Tulkki Pasi

Valtion virka vai teollinen työ? Insinöörikoulutus sosiaalisena ilmiönä 1802-1939

State Service or Work for Industry? Engineer education as a social phenomenon 1802-1939

English summary


The study addresses the rise and development of engineer education in Finland from the 19th century until World War II. Due to the topic, subject matter, the study also deals with and comments on the industrialization of Finland and the effect of this development to engineer education as well as the effect of the education to industrialization. The early forms of engineer education are compared with the respective educational institutions in England, Germany and France. A special subject of interest is the definition of what the word ?engineering? means and the changes it has undergone during the period dealt with in this survey. The definition of engineering differs between England, France, Germany and several other countries. In Finland the representation of an engineer has been considered in a narrower sense than, for example, in the United States.

The study examines engineering through the sociological theory of Pierre Bourdieu. It considers engineering as a field, where successful action presupposes special reserves of symbolic capital and habitus. In this research the field of engineering appears to be a bipolar system, where one pole is formed by government offices presupposing technical knowledge, while the other is formed by engineers working in industry. In this study the former is named the bureaucratic sector of the field of engineering, while the latter forms the industrial sector.

Besides the development and changes in Finnish industry and engineer education, the study examines the placing of engineers in the field of engineering, paying special attention to the different forms of education and their effect on the placing. The empirical material of the study, on one hand, consists of on the data base that was gathered from the register containing all members of engineer organizations. On the other hand it is based on historical reviews dealing with engineering.

The development of the field of engineering

The violent changes caused by the Napoleonic Wars in Europe had their effects in Finland, too. As a result of the war in 1809 the country was separated from Sweden and it became an autonomic Grand Duchy of Russia. This political change disrupted the contacts that had existed between Finland and the Swedish commercial and industrial life and its liberalization. In the first half of the 19th century, the Russian power in Finland looked for the support of the national gentry, which in a social and economic sense resulted in a stagnation of development and even its reversal as compared with the policy of Gustavus III, who, on the contrary, had searched the support of the lower gentry, the bourgeois merchant class and the peasantry. In Finland the most important government offices were reserved for the top gentry, i.e. to the so-called ironworks and manor gentry. They became the undisputed ruling class in the society.

The power of the ironworks and manor gentry resulted in the reinforcement of the mercantilist regulations. In the early 19th century, the Finnish government had mostly one, a very narrow vision of how to develop economical life, and that was almost solely to improve the productivity of the ironworks and the manors. In the part of Finland ruled by the ironworks gentry, in the so-called Swedish Finland, e.g. the activity of wood-processing industry was restricted. This was due to the opinion that wood-processing wasted the forests needed as fuel in the ironworks. As a result, wood-processing industry developed further in the eastern part of the country, in the so- called Russian Finland, where no such restrictions existed. The mercantilist politics slowed down the industrialization of the country; the share of the industry and handicraft was somewhere near 5 per cent in 1805, but not more than 4 per cent in 1835. Three quarters of those working in industry worked as handicraftsmen in workshops with less than five workers.

In the 18th century the Finnish ironworks industry still got their ore, and to some extent, also their technical experts from Sweden. Under Russian rule the problems of how to secure the raw material and the expertise had to be considered anew. According to the research, the early 19th century was in Finland, on the contrary to the rest of Europe, the golden era of the guilds. As a result to the reinforcement of mercantilist politics the number and social influence of the guilds increased. In the early autonomic period the guild system had an important position and it was, in reality, the only educational and training system that could satisfy the needs of the industry and handicraft. During the first half of the 19th century approximately a quarter of the industrial labour power was within the training system of the guilds. From the point of view of the ironworks gentry this system was adequate, because it satisfied the expertise and quality level needed by the ironworks.

