Half a century after Bukovina’s entry into the Austrian Habsburg possessions, she was removed from the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria and in 1849 declared a crown land with the status of duchy. In 1850, she was “gifted a constitution” proclaiming the right to form local representative and executive bodies. They were also preserved during the transformation of the Austrian Empire into the dualistic monarchy of Austria and Hungary and supported the idea of opening a university in Chernivtsi, voiced and actively defended by Chernivtsi lawyer and politician Konstantin Tomashchuk. As a deputy of the Bukovina Lantag (Regional Seimas), he was elected a representative to the State Council (Reichsrat), where on November 28, 1872 he made a rationale for his initiative.
The need for a new German-language educational institution in the eastern lands of Austria-Hungary became especially urgent after the Polish language of study was transferred to Lviv University in 1871. Therefore, when in 1874 the House of Representatives made a proposal to open a new university on the territory of the empire, Tomaszczuk’s initiative, supported by the appeal of the Bukovina Sejm and the Chernivtsi burgomaster Anton Kohanovsky, found support without delay from the Minister of Culture and Education, Karl von Streamair. endorsed by Emperor Franz Joseph, who favored Chernivtsi as opposed to Trieste, Olomouc, Brno, Ljubljana and Salzburg, given the desire to strengthen the authority of the central government in their their eastern possessions.
The final decision to open a university in Chernivtsi on the basis of a theological institute, which had existed in the city since 1827, was approved in Vienna by the Chambers of Representatives and Lords on January 27 and February 3, 1875, respectively, and on March 31 the emperor granted a patent for its foundation. On May 12, the Bukovyna Diet decided to hand over the university library to the university, as well as to finance its construction in the amount of 50,000 florins from the regional funds; the same amount was donated to the city community for these purposes. On the proposal of the Minister of Education, the official opening of the new educational institution was scheduled for October 4, in order to have the opportunity to “prepare the university that bears the emperor’s highest name” as soon as possible, and was held at the same time as the opening of the new premises of Bukovina Lantag, where the main celebrations took place on the occasion of both events.
The first rector of Chernivtsi University was 35-year-old Konstantin Tomashchuk, and 127 teachers and professors were invited mainly from Vienna, but also from Graz, Prague and Innsbruck, ten from Germany and three from Switzerland. They worked at the first Central European Faculty of Greek Orthodox Theology, as well as law and philosophy, in which 208 students, mostly German-speaking Austrians and Jews, studied in 1875. In the same year, the University Library, founded in 1852, was transferred to the University (the general fund of which now totals more than 2.6 million copies).
Over time, the number of Ukrainian- and Romanian-speaking students increased to a quarter of the total, and departments of Russian (Ukrainian) and Romanian philology were created for them. In 1914 there were 1,198 students at Chernivtsi University whose studies were interrupted by the First World War – the idea of transferring the university to Salzburg was not realized and after the Brest-Lithuanian peace was concluded, it was renewed. With the collapse of Austria-Hungary and the accession of Bukovina to Romania, the university, named after King Carol I, was Romanianized, and the Ukrainian departments closed; in 1920-22 new buildings were erected for him, one of which housed the fourth Faculty of Natural Sciences.
Under the Soviet rule, which came to Bukovina in 1940, Chernivtsi University became a state-owned institution with a completely reorganized organizational structure and educational process in Ukrainian at seven faculties. In 1955, when it acquired the former residence of the Metropolitan of Bukovina and Dalmatia, which was erected in 1882, four more faculties were added. In 1993, the Faculty of Theology was renewed at the Chernivtsi University, named after Yuriy Fedkovich since 1989.
As of 2018, nearly 20,000 students study at 15 faculties and at one college at Chernivtsi National University.