Helsinki University of Technology

The Polytechnic Institute was made a university-level school and renamed the Technological University of Finland in 1908. The school began moving its activities to Otaniemi in 1955.

Aalto University School of Science and Technology was divided into four new schools of technology as of 1 January 2011. The new schools were formed of the former university faculties of TKK.

Teaching and research at the Helsinki University of Tecnology since 1849

Engineering education began in Finland in the first half of the 19th century as part of Government measures to modernise the economy of this small grand duchy on the northern periphery of Europe. Teaching began at the Technical School of Helsinki on 15 January 1849, in the house of master upholsterer Litonius' in the very centre of town.

The first director of the Technical School of Helsinki was the chemist Anders Olivier Saelan, a recent graduate of the University of Helsinki. The school's curriculum was designed to compete with the training system of the trade guilds so that students who completed the entire course received both a general education and training for technical occupations. Actual technical vocational training began in Helsinki after a legislative reform in 1858. The technical trade departments of engineering, mechanical engineering, architecture, chemical technology and surveying were founded at the same time.

The Finnish general basic education system was created after the 1860s on the basis of the system used in Switzerland. As the Finnish system evolved, opportunity arose to give mathematics and natural sciences and technical vocational subjects greater emphasis in the curriculum of the Technical School.

Alongside the University

In 1872, the school was renamed the Polytechnic School and in 1879 the Polytechnic Institute. In conjunction with the latter change, preparatory courses were discontinued and the Institute concentrated on offering the highest technical training. 

Vanha päärakennus Hietalahti TKK

In 1877, the Polytechnic School moved to its own premises when the building designed by F.A. Sjöström was completed next to Hietalahti Market. Since then, the complex of buildings has been expanded on several occasions. A new, up-to-date chemistry laboratory was completed in 1899. The main extensions of the main building were completed in 1904 and at the end of the 1920s, when the building acquired its present appearance.

Kemian laboratorio historiallinen kuva TKK


In the early 1920s, a storey was added to the chemistry laboratory. During the 1920s, new technical laboratories were built in the neighbouring blocks. When the building of the Technical Research Centre of Finland was completed in 1942, the University of Technology had taken over an entire district of the city.


Enrolment and degrees

By the beginning of the 20th century, the Polytechnic Institute had a little over 200 students. After a legislative reform in 1904 and with a new, larger main building capable of accommodating more students, the number grew to over 400. After the First World War severed Finland's close links with Germany, the number of students grew to almost 600 and the number of new students had to be restricted.

Tekniikan alojen promootio 2010 Aalto-yliopisto

The Polytechnic Institute was made a university-level school on 2 April 1908 and renamed the Technological University of Finland. The change in name brought its students the rights of university students, and its permanent teachers became professors, the degree requirements of doctor of technology were defined and the school-like system was replaced by restricted study rights. In the late 19th century, students who had passed every course received a diploma, as was the custom in German-speaking countries. Likewise, those receiving a doctorate from a university-level institution received a doctoral diploma.

The first degree at the university was either one of an engineer, surveyor or architect. In the 1930s, the separate surveyor's degree was abandoned, while the title 'diploma-architect' was used for a decade. The title 'diploma engineer', which corresponds to a M.Sc. degree, was adopted in the early 1940s in conjunction of a syllabus reform at the same time as the lower technical degrees were defined.

The first doctorate was awarded at the University of Technology in 1912. By the time the first conferment of degrees was arranged in 1934, the University had awarded 11 doctorates. The one hundredth dissertation was completed in 1961. In 2004, Helsinki University of Technology produced some 1800 doctorates, and it has granted 127 honorary doctorates.

Move to Espoo

Moving the University of Technology from the city centre to a more spacious area in the outskirts of the city or, for example, to Tampere was already discussed in the 1910s. Various plans were made for moving to northern Helsinki to districts that were at the time largely undeveloped, including Meilahti and Haaga. As the city grew in the early 1940s, areas even further from the centre, such as Lauttasaari and Puotinharju, were discussed. However, in 1945 an architectural competition was held to expand the operations of the University in Hietalahti.

Otaniemen kampus Aalto-yliopisto

The rapid advance of technical sciences after the Second World War changed plans for good. To keep in step with post-war progress, the University and the Technical Research Centre of Finland needed substantial amounts of land to build laboratories. The city blocks available were much too small. The final decision to move the University out of the city was made in 1948. The State bought the lands of Otaniemi Manor in the eastern part of the rural municipality of Espoo to serve as the campus of the University and the Technical Research Centre on 15 January 1949. The area was being farmed at the time and the plan was to incorporate it into the City of Helsinki, but instead the area remained part of Espoo and the University is today located in the City of Espoo.

Development began in Otaniemi with housing for students, called Teekkarikylä or student village. Its first residents were not students, however, but athletes taking part in 1952 Helsinki Summer Olympics. The first functions of the University moved to Espoo in 1955. The main part of the main building was completed in 1964 and the move from Hietalahti was finalised ten years later. At the same time the main building was completed, work on the student union building Dipoli was finished. In the 1970s, Dipoli became the best-known venue for congresses and training courses in Finland.

In the 1950s and '60s, Otaniemi became one of the most interesting sites of Finnish architecture. The general plan of the campus was made by the architect Alvar Aalto. His office was in charge of the main building and the Otahalli sports hall, built for the Olympics, and of several other buildings. The oldest dormitories, the Servin Mökki restaurant and the Otaniemi chapel were designed by the office of Heikki and Kaija Siren. Dipoli was designed by Reima Pietilä and Raili Paatelainen.

The Teekkarikylä and the University of Technology were built in the woods in the rural municipality of Espoo. Espoo gained the town status in 1972 and it has since grown to become Finland's second largest city. The campus of the University has expanded to include business incubators and a technology park. The campus has become one of Espoo's best known districts.

Panu Nykänen


Page content by: | Last updated: 24.05.2017.