However, propositions were put forward to start formal engineer education in Finland. The earliest of them was presented in 1802 by professor Gadolin, who was a member of the Finnish Economical Society. The ruling ironworks and manor gentry rejected these propositions. Among other things they did not want to have any kind of industrial competition with their ironworks. In addition, the ruling class considered the productivity of the manors to be more important than industrialization. Due to this, they rejected a proposition made in the 1830s about a technologic institute and, instead of that, forced through the founding of an agricultural school. Besides the ironworks and manor gentry, the starting of formal technical education was opposed by the guilds, who had a strong position in local municipal administration. Their view of formal engineer education was that it formed a threat to their position in the industrial sector of the field of engineering.

Formal engineer education in Finland was especially advocated by teachers or those aspering a status of teacher. Professor Gadolin was professor of Chemistry at the Academy of Turku and his aim was to form a parallel educational institution and a system of his own (and which he would be the head of) within the university. The latter proposition, which was put forward in the 1830s, was advocated especially by the civil servants of the industrial government, who also aimed to form an educational institution of their own and which would be governed by them. According to the proposition, the teachers at this Technological Institution would have been the very same civil servants. In the Finnish circumstances arose a situation that differed from the rest of Europe. In this country the teachers formed an essential, strategic group of authority in the development of formal engineer education. These circumstances still influence on the technical education in Finland.

The mutual relationship between the ironworks and manor gentry and the guilds, who both opposed formal engineer education, despite their alliance in this matter, was not without problems. From the point of view of the gentry, who ruled the industrial sector of engineering, the guilds formed a threat, similar to a competitive branch of industry, which had to be under control. In the propositions dealing with modernizations of technical education, it is possible to see details that served the policy of increasing control. Due to this attitude, the only part realized in the proposition that had been put forward in the 1830s, was the founding of a new organ of governmental control, the Cabinet of Industry. In the proposition the Cabinet of Industry was planned to be a certain kind of board of administration, but in reality it became an instrument of control in industrial and commercial life.

The Cabinet of Industry was the first institution in the bureaucratic sector of Finnish engineering and it also formed the basis of development of this branch. The ironworks gentry that ruled the industrial sector used it as a tool to control both the competitive industry and the guilds. From the point of view of education the proposition of the 1830s was reduced. The only thing realized was the founding of Sunday schools, which supported the training system of the guilds. Instead of a technological institution the authorities founded the Agricultural Institute of Mustiala.

The birth of formal engineer education

The proposition made in 1835 of founding a Technological Institution came from the Russian authorities. They also put forward a proposition to found technical schools with a curriculum on practical lines in the 1840s and the 1870s. One cannot claim that formal technical education in Finland only reflected the interests of St. Petersburg. However, it is true that remarkable phases of renewals and expansion coincided with the period of suspicious attitudes from Russian authorities towards the University of Alexander. The Russian authorities seem to have used engineer education as some kind of means to repress and hinder the radicalization of the university.

The technical schools with a curriculum on practical lines that were founded in Helsinki, Turku and Vaasa on the proposition of the governor general, started to function in 1849. These schools challenged the educational monopoly of the guilds; a student who had passed the technical school was guaranteed the privilege to become a master after the completion of his time as a journeyman. Despite this policy, these technical schools did not become an important challenger to the guilds. The number of masters who had been trained by the guild system and were working in factories as engineers was over a thousand, whereas the number of engineers educated in technical schools was under one hundred before the founding of the Polytechnic Institute. Besides this, three out of every four engineers who had passed their examination at technical schools found work as civil servants, while the remaining one fourth was employed by industry.

The bipolarity of the field of engineering in Finland became apparent already during the founding phase of the formal engineer education. The vacancies for engineers in the industrial sector were filled with 'experienced men' trained by the guild system. One could also call them 'self-educated engineers'. On the other hand, formal engineer education was a means to keep the self-educated engineers outside the governmnet offices that recquired technical expertise. The bureaucratic sector of the field of engineering became established and widened remarkably on the latter part of the 19th century. This was a period when the construction of the canals was increased and the building of the railway network started.

