Kyiv Polytechnical Institute National Technical University of Ukraine
Kyiv Polytechnical Institute National Technical University of Ukraine (Національний технічний університет України «Київський політехнічний інститут ім. І. Сікорського»; Natsionalnyi tekhnichnyi universytet Ukrainy ‘Kyivskyi politekhnichnyi instytut im. I. Sikorskoho’). A higher educational institution in Kyiv, one of the chief technical universities in Ukraine.
It was founded as a polytechnical institute in 1898, as a result of partnership between state and private sector encouraged by the minister of finances of the Russian Empire, Sergei Witte. The funds were provided primarily by the Kyiv City Duma and wealthy local entrepreneurs and philanthropists, among them the Tereshchenko family and Lazar Brodsky. The school was patterned on the existing polytechnical schools in Europe, and its first director was engineer and physicist V. Kirpichov, who had been the founder and first director of Kharkiv Technological Institute (1885–98). Initially, Kyiv Polytechnical Institute (KPI) consisted of four faculties: mechanics; chemistry; engineering; and agronomy. The first buildings on campus—the department of chemistry and residential houses for professors—were inaugurated in 1899. Some facilities, such as the Great Physics Hall and chemical laboratories, were at the cutting-edge of engineering and architectural thought of the day. KPI’s scientific library was organized by the art historian Mykola Biliashivsky (the library’s director in 1898–1902). The institute’s director was not elected but nominated by the ministry of finance and confirmed by the imperial government. The enrollment grew from 360 in 1898 to 2,313 in 1913 (for comparison, Kharkiv Technological Institute had 1,171 students in 1913). The full course of study lasted four years (eight semesters) and consisted of both lectures and practical training in laboratories and workshops. In reality, many students studied more than four years, hence the median age of graduates was 27–28 years. The graduates of mechanical and chemical faculties were awarded the title of mechanical engineer; of engineering faculty, civil engineer; and of the faculty of agronomy, learned agronomist. The social origins of KPI students were much more dverse than those of university students. For instance, the proportion of children of peasants and townspeople among the students of Russian-ruled Ukraine’s three universities remained below 40 percent in 1913, while in technical higher schools it was almost 55 percent. The democratic trend was especially noticeable in KPI where the share of nobles among students fell between 1898 and 1913 from 47.7 percent to 36.2 percent, while that of peasant children grew from 5.9 percent to 16.3 percent. Likewise, the share of Jewish students was among the highest in Russian imperial higher schools: 23 percent in 1907 (459 Jews out of 2,057 students), in contravention of the established quotas of 15 percent. According to some estimates, more than a half of all KPI graduates found careers in civil service rather than in privately owned industrial enterprises, which reflected the opportunities that the school offered to the upwardly mobile youth from underprivileged backgrounds.
KPI was a major center of revolutionary movement in the city in 1905–7 (see Revolution of 1905). Alongside Russian radical student groups, there was the ‘Ukrainian commune’ that united between 150 and 200 students affiliated with Ukrainian social democratic and socialist revolutionary parties. In 1909 the Kyiv Society of Aerial Navigation was organized at the institute (its members included Ihor Sikorsky, Fedir Anders, and Nikolai Delone). KPI’s graduate, Fedir Tereshchenko, a scion of the famous entrepreneurial family, became a pioneering constructor of airplanes in Ukraine. Many famous scientists and engineers, such as Nikolai Artemiev, Oleksii Stupin, Hryhorii Dubelir, Sergei Reformatsky, Ihor Sikorsky, Konstantin Zvorykin, Yevhen Paton, Stephen Timoshenko, and Lev Pysarzhevsky, taught at the institute. The famous painter Mykola Pymonenko taught drawing and descriptive geometry there. Several renowned Russian scientists, among them Nikolai Zhukovsky and Kliment Timiriazev, advised the new institute, while Dmitry Mendeleev served as the first head of its state examination board in 1903.
During the First World War many KPI students were drafted to the Russian imperial army as junior officers, but the institute nonetheless remained one of the empire’s leading technical schools. Many KPI-affiliated or trained engineers and scientists served on the home front as civilian specialists indispensable for the Russian war effort. For instance, Yevhen Paton, professor in the faculty of engineering, designed a strategic temporary drawbridge made up of steel and wooden parts, and one such drawbridge was built across the Dnipro River in Kyiv (a predecessor of today’s Paton Bridge). In 1915 KPI was partially, and for a brief period of time, evacuated to Rostov-on-Don. A field hospital for the wounded soldiers was opened on the premises of the institute, staffed with students as voluntary nurses. During the Ukrainian struggle for independence (1917–20) KPI continued to function, and many of its graduates worked for various civil agencies of the Central Rada. Under the Hetman government, the faculty of electrical engineering was opened in November 1918.
