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The University of North Carolina

UNC at a Glance

  • The University of North Carolina was the first public university in the United States to open its doors (1795) and the only one to graduate students in the eighteenth century.
  • By 1972 all of the state's public education institutions that grant baccalaureate degrees had become part of the University of North Carolina through legislative action.
  • The 16 campuses of the University--located across N.C.--have a combined enrollment of more than 183,000 students. Enrollment is expected to top 235,000 by 2012.
  • UNC campuses collectively offer degrees in more than 300 disciplines. They confer more than three-fourths of North Carolina's baccelaureate degrees in high-need areas such as education, social work, engineering, nursing.
  • UNC programs include an array of distinguished liberal-arts programs, two medical schools and one teaching hospital, two law schools, a veterinary school, a school of pharmacy, ten nursing programs, 15 schools of education, three schools of engineering, and a specialized school for performing artists.
  • UNC campuses brought more than $940 million in external grants into the state in FY 2003, largely from federal sources. Much of this research activity is directly targeted to meet economic, health, and social needs within North Carolina.
  • The UNC Higher Education Bond Program is providing a much-needed shot in the arm to the state’s economy. Economists estimate that every $1 dollar spent on local construction generates up to $3.75 for the local economy. Given this “multiplier effect,” the economic impact of the UNC Bond Program will be approximately $9.3 billion.

Public Service

  • UNC's two land-grant institutions, NC A&T and NC State, have a special mandate to serve the citizens of N.C. through extension activities. The North Carolina Extension Service reaches all 100 N.C. counties through educational programs based on the issues and needs of the communities.
  • The UNC Health Care System provides more indigent care to N.C. citizens than any other hospital in the state. It is ranked the #1 health care system in N.C.
  • With 11 base sites across N.C., the Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) are dedicated to improving the quality, quantity, and distribution of health professionals across the state, particularly in its rural communities.
  • UNC-TV's 11 stations cover more than 95 percent of the state and reach more than 2 million viewers weekly. Nearly 40 percent of its broadcast schedule is devoted to preparing children for school.
  • In 2002-2003, the North Carolina State Education Assistance Authority administered 186,528 student grant, scholarship and loan awards, totaling $599,629,654, an increase of 13% in the number of awards and 35 % in funds disbursed over the previous year.


  • The Board of Governors is elected by the General Assembly and is legally charged with the governance of the University. The 32 voting members of the board elect UNC's president, who administers the University.

High quality; low cost

  • UNC serves the people of N.C. through a three-part mission: teaching, research, and service. Teaching remains the core mission of every UNC campus.
  • In keeping with our state's important and longstanding tradition, UNC's in-state tuition rates are among the lowest in the nation.
  • In 1998, the BOG adopted a comprehensive policy framework to guide it in setting tuition rates. The board considers a combination of factors including indicators of family affordability, estimated impact on student access, an analysis of student indebtedness, the availability of General Fund revenues, and the size of the University's expansion budget. The goal is to keep costs affordable for N.C. students and to give students and families adequate notice to plan their college finances.
  • In a recent survey of graduates, 91 percent expressed satisfaction with the quality of instruction they received at UNC.
  • Our faculty and graduate students are leaders in research targeting diseases such as cystic fibrosis, cancer, and arthritis. UNC researchers are also nationally prominent in the fields of agricultural engineering, virtual reality, and biotechnology.

The University of North Carolina is guided by a set of strategic priorities:
  • ACCESS: Ensure affordability and access to higher education for all qualified citizens and embrace a vision of lifelong learning.
  • INTELLECTUAL CAPITAL FORMATION: Through high-quality and relevant graduate, professional, and undergraduate programs, develop an educated citizenry that will enable North Carolina to flourish.
  • K-16 EDUCATION: : Continue to propose and support initiatives to serve the needs of the State's public schools.
  • CREATION, TRANSFER, AND APPLICATION OF KNOWLEDGE: Expand the frontiers of knowledge through scholarship and research and stimulate economic development in North Carolina through basic and applied research, technology transfer, and outreach and engagement.
  • INTERNATIONALIZATION: Promote an international perspective throughout the University community to prepare citizens to become leaders in a multi-ethnic and global society.
  • TRANSFORMATION AND CHANGE: Use the power of information technology guided by IT strategy and more effective educational, administrative, and business practices to enable the University to respond to the competitive global environment of the 21st century.

History of the University of North Carolina

In North Carolina, all the public educational institutions that grant baccalaureate degrees are part of the University of North Carolina. The University of North Carolina is composed of the 16 constituent institutions which form the multi-campus state university.

The University of North Carolina, chartered by the N.C. General Assembly in 1789, was the first public university in the United States to open its doors and the only one to graduate students in the eighteenth century. The first class was admitted in Chapel Hill in 1795. For the next 136 years, the only campus of the University of North Carolina was at Chapel Hill.

In 1877, the N.C. General Assembly began sponsoring additional institutions of higher education, diverse in origin and purpose. Five were historically black institutions, and another was founded to educate American Indians. Several were created to prepare teachers for the public schools. Others had a technological emphasis. One is a training school for performing artists.

In 1931, the N.C. General Assembly