A national speciality in Finland was the exceptionally influential position of the teachers as developers of formal engineer education. This made possible the exceptional position of the collegium of teachers at Helsinki Technical School (later Polytechnic School) in the centre of the bureaucratic field of engineering. The collegium of teachers was, from time to time, a major factor competing with the industrial magnates and also the definer of the boundaries and the structures in the field of engineering.

The students in technical schools and especially those who had passed their final exams in these schools had a higher social background as compared with self-educated engineers. However, in the strategy of the gentry in Finland, the university was still the main way to important social positions. Engineer education was considered as an alternative to those young men in the gentry who seemed not to fulfill the qualifications for studies at the university or to become an officer in the army. It was a natural choice for these young men to turn their interests to the bureaucratic sector of the field of engineering. It responded to their habitus. In general, it was not considered suitable for a person of high social standing to work as an engineer in industry.

The college equals the university

As a result of the defeat in the Crimean War and the change of the Czar, in the 1850s, a certain 'glasnost' and 'perestroika' started in Russia. This meant the beginning of the liberalization of the economical life. In social life this period meant the opening of new influential positions to wider social circles. In Finland these reforms meant that a new group of industrialists and businessmen became equals to the ironworks and manor gentry to fight for ruling positions in economical life. Besides the industrialists, the lower gentry that were earlier kept outside the highest positions, had a new chance to rise in social standing. The activities of the lower gentry were channelled to the so-called Fennoman movement, the aim of which was to increase the Finnish language in social life. In the strategy of this movement the university had a major position of importance.

The liberalization of the economy stroke a mortal blow to the guilds and their training system. After the dispersion of the guilds the self-educated engineers searched a new basis for their organization in the handicraftsmen?s unions and even in the labour movement. One of the characteristic features of the so-called Wrigtian labour movement was an aspiration to restore the guild-based training that would take place in the workshops.

The brightening economic and industrial activity raised the social appreciation of engineer education. In 1872 the Technical School of Helsinki was transformed, according to a German model, to Polytechnic School and later, in 1879, it became Polytechnic College. The advancement of the school was promoted on one hand by the fact that the Russian bureaucracy supported the initiative. The other promoting factor was that the Svekomanian gentry searched for countermeasures against the success that the Fennoman movement had gained in academical circles. A Swedish-oriented institution of engineer education that would coexist with the university was considered to secure the ruling position of the Swedish-speaking society even in the case that the university would fall into the hands of the Fennomanian movement. Due to these circumstances also later - at least until the 1930s - the so-called 'language struggle' had a major influence on the definition and confining of the field of engineering. The Finnish engineers were divided in the late 19th century in their own professional organizations on the basis of their mother tongue.

Subsequently, the Swedish speaking engineers who had passed the formal final examination, aspired to the esteemed positions both in Finland and abroad, whereas their Finnish colleagues aspired to occupy, and not without success, the positions of the Swedish in the bureaucratic sector of the field. It was appropriate to the habitus of the Finnish speaking, formally educated engineers, to pursuit the official positions in the administration. This was due to the fact that in the so-called Fennoman movement the official positions were valued very high as compared with the positions for engineers in industry. When language struggle became an additional factor that separated the participants in the field of engineering, the bipolarity of the field increased and the social differences became more uncompromising.

Even if the language groups were directed towards different fields, the general atmosphere of the Polytechnic School and the College remained stable. This situation continued even in the early years of the 20th century, when the Finnish-speaking engineers who had passed the final examination, outnumbered the Swedish-speaking. Until the end of the autonomic period, the university-level education of engineers was deared at producing civil servants, and thus two-thirds of the engineers who had completed their studies were employed by the bureaucratic sector of the field of engineering. Half of those who were employed by the industrial sector of the field were employed by foreign industry; most of them in Russia.

