The University of California (UC) is a public university system in the state of California. The University of California has a combined student body of more than 191,000 students, over 1,340,000 living alumni, and an endowment of just over $5 billion (7th largest in the United States). Its first campus (now UC Berkeley) was founded in 1868, while its tenth and newest campus opened in the fall of 2005 near the city of Merced. The University of California's campuses boast large numbers of distinguished faculty in almost every field. The University is considered a model for public institutions across the United States, although as of the 2002-03 fiscal year, only 38% of its total budget comes from the State. All campuses enroll both undergraduate and graduate students with the exception of University of California, San Francisco, which enrolls only graduate and professional students in the medical and health sciences, and Hastings College of the Law, which is the oldest law school in the UC system and also located in San Francisco. The University of California is widely considered to be one of the most prestigous public university systems in the world.

University of California

Seal of the University of California
Seal of the University of California

MottoFiat Lux
(Latin: "Let There Be Light")
Established 1868
School type Public
President Robert C. Dynes
Location Oakland, CA, USA (Headquarters)
Enrollment 159,000 undergraduate,
32,000 graduate
Faculty 13,335
Expenditures US$11.8 billion
Endowment US$5 billion
Campuses 15,842 acres (64 km²)


When the State of California ratified its first constitution in 1849, it stipulated for an educational system complete with a university. Taking advantage of the Morrill Land Grant Act, the California Legislature established an Agricultural, Mining, and Mechanical Arts College in 1866. Although this institution was provided with sufficient funds, it lacked land.

Beforehand, Congregational minister Henry Durant had established the College of California in Oakland, California in 1855. With an eye for expansion, the college's trustees purchased 160 acres (650,000 m²) of land in what is now Berkeley in 1866. But unlike the state's Agricultural, Mining, and Mechanical Arts College, it lacked the funds to operate.

The trustees offered to merge with the state college to their mutual advantage, but under one condition — that there not be simply a "Agricultural, Mining, and Mechanical Arts College," but a "a complete university." Accordingly, the Organic Act, establishing the University of California, was signed into law on March 23, 1868.

The University opened its first medical school on February 20, 1873 in San Francisco. In 1908, a "University Farm" for the College of Agriculture was established at Davis, which became UC Davis in 1959. In 1919, the Legislature arranged for an existing normal school in Los Angeles to become the University's "Southern Branch." In turn, the Southern Branch became UCLA in 1927.

The Riverside campus was founded as the Citrus Experiment Station in 1907 and was elevated to campus status in 1954. The San Diego campus was founded as a marine station in 1912 and became UCSD in 1959. Campuses were established in Santa Barbara in 1958, and in both Santa Cruz and Irvine in 1965. UC Merced opened in Fall 2005.

The California Master Plan for Higher Education of 1960 established that the top 12.5% (1/8th) of graduating high school seniors in California would be guaranteed a place in one of the UC campuses. Previously, the top 15% were accepted.


The University of California is distinguished within academia. UC researchers and faculty are responsible for 5,505 inventions and 2,497 patents. UC researchers create 3 new inventions per day. At 32 million items, the University of California library system contains the third largest collection in the world, after the Library of Congress and the British Library.

Collectively, the system currently counts among its faculty (as of 2002):


The University of California is governed by the Regents of the University of California, as required by the current Constitution of the State of California. Eighteen regents are appointed by the governor for 12-year terms. One member is a student appointed for a one-year term. There are also 7 ex officio members — the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Speaker of the Assembly, Superintendent of Public Instruction, president and vice president of the Alumni Associations of UC, and the UC President.

The Academic Senate, made up of faculty members, is empowered by the Regents to set academic policies. In addition, the systemwide faculty chair and vice-chair sit on the Board of Regents as non-voting members.

Originally the President ran only the first campus, Berkeley. Now, the Regents appoint a president to run the entire system. The UC Office of the President is located in downtown Oakland and effectively serves as the system headquarters. Individual campuses are managed by Chancellors, who are given a great degree of autonomy.

List of UC Presidents

John LeConte (1868-1870, acting)
  1. Henry Durant (1870-1872)
  2. Daniel Coit Gilman (1872-1875)
  3. John LeConte (1876-1881)
  4. W.T. Reid (1881-1885)
  5. Edward S. Holden (1885-1888)
  6. Horace Davis (1888-1890)
  7. Martin Kellogg (1890-1893, acting) (1893-1899)
  8. Benjamin Ide Wheeler (1899-1919)
  9. David Prescott Barrows (1919-1923)
  10. William Wallace Campbell (1923-1930)
  11. Robert Gordon Sproul (1930-1958)
  12. Clark Kerr (1958-1967)
    Harry R. Wellman (1967, acting)
  13. Charles J. Hitch (1968-1975)
  14. David S. Saxon (1975-1983)
  15. David P. Gardner (1983-1992)
  16. Jack W. Peltason (1992-1995)
  17. Richard C. Atkinson (1995-2003)
  18. Robert C. Dynes (2003-present)



While the UC campuses are operated fairly efficiently, the system does have a reputation among its students and alumni for mediocre customer service. The most common symptoms are the long lines which students often must stand in to get even the simplest administrative tasks accomplished, the long wait times before phone calls are answered, and the overcomplicated paperwork that is often required.

During the 1990s, some campuses (like UCLA) aggressively streamlined many internal procedures with Web applications. Others (like UC Berkeley) were slower to adapt — as of 2005, Berkeley students still enroll in classes via the aging Tele-BEARS system, which is a Web interface on top of an older touch-tone telephone system (this despite the fact that UC Berkeley is one of the universities prominent in the development of many Internet technologies).

