Saint Petersburg State University

Saint Petersburg State University . Study in Russia

Saint Petersburg State University Details

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For more than 290 years, St. Petersburg University has been committed to advancing science, generating knowledge and training outstanding professionals. The University is rich in history – it dates back to 1724, when Peter the Great founded the Academy of Sciences and Arts as well as the first Academic University in Russia.

The famous SPbU alumni are a source of pride and dignity, which inspires us to excel and maximise our potential in research and education. Among our alumni and staff, there is an extraordinary number of world-famous people, in particular, Nobel Prize winners: physiologist Ivan Pavlov, biologist Ilya Mechnikov, physical chemist Nikolay Semyonov, physicists Lev Landau and Aleksandr Prokhorov, philosopher and economist Leonid Kantorovich. SPbU is also an alma mater for outstanding researchers, scholars, academics, political and social leaders: Dmitry Mendeleev, Vladimir Vernadsky, and Dmitry Likhachev to name but a few. The world owes our University most prominent cultural leaders, writers and artists: Ivan Turgenev, Pavel Bryullov, Alexander Blok, Alexander Benois, Sergei Diaghilev and Igor Stravinsky. Among the University alumni, we are also proud to mention the leaders of the Russian Government: Boris Stürmer, Alexander Kerensky, Vladimir Lenin, Presidents of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev.

Today, three centuries after it was established, SPbU is striving, as before, to lead research and education on a national and global scale. By bringing together traditions and innovations, St. Petersburg University sets the pace for development of science, education and culture in Russia and across the world.

SPbU fully equips its students and staff for the best of the diverse range of opportunities for education, research and personal development: the richest Research Library named after M. Gorky, a state-of-the-art Research Park, laboratories headed by leading scientists, museums, a publishing house, sports clubs, a University choir, orchestras, drama and dance studios and so on.

In November 2009, President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Medvedev signed a law granting St. Petersburg University and Moscow State University the special status of ‘unique scientific and educational complexes, the oldest institutions of higher education in Russia being of great importance to the development of the Russian society’. SPbU was granted a privilege to set its own educational standards and award its own diplomas.

Discover the first Russian University now.

Welcome to SPbU!

Yours respectfully,
SPbU Rector
Nikolay Kropachev

Founded in 1724 by Peter the Great, Saint Petersburg University was to become the first institution of higher education in Russia. SPbU is a leading Russian university with teaching and research excellence ranked among the world’s top universities. We are open to cooperation and enjoy strong ties with the international research and academic community. SPbU scientists work in almost all fields of knowledge, providing expertise and consultation in close collaboration with Russian and international partners. Many outstanding scholars have been a part of the SPbU community, including nine Nobel Prize winners: the physiologist Ivan Pavlov, biologist Ilya Mechnikov, physicist and chemist Nikolay Semyonov, physicists Lev Landau and Aleksandr Prokhorov, philosopher and economist Wassily Leontief as well as mathematician and economist Leonid Kantorovich.

Among University alumni are the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, Prime-Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Director of the Hermitage Mikhail Piotrovskiy, President of the Russian Academy of Education Liudmila Verbitskaya, mathematicians Grigoriy Perelman and Sergey Smirnov as well as many others.

St. Petersburg University Today

  • 30,000 students
  • 6,000 staff members
  • 106 undergraduate programs
  • 205 master programs and areas of specialization
  • 263 doctoral degree programs
  • 29 clinical residency programs
  • international students from over 70 countries
  • over 3 000 international students on degree and non-degree programs
  • 350 partner universities
  • the best university Research Park in Russia
  • 7,000,000 books in the collection of the University Research Library
  • diploma issued in Russian and English
  • 12,800 places in the halls of residence

 Education Benefits

  • active student participation in the educational process;
  • the best realization of a student’s individual potential;
  • ECTS – European Credit Transfer System;
  • academic disciplines are designed according to the modular principle;
  • student exchange programs with partner universities
  • internships and work placements at leading Russian and international companies;
  • access to unique research facilities, technology and full-text electronic databases;
  • modern educational technologies;
  • state-of-the-art research equipment;
  • state scholarships for the best selected international applicants (free tuition and discounted accommodation);
  • opportunity to master Russian at the Institute of the Russian Language and Culture.