In 1908, the Polytechnic College was renamed as the Institute of Technology in Finland. This reform was preceded by an extraordinarily strong debate in Finland between the collegium of teachers and the industrialist magnates. The aim of the teachers seems to have been to strengthen their own position by getting this academic status. Thus they would rule and define the field of engineering according to their own will. The magnates, on the other hand, pursued the same position and wanted to acquire more influence in the new Institute. This battle was ended in a kind of compromise that gave the teachers their institute, but it was lead by a counselling board that constituted of the magnates.

The education of engineers expands

In the early years of this century the education of engineers given by the Polytechnic College and the Institute of Technology was challenged by graduation abroad, especially in Germany. During 1908-1914 more than every fourth of the engineers from Finland passed their final exams abroad. Studying abroad was augmented by the young men's refusal to enter military conscript in 1904, the result of which was, that several students were expelled from the Polytechnic College. They went abroad to find new ways of studying and thus proved to be trailblazers for the Swedish-speaking students from upper social groups to this possibility of educating oneself. The growing number of students moving abroad partly explains the fast augmentation of Finnish speakers at the Polytechnic College and the Institute of Technology.

There seems to have been a demand for those engineers who had graduated abroad. They found employment in industry in Finland - and in Russia, too. However the beginning of World War I closed this way of education. There were also other factors that led to the founding of new, parallel methods of educating engineers than just at the Institute of Technology. The industrial magnates were dissatisfied with the language struggle and they also criticised the Polytechnic College and the Institute of Technology about producing mainly civil servants. The report of the so-called Palmén committee put forward in 1906, that there should be a Technical College educating engineers in Tampere in addition to the Institute of Technology of Helsinki. The curriculum of the College that started its operation in 1912, was drawn up according to the needs of the industry. In 1916 a similar, privately funded college, was begun in Helsinki and a year later, in 1917, the Faculty of Chemistry and Technology at the Swedish speaking Åbo Academy started to produce engineers for the wood-processing industry.

When Finland became independent in 1917 the definitions of the field of engineering had changed. Earlier, the object of the struggle had been the problem in the industrial and the bureaucratic sector of the field, between the self-educated engineers and those who had passed the formal final examination. Now the object was the status of the different formal graduations in the different sectors of the field. The self-educated engineers disappeared nearly totally in the early 20th century.
The reasons for this can be found on one hand in the abolition of the guild system and in the incompetence of this group to find new ways of organization. Another reason was technological development, e.g. the advancement and generalization of electrotechnics.

Industry vs. bureaucracy

Independent Finland has been noted for its wood-processing industry. The rise of this type of industry started in the late 19th century and by the 1910s wood-processing had stabilized its position as the leading branch of industry. The strengthening of the position of wood-processing industry was aided by the bonds between it and the landownership of the farmers. This is due to the fact that in independent Finland the strong position of wood-processing industry has also served the needs of those farmers who own forests. Other branches of industry, especially metal industry, were harnessed to serve agriculture and wood-processing even in the 1920s and 1930s.

Finnish industry, especially wood-processing industry, had mainly been owned by the Swedish-speaking business men. Only few examples of Finnish persons as occupants of the most important positions in the industrial sector of engineering can be pointed out. In independent Finland the most wanted and the most important employments for engineers in the industrial sector of engineering 'naturally' fell to the Swedish speaking engineers who had graduated from the Institute of Technology and Åbo Academy. Most of these engineers, in fact, sought employments in industry, because the salary was much higher compared with public offices. In their cases the excessive theoretical character of the education may not have been a problem. The practical-oriented engineers needed by the industry graduated from technical colleges and the majority of them found employment at the 'lower' employments for engineers.

Those Finnish speaking engineers who graduated from the Institute of Technology felt ill at ease working for the industry ruled by the Swedish-speaking. During the years 1917-1939 two-thirds of the graduates chose the bureaucratic sector of the field. Even in the 1920s, when working as an engineer in the industry was popular, over 50 per cent of the Finnish-speaking graduates from the Institute of Technology chose the career of a civil servant and in the 1930s their number even grew. Especially the members of the ultra-Finnish Academic Karelia Society chose the bureaucratic sector.