KPI was temporarily closed down by the government of the Directory of the Ukrainian National Republic (allegedly because of the school’s Russian-language curriculum). With the Bolshevik takeover of Ukraine, in winter 1919 KPI was subordinated to the people's commissariat of education. The enrollment grew to 6,441 in 1920 (although the majority of the new students did not attend classes). The course of studies was shortened to three years to speed up the training of engineers. The children of workers and peasants were prioritized in admission process, which led to a temporary lowering of educational standards. In 1923–33 a number of specialized institutes were organized out of KPI departments, which eventually gave rise to new independent institutions of higher learning, among them Dnipropetrovsk Institute of Railway Transport (today Ukrainian State University of Science and Technology), Odesa Institute of Marine Engineers (today Odesa National Maritime University), Kyiv Construction Institute (today Kyiv National University of Construction and Architecture), Kyiv Aviation Institute (today National Aviation University), Kyiv Agricultural Institute (today National University of Life and Environmental Sciences of Ukraine), Kharkiv College of Textile and Design, and others. Its workshops formed the basis of several industrial concerns. The so-called ‘work practice’ whereby students had to work in industrial enterprises during summer months, became mandatory. In 1925 KPI had four faculties: chemistry; mechanics; electrical engineering; and communications. The enrollment grew from 1,983 in 1925 to 2,800 in 1929 to 3,685 in 1940 (female students comprised approximately 20 percent). By 1930 workers’ children were the largest single group of students: 44 percent, followed by the children of civil servants and intelligentsia (35 percent) and children of peasants (18 percent). By the mid-1930s the share of children of workers increased to almost 70 percent. The proportion of students with scholarships grew from 45 percent in 1928 to more than 80 percent a decade later. Among KPI’s most famous students during the 1920s and the 1930s were Serhii Korolov, Arkhyp Liulka, and Borys Paton. By the late 1920s KPI’s library had around 27,500 titles. In 1927 KPI began to publish a student newspaper Kyїvs'kyi politekhnik (initially edited by Ivan Le, a future writer). Between 1934 and 1944 KPI was known as Kyiv Industrial Institute (KII) that united several specialized institutes created in 1930 on the basis of former faculties. During the Stalinist terror several leading KII professors were persecuted, including mathematician Mykhailo Kravchuk and agricultural scientist Volodymyr Symyrenko. Another victim of repressions was philologist Hryhory Kostiuk, who worked briefly at KII’s preparatory faculty in the mid-1930s. On the eve of the Second World War, KII had 3,000 students and more than 300 faculty members. It also had 8 faculties: chemical engineering; electrotechnical; mechanical engineering; chemical-technological; thermal-technical; radio; wood-pulping; and evening education.
During the Second World War KII was evacuated to Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where it was incorporated in the Central Asian Industrial Institute. A number of academic staff were also deployed in Soviet military factories in the Ural region. Many KII graduates, students, and faculty members served in the Soviet Army. Some faculty members stayed in occupied Kyiv (among them architect Oleksander Verbytsky) and a few of them found employment at the research institute of metal technics organized by the Germans to primarily satisfy the needs of their army. Consequently, several faculty members left Kyiv with the retreating German troops. KII returned to Kyiv in 1944 and was restored under its former name of KPI. Its original campus had sustained heavy damage, with more than half of its educational facilities (including library) destroyed during the battle for Kyiv in November 1943. Students actively participated in the rebuilding of the campus and the entire city. Some of KPI’s postwar equipment was sent from Germany as reparations. The enrollment increased dramatically: from 1,755 in 1944 to more than 2,000 in 1946 and 4,500 in 1951, when the existing educational facilities and dormitories were no longer able to accommodate the increased number of students. New faculties were added in the first postwar years: mining (1946); welding (1947–8); physics and engineering (1948); and pedagogical engineering (1948); at the same time, several faculties were merged: chemical engineering with mechanics, and wood-pulping with the chemical-technological faculty. The ties between KPI and the industrial sector were strengthened as more and more professors concluded cooperation agreements with individual plants and factories. As a result of those agreements, KPI faculty members gave talks about new technical equipment and technologies at the participating enterprises; consulted about manufacturing application of that equipment; provided expertise; helped train industrial personnel through special courses; and participated in solving work-related problems. Some of the major agreements involved multiple signatories. For instance, in 1950 Kyiv’s principal shipbuilding firm ‘Leninska kuznia’ signed a collective cooperation agreement with a total of 23 department chairs representing KPI’s different faculties.
The 1950s saw the rise in the popularity of correspondence courses and evening education. In 1953 the correspondence faculty was opened to accommodate Ukrainian students of the All-Union Correspondence Polytechnical Institute (Moscow). By the middle of the decade the correspondence and evening students at KPI numbered 1,172 and 77 respectively out of the total of 9,225 students. By the end of the decade part-time students—those who studied either by correspondence or in the evenings—accounted for 42 percent of all students. To meet the growing demand for and improve the quality of part-time education the so-called general technical faculties were opened at KPI and its regional branches beginning with 1960. The new faculties offered three years of general education in all technical subjects followed by more specialized training. In the 1950s KPI underwent other structural changes: the faculty of physics and engineering was liquidated and its students were transferred to the faculty of metallurgy (1952); likewise, the faculty of engineering and pedagogy was closed and its students were transferred to the faculty of mechanics (1952–3); the faculty of chemical engineering was reopened (1953–4); the faculty of welding was merged with that of mechanics (1955), and two separate higher technical schools—Kyiv Technological Institute of Silicates and Kyiv Institute of Film Engineers—were incorporated into KPI.