Schools / Colleges / Departments / Courses / Faculties

  • Faculty of Applied Mathematics and Control Processes
  • Faculty of Biology
  • Institute of Chemistry
  • Faculty of Dentistry and Medical Technology
  • Faculty of Economics
  • Institute of Earth Sciences
  • Institute of History
  • School of International Relations
  • Faculty of Law
  • Faculty of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Faculty of Mathematics and Mechanics
  • Faculty of Medicine
  • Faculty of Oriental Studies
  • Faculty of Arts
  • Faculty of Philology
  • Institute of Philosophy
  • Faculty of Physics
  • Faculty of Political Science
  • Faculty of Psychology
  • Faculty of Sociology
  • Graduate School of Management
  • Military Faculty
  • School of Journalism and Mass Communications
    • Faculty of Applied Communications
    • Faculty of Journalism


It is disputed by the university administration whether Saint Petersburg State University or Moscow State University is the oldest higher education institution in Russia. While the latter was established in 1755, the former, which has been in continuous operation since 1819, claims to be the successor of the university established along with the Academic Gymnasium and the Saint Petersburg Academy of Sciences on January 24, 1724 by a decree of Peter the Great.

In the period between 1804 and 1819, Saint Petersburg University officially did not exist; the institution founded by Peter the Great, the Saint Petersburg Academy, had already been disbanded, because the new 1803 charter of the Academy of Sciences stipulated that there should be no educational institutions affiliated with it.

The Petersburg Pedagogical Institute, renamed the Main Pedagogical Institute in 1814, was established in 1804 and occupied a part of the Twelve Collegia building. On February 8, 1819 (O.S.), Alexander I of Russia reorganized the Main Pedagogical Institute into Saint Petersburg University, which at that time consisted of three faculties: Faculty of Philosophy and Law, Faculty of History and Philology and Faculty of Physics and Mathematics. The Main Pedagogical Institute (where Dmitri Mendeleev studied) was restored in 1828 as an educational institution independent of Saint Petersburg University, and trained teachers until it was finally closed in 1859.

In 1821 the university was renamed Saint Petersburg Imperial University. In 1823 most of the university moved from the Twelve Collegia to the southern part of the city beyond the Fontanka. In 1824 a modified version of the charter of Moscow University was adopted as the first charter of the Saint Petersburg Imperial University. In 1829 there were 19 full professors and 169 full-time and part-time students at the university. In 1830 Tsar Nicholas returned the entire building of the Twelve Collegia back to the university, and courses resumed there. In 1835 a new Charter of the Imperial Universities of Russia was approved. It provided for the establishment of the Faculty of Law, the Faculty of History and Philology, and the Faculties of Physics and Mathematics were merged into the Faculty of Philosophy as the 1st and 2nd Departments, respectively.

In 1849 after the Spring of Nations the Senate of the Russian Empire decreed that the Rector should be appointed by the Minister of National Enlightenment rather than elected by the Assembly of the university. However, Pyotr Pletnyov was reappointed Rector and ultimately became the longest-serving rector of Saint Petersburg University (1840–1861).

In 1855 Oriental studies were separated from the Faculty of History and Philology, and the fourth faculty, Faculty of Oriental Languages, was formally inaugurated on August 27, 1855.

In 1859–1861 female part-time students could attend lectures in the university. In 1861 there were 1,270 full-time and 167 part-time students in the university, of them 498 were in the Faculty of Law, the largest subdivision. But this subdivision had the cameral studies department, where students learnt safety, occupational health and environmental engineering management and science, including chemistry, biology, agronomy along with law and philosophy. Many Russian, Georgian etc. managers, engineers and scientists studied at the Faculty of law therefore. During 1861–1862 there was student unrest in the university, and it was temporarily closed twice during the year. The students were denied freedom of assembly and placed under police surveillance, and public lectures were forbidden. Many students were expelled. After the unrest, in 1865, only 524 students remained.

A decree of the Emperor Alexander II of Russia adopted on 18 February 1863 restored the right of the university assembly to elect the rector. It also formed the new faculty of the theory and history of art as part of the faculty of history and philology.

In March 1869, student unrest shook the university again but on a smaller scale. By 1869, 2,588 students had graduated from the university.

In 1880 the Ministry of National Enlightenment forbade students to marry and married persons could not be admitted. In 1882 another student unrest took place in the university. In 1884 a new Charter of the Imperial Russian Universities was adopted, which granted the right to appoint the rector to the Minister of National Enlightenment again. On March 1, 1887 (O.S.) a group of the university students was arrested while planning an attempt on the life of Alexander III of Russia. As a result, new admission rules to gymnasiums and universities were approved by the Minister of National Enlightenment Ivan Delyanov in 1887, which barred persons of ignoble origin from admission to the university, unless they were extraordinarily talented.