In this way the bureaucratic sector of the field of engineering gradually became possessed by the Finnish-speaking engineers who had graduated from the Institute of Technology. Now that the goal of the Swedish- speaking was employment in industry, the most important challengers in the struggle for the employment in public offices of the Finnish speaking engineers from the Institute of Technology seemed to become their colleagues from the Technical College of Tampere. Anticipating a possible struggle the Society of Technicians in Tampere started a campaign, in which they demanded that public offices should be available to the graduates of the colleges. However, during the so-called First Republic continued the custom that had started under Russian rule. According to it, public offices for engineers were available only for those who had graduated from the Institute of Technology. This closed the competing Finnish- speaking group of engineers outside the field of the bureaucratic sector. Besides this, some official regulations were adapted to define the Technical College as 'inferior' to the Institute of Technology. The colleges were defined as 'a schools, the graduates of which had a possibility to continue their studies at the Institute of Technology'. This latter decision had only minor importance to the real studying possibilities for the college engineers. However, it meant a great deal to the definition of their professional qualifications.

Finnish-speaking engineers tried to use their position in the bureaucratic sector of the field of engineering to strengthen their position in the field as a whole. Immediately after the Civil War the Paasikivi Senate acquired the majority of stock in Ab W. Gutzeit & Co. and Tonator Co. so that these companies became mainly state-owned. This procedure was the starting point that created state-owned industry in Finland. It was not long after this that Rikkihappo- ja superfosfaattitehdas (which produced sulphur acid and super phosphates) Imatran Voima, Veitsiluoto and Outokumpu Co. became similarly state-owned. To satisfy the needs of the army the following companies were founded: Valtion Patruunatehdas (to produce ammunition), Valtion Kivääritehdas (to produce rifles), Valtion Laivatelakka (to produce ships) and Valtion Lentokonetehdas (to produce aeroplanes). Government-led industry, in the creation of which the militarization of production had a major role, acted in the industrial sector, where the most wanted and the most important employments for engineers fell 'naturally' to the Finnish- speaking who had graduated from the Institute of Technology. However, the main reason to create government- led industry was, that at the time the so-called Fennoman banks and the other similar financing institutions did not have enough capital to create any industry of their own.

The collegium of teachers at the Institute of Technology followed the procedure acknowledged by the pro-Finnish engineers despite the fact that most of the teachers were Swedish-speaking. Naturally this setting strengthened the position of the pro-Finnish inside the Institute. Having gained its new name the common aim of the collegium of teachers was to raise the appreciation of the Institute to university-level. To reach this aim it was considered especially important to commence scientific and technical research. The collegium of teachers at the Institute of Technology and especially the pro-Finnish members in it set as their goal to found a state-subsidized technical research centre. However, this plan did not proceed any further, due to the existence of the private-funded Central Laboratory and the Biochemical Institute of Research. The former served the needs of the wood-processing industry while the latter worked for agriculture. It was only after the plan got militarist features that a favourable decision was made and the 'Humboldian ideal' that tied together research and teaching, was also rendered possible at the Institute of Technology.

Before World War II the biggest change in the field of engineering in Finland was the increasing percentage of the so-called college engineers. In the 1930s already a third of the graduated engineers had passed their final exam at the Technical College. At the time two-thirds still finished their studies at the Institute of Technology. In the industrial sector of the field of engineering the change was even more drastic. In the 1930s more than 50 per cent of the new engineers employed by industry had finished their studies at the Technical College. During the first two decades in independent Finland studying to be an engineer at Åbo Academy and abroad was only a marginal choice. In the 1930s the language struggle became less severe also in the field of engineering, which meant that a growing number of Finnish-speaking engineers could advance in their career in the service of industry.


