The National Polytechnic Institute (in Spanish: Instituto Politécnico Nacional, IPN) is one of the largest and finest public universities in Mexico. Based primarily in Mexico City and its suburbs, it offers over 64 different undergraduate and 114 graduate programs to some 87,000 students.
The Institute was founded on January 1, 1936 during the administration of President Lázaro Cárdenas in what had been previously known as the Ex hacienda Santo Tomás; a large estate initially owned by Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés in the 16th century and donated by the federal government. Prominent astronomer Luis Enrique Erro, former revolutionary Juan de Dios Bátiz and former minister of education Narciso Bassols were among its initial promoters.
The Institute is organized around 77 academic units including 24 university colleges, 15 scientific and technical research centers, 11 continuing education centers and 16 vocational high schools located primarily in Mexico City, although several extension and research facilities are distributed over 15 different states.
Some units (particularly the semi-autonomous, internationally renowned Cinvestav) enjoy a high degree of academic and budgetary freedom. The Institute as a whole is headed by a Director-general appointed by the President of Mexico, usually (but not always) after some consultation with members of its academic community. Since 2003 its Director-general is José Enrique Villa Rivera.
In addition its academic endeavors, and as part of its cultural promotion strategy, the Institute operates Canal Once, the oldest public broadcast service in Latin America featuring original cultural, scientific, and entertainment programming, foreign shows and classic, rare, and non-commercial films from all over the world.
Its 2006 general admission rate for undergraduate programs was 39%, although this varies greatly among its schools.
Like most public universities in the country, in addition to its graduate and undergraduate schools the Institute sponsors several high schools called Centros de Estudios Científicos y Tecnológicos, CECyT, most of which are located in Greater Mexico City.