Labor Unions representing U.C. employees


Each UC school handles admissions separately, but a student wishing to apply for undergraduate admission uses one application for all UCs. The application is then scanned into a computer (if it is not already in electronic form) and distributed to the individual campus undergraduate admission offices. Graduate and professional school admissions are handled directly by each department or program for whom one applies to.

Prior to 1986, students who wished to apply to a UC for undergraduate study could only apply to one campus. If the student was rejected at that campus, but otherwise met the UC minimum eligibility requirements, he or she would be redirected to another campus with available space. For students who did not wish to be redirected, the application fee was returned. In 1986, that system was changed to the current "multiple filing" system, in which a student can apply to as many or as few UC campuses as he or she wants on one application, paying a fee for each campus. This system significantly increased the numbers of applications to the Berkeley and Los Angeles campuses, since students could choose which campus they wanted to attend after they received acceptance letters, without the fear of being redirected to a campus they did not want to attend.

Currently, the University of California is required to accept the top eighth of high school graduates, or the top 4% of any given high school class. Redirection to a UC with open space (generally Merced, Riverside, or Santa Cruz) still occurs for students who meet the qualifications but are not accepted at any UC applied to.

Undergraduate admissions are conducted on a two-phase basis. In the first phase, students are admitted based solely on academic achievement. This accounts for between 50-75% of the admissions. In the second phase, the university conducts a comprehensive review of the student's achievements, including extracurricular activities, essay, family history, and life challenges, to admit the remainder. Very rarely, students that do not qualify for regular admission are admitted by exception. In 2002, 2% of these exceptions were granted. The process for determining admissions varies. At some campuses, such as Davis, Santa Barbara, and San Diego, a point system is used to weight grade point average, SAT Reasoning/ACT scores, and SAT Subject scores, while at Berkeley, Irvine, and Los Angeles, academic achievement is examined in the context of the school and the surrounding community.

Out of the nine UC campuses admitting undergraduates, Berkeley and Los Angeles are the most selective, followed by San Diego. [1] Davis, Irvine, and Santa Barbara fall in the middle of selectivity, while Merced, Riverside, and Santa Cruz are less selective. Despite this, each campus has certain programs and majors that may be more selective than others, such as engineering or film.

Race, sex, national origin, and ethnicity are not used in UC admissions according to Proposition 209, although information is collected for statistical purposes only.

Peripheral enterprises

The University of California has a long tradition of involvement in many enterprises that are often geographically or organizationally separate from its general campuses, including national laboratories, observatories, hospitals, continuing education programs, travel and conference facilities, and an art institute.

National laboratories

This map shows the locations of the ten UC campuses and two of the three national laboratories under UC management. The third laboratory is in Los Alamos, New Mexico.

The University of California manages three national laboratories on behalf of the United States Department of Energy:

The UC's ties to the laboratories have occasionally sparked controversy and protest, because all three laboratories have been intimately linked with the development of nuclear weapons. During the World War II Manhattan Project, Lawrence Berkeley Lab developed the electromagnetic method for separation of uranium isotopes used to develop the first atomic bombs. The Los Alamos and Lawrence Livermore labs have been involved in designing the nation's nuclear weapons from inception until the shift into stockpile stewardship after the close of the Cold War.

However, the UC ties to the labs have so far outlasted all periods of internal controversy. In 2003, the Department of Energy for the first time opened the Los Alamos contract for bidding by other vendors. UC, in partnership with Bechtel, bid against the University of Texas System partnered with Lockheed-Martin. In December 2005, a seven-year contract to manage the laboratory was awarded to the UC and Bechtel.

The University of California also works with the NASA Ames Research Center at Moffett Federal Airfield in California. In September 2003, a ten-year contract valued at more than $330 million was awarded to the UC to establish and operate a University Affiliated Research Center (UARC) — the largest grant ever awarded the University. UC Santa Cruz manages the UARC for the University of California, with the goal of increasing the science output, safety, and effectiveness of NASA's missions through new technologies and scientific techniques.


The University of California manages two observatories as a multi-campus research unit headquartered at its Santa Cruz campus.

The Astronomy Department at the Berkeley campus manages the Hat Creek Radio Observatory in Shasta County, California.


The University of California has medical schools at Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, San Diego, and San Francisco. UCSF is consistently ranked in the Top 10 nationwide, and UCLA in the Top 15, by U.S. News and World Report. Affiliated teaching hospitals are also highly regarded, with UCLA Medical Center ranked No. 1 on the West Coast by US News.

In the latter half of the 20th century, the UC hospitals became the core of full-fledged regional health systems; they were gradually supplemented by many outpatient clinics, offices, and institutes. In 1984, San Diego County sold its public hospital to UCSD and agreed to reimburse it for treating the indigent, so that UCSD is now also responsible for San Diego's public healthcare system.

UC Extension

For over a century, the University has operated a continuing education program for working adults and professionals. At present, UC Extension enrolls over 500,000 students each year in over 17,000 courses. One of the reasons for its huge size is that UC Extension is a dominant provider of Continuing Legal Education and Continuing Medical Education in California.

Agriculture and Natural Resources, UC Cooperative Extension

The University of California division of Agriculture and Natural Resources plays a role in the State's agriculture industry, as mandated by the UC's legacy as a land grant institution. In addition to conducting agriculture research, every county in the state has a field office with county farm advisors. The county offices also support 4-H programs and have nutrition, family and consumer sciences advisors who assist local government

Travel and conference facilities

Other affiliated institutions

Labor Unions representing U.C. employees


See also