University (ranked 1001st). QS World University Rankings in 2021 also lists two Ukrainian postsecondary schools: Kyiv National University (ranked 601st) and Kyiv Polytechnical Institute National Technical University of Ukraine (ranked 701st). By contrast, U.S. News & World Report’s World’s Best Universities Ranking did not list any Ukrainian university at all. Likewise, no Ukrainian university made it in 2020 to The Academic Ranking of World Universities, also known as the ‘Shanghai Ranking’ (although in 2014 this ranking did list Kharkiv National University in the group 500+).

Ukrainian universities abroad. Currently there is only one Ukrainian-language university outside of Ukraine: the Ukrainian Free University (UVU) in Munich. The UVU was re-established in Munich in 1946. After Ukraine became independent, the Bavarian government had ceased to support UVU financially. In 2008 the UVU relocated to a smaller but more functional building. It consists of three faculties: philosophy; Ukrainian studies; and political and economic sciences. Its library consists of 35,000 volumes and periodicals and is considered one of the best collections of Ukrainian literature in western Europe. In 2020 the enrollment was 296. Despite financial challenges, the UVU has a potential to become a leading institution of Ukrainian studies in Europe.

Another Ukrainian university abroad, the Ukrainian Catholic University (Rome) in Italy, existed between 1963 and 1994, when it became a branch of the Ukrainian Catholic University in Lviv. It was later renamed the Institute of Pope Saint Clement I and began to serve primarily as a dormitory and community center for Ukrainian students and priests studying in Rome’s secular and religious schools.

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Serhiy Bilenky

[This article was updated in 2021.]


Encyclopedia of Ukraine