By 1894, 9,212 students had graduated from the university. Among the renowned scholars of the second half of the 19th century affiliated with the university were mathematician Pafnuty Chebyshev, physicist Heinrich Lenz, chemists Dmitri Mendeleev andAleksandr Butlerov, embryologist Alexander Kovalevsky, physiologist Ivan Sechenov, pedologist Vasily Dokuchaev. On March 24, 1896 (O.S.), on the campus of the university Alexander Popov publicly demonstrated transmission of radio waves for the first time in history.

As of January 1, 1900 (O.S.), there were 2,099 students enrolled in the Faculty of Law, 1,149 students in the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics, 212 students in the Faculty of Oriental Languages and 171 students in the Faculty of History and Philology. In 1902 the first student dining hall in Russia was opened in the university.

Since about 1897 regular strikes and student unrest shook the university and spread to other institutions of higher education across Russia. During the Revolution of 1905 the charter of the Russian universities was amended once more, the autonomy of the universities was partially restored and the right to elect the rector was returned to the academic board for the first time since 1884. In 1905–1906 the university was temporarily closed due to student unrest. Its autonomy was revoked again in 1911. In the same year the university was once again temporarily closed.

In 1914 with the start of the First World War, the university was renamed Petrograd Imperial University after its namesake city. During the War the university was the important center of mobilization of Russian intellectual resources and scholarship for the victory. In 1915 a branch of the university was opened in Perm, which later became Perm State University. The Assembly of Petrograd Imperial University openly welcomed the February Revolution of 1917, which put an end to the Russian monarchy, and the university came to be known as just Petrograd University. However, after the October Revolution of 1917, the staff and administration of the university were initially vocally opposed to the Bolshevik takeover of power and reluctant to cooperate with the Narkompros. Later in 1917–1922 during the Russian Civil War some of the staff suspected of counter-revolutionary sympathies suffered imprisonment (e.g., Lev Shcherba in 1919), execution, or exile abroad on the so-called Philosophers’ ships in 1922 (e.g., Nikolai Lossky). Furthermore, the entire staff suffered from hunger and extreme poverty during those years.

In 1918 the university was renamed 1st Petrograd State University, and in 1919 the Narkompros merged it with the 2nd PSU (former Psychoneurological Institute) and 3rd PSU (former Bestuzhev Higher Courses for Women) into Petrograd State University. In 1919 the Faculty of Social Science was established by the Narkompros instead of the Faculty of History and Philology, Faculty of Oriental Languages and Faculty of Law. Nicholas Marr became the first Dean of the new faculty. Chemist Alexey Favorsky became the Dean of the Faculty of Physics and Mathematics. Rabfaks and free university courses were opened on the basis of the university to provide mass education. In the fall of 1920, as observed by freshman student Alice Rosenbaum, enrollment was open and the majority of the students were anti-communist including, until removed, a few vocal opponents of the regime. Seeing that they were educating “class enemies”, a purge was conducted in 1922 based on the class background of the students and all students, other than seniors, with a bourgeois background were expelled.

In 1924 the university was renamed Leningrad State University after its namesake city. In order to suppress intellectual opposition to Soviet power, a number of historians working in the university, including Sergey Platonov, Yevgeny Tarle and Boris Grekov, were imprisoned in the so-called Academic Affair of 1929–1930 on fabricated charges of participating in a counter-revolutionary conspiracy aimed at overthrowing the government. Some other members of the staff were repressed in 1937–1938 during the Great Purge.

During the 1941–1944 Siege of Leningrad in World War II, many of the students and staff died from starvation, in battles or from repressions. However, the university operated continuously, evacuated to Saratov in 1942–1944. A branch of the university was hosted in Yelabuga during the war. In 1944 the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Soviet Union awarded the university with the Order of Lenin on the occasion of its 125th anniversary and for its contribution to science and culture.

In 1948 the Council of Ministers named the university after Andrei Zhdanov, a recently deceased prominent communist official. This decision was revoked in 1989 during Perestroika.

In 1949–1950 several professors died in prison during the investigation of the Leningrad Affair fabricated by the central Soviet leadership, and the Minister of Education of the RSFSR, former rector Alexander Voznesensky, was executed.

In 1966 the Council of Ministers decided to build a new suburban campus in Petrodvorets for most of the mathematics and natural science faculties. The relocation of the faculties had been completed by the 1990s.

In 1969 the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Soviet Union awarded the university with the Order of the Red Banner of Labour.

In 1991 the university was renamed back to Saint Petersburg State University after its namesake city.

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