The clear-cut bipolarity of the field of engineering in Finland in the first phases of its birth and development lead to different definitions of what engineering was. The definitions of the bureaucratic sector emphasize the importance of abstract thinking, which can be seen in the prominence given to mathematics and to the abilities expected of a civil servant. The definitions of the industrial sector emphasize the importance of practical expertise and also the readiness to meet multiple human situations and cope with them.

In the early phase the definitions of the bureaucratic sector were produced and supported by the formal education of engineers as such. In the activity of both the technical schools with a curriculum on practical lines and also at the Polytechnic School and College the definitions of the bureaucratic sector appeared as an aim to raise the standard of teaching, which could also be called as over-theorization. The abstractness of teaching eliminated the unwanted and practical-minded students who mostly came from lower social classes. It also strengthened the position of the upper-class students who had a civil servant habitus.

The definitions of the industrial sector appeared in the training of the guilds? factory masters, where the emphasis lay on manual skills and on the strengthening of the so- called superintendent habitus. In the early days of industrialism a factory also functioned as a school for the workers. At the time the teaching of the landless population to adapt themselves to regular work for wages was not especially civilized. Among other things corporal punishments were ordered and also executed and the workers could periodically use excessive amounts of alcohol. These and several other factors lead to the conclusion that formally graduated gentry youths should not be allowed to enter - even as an experiment - the factories.

Thus, in the early field of engineering in Finland there reigned a situation which could be called a double closure. The bureaucratic sector was closed to the self-educated engineers of the guilds while the industrial sector was closed to those engineers with formal education. In the early days of the 20th century this double closure continued, but now it appeared as language struggle. The situation had also in a way turned contrary in the sense that the industrial sector was ruled by the Swedish while the socially lower Finnish gained ever more footing in the bureaucratic sector.

Generally speaking one can say that the industrial sector of the field favours the existence of several different and respectively parallel ways of engineer education and educational institutions. The industry is willing to employ different and versatile persons. In Finland this tendency appeared first as favouritism of self-educated engineers instead of the formally educated and later as activity of the industrial magnates to found new educational institutions for engineers. During the late autonomic period graduation abroad competed with graduation at the Polytechnic College and at the Institute of Technology. At that time the industrialists also took advantage of their strengthened social position and founded in rapid succession three educational institutions for engineers that competed with the Institute of Technology. On the other hand, the bureaucratic sector favours the supremacy of one educational institution and also a clear-cut hierarchy, where different educational institutions are put into subordinate relationship with regard to the ruling institution and also respectively. This situation is due to the structure of the bureaucratic fields that were also familiar with the competitive relations of industrial and economical life. Strengthening of the bureaucratic sector of the field of engineering has resulted in an increasingly hierarchic educational system and simultaneously to augmenting unidimensionality. In Finnish circumstances the change into this direction has also meant widening influence and more power of definability to the teachers in engineer education.

To a country that imports technology the qualitative demands set on engineer education are not as high as in countries that create technology. From the point of view of its industrial background Finland is a country that imports technology and thus resembles France, but differs from England and Germany which both have created technology. The nature of engineer education in Finland is parallel to the respective French system, which is a result of a similar attitude to technology. Another reason for this similarity is that Nicholas I adopted the bureaucratic model of administration from Napoleonic France. The practise of the Bonapartists was that they favoured technical education instead of academic studies and this attitude came to Finland from the bureaucratic St. Petersburg. The top engineers in the Napoleonic system were mainly civil servants and so were the formally graduated engineers in Finland. The difference can be pointed out explicitly here; French engineers served right from the beginning in the army, whereas the first canals in demilitarized Finland were built under the leadership of officers. Formal engineer education had to wait for the beginning of railroad network construction.

The model of Finnish engineer education originated from German institutes of technology, because the German model was considered here as a basis for the development of the engineer education. However, the considerations were similar in France. The difference, however, was that in France, Germany was thought to be a military menace, the leading position of which would have to be surpassed. In Finland, on the other hand, Germany was considered as an ideal and, since the late autonomic period, a potential or an actual ally.