Odessa I. I. Mechnikov National University is one of the oldest in Ukraine. It was founded in 1865, when by Edict of the Russian Tsar Alexander II the Richelieu Lyceum (Рішелівський ліцей, which had existed in Odessa since 1817) was reorganized into the Imperial Novorossiya (New Russia) University. All academic and scientific life of the university - from the day of its foundation - was directed by the Statute of 1863 that formed the liberal-democratic tradition of the Higher Institution which has been preserved in spite of all the disturbances in the social and political life of the country. From the very first years of its existence, the Imperial Novorossiya University became an important center of science and for training the scientific and educational cadres of the northern Black Sea coastal region.
World-famous teachers and scientists have worked at Imperial Novorossiya University during different times of its existence, including the Nobel Prize winner I. I. Mechnikov (after whom University was later renamed), Professors I. M. Sechenov, A. A. Kovalevskiy, N. F. Gamaleya, N. Y. Zelinskiy, D. L. Mendeleyev, physicist G. A. Gamov, mathematician A. M. Lyapunov, and others. Through their activities, the Imperial Novorossiya University quickly became one of the centers of the culture of the Ukrainian, Russian, and other peoples dwelling along the northern coast of the Black Sea, and the university began to play an important role in the development of science.