By the mid-1950s the KPI campus was fully restored. During the 1960s and the 1970s KPI functioned as a leading and the largest higher educational institution in Soviet Ukraine (with 30,600 students in 1968). Between 1966 and 1971 alone KPI trained 20,000 engineers in 59 specializations. Its branches were opened in Chernihiv and Vinnytsia, while its general technical faculties operated in Zhytomyr and Konotop. New specialization majors were introduced, among them applied mathematics and the automation of control systems, followed by new faculties: the automated control systems (1972); ‘civic professions’ (1973); and welding (restored in 1975). More and more emphasis was placed on the training of multifunctional specialists with the variety of skills. The enrollment exceeded 31,000 in 1985. Among the negative trends, which became especially noticeable in the 1980s, was the increased Communist ideological pressure on faculty and students alike and the introduction of the unrealistic curricula without prior consultations with instructors. At the same time, in response to the scientific and technological progress of the 1980s, KPI continued to open new specialization majors, such as computer-aided design systems, laser technology, robotics, and microprocessor systems. In 1985 KPI had 73 computing classrooms with 2,799 computers of various sizes and capacities—the largest quantity of computers among all educational institutions in Ukraine. Around 4,000 students were offered paid internship jobs in several of Kyiv’s most technologically advanced enterprises. During the transitional period of the late 1980s and the early 1990s a series of new subjects of study were added, primarily in the fields of information technology, biotechnology, economics, and industrial management. In response to the demands of market economy and post-industrial society several new faculties were opened: management and marketing (1992), linguistics (1995), sociology and law (1996), biotechnology and biotechnics (2001), and biomedical engineering (2002).
In 1995 KPI was reorganized into a university and granted the national university status. In 2007 it was also granted the research university status, followed by that of an autonomous research university in 2010. In 2016 the university was named in honor of Ihor Sikorsky and assumed its present name. It consists of 11 scientific research institutes and 16 faculties (including physics and engineering; chemical engineering; welding; radio technology; aviation and space technology; thermal power; biomedical engineering; biotechnology and biotechnics; electrotechnology and automation; electronics; information technologies and computer science; and others). It has a branch in Slavutych, Kyiv oblast. It also operates a polytechnical lyceum and technical lyceum (both in Kyiv). The university’s library holds over 2.5 million volumes. The State Polytechnical Museum is run by the university. The enrollment is approximately 25,000 students. Kyiv Polytechnical Institute National Technical University of Ukraine is consistently ranked as one of the country’s top institutions of higher learning. For instance, it was placed second 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 best technical university in Ukraine and second best higher school in Kyiv overall. The university also occasionally appears in major international academic rankings. For instance, in 2021 QS World University Rankings placed it in 701st place, behind only one other Ukrainian university featured in this ranking, Kyiv National University (ranked 601st). The university publishes a newspaper Ukraïns'kyi politekhnik and more then two dozen scientific journals, including Visnyk NTUU ‘KPI imeni Ihoria Sikors'koho’. Seriia: Pryladobuduvannia (62 vols, 1970–); Visnyk NTUU ‘KPI imeni Ihoria Sikors'koho’. Seriia: Radiotekhnika (82 vols, 1956–); Visnyk NTUU ‘KPI imeni Ihoria Sikors'koho’. Seriia: Khimichna inzheneriia, ekolohiia ta resursozberezhennia (21 vols, 1982–); Advanced Linguistics (9 vols, 2017–); Information and Telecommunication Sciences (2010–); Information, Computing and Intelligent Systems (2 vols, 2020–; previously published as Visnyk NTUU ‘KPI imeni Ihoria Sikors'koho’. Seriia: Informatyka, since 1964); Mechanics and Advanced Technologies (5 vols, 2017–; previously published as Visnyk NTUU ‘KPI imeni Ihoria Sikors'koho’. Seriia: Mashynobuduvannia, since 1964); Adaptyvni systemy avtomatychnoho upravlinnia (39 vols, 1973–); Obriї drukarstva (10 vols, 2005–); and Visnyk NTUU ‘KPI imeni Ihoria Sikors'koho’. Seriia: Sotsiolohiia, politolohiia, pravo (52 vols, 2008–), and others.
Kyїvs'kyi politekhnichnyi instytut: Narys istoriї (Kyiv 1995)
Iankovyi, Volodymyr and Dmytro Stefanovych, Kyїvs'ka politekhnika: pochatok istoriї (Kyiv 2018)
KPI official website: https://kpi.ua/
[This article was updated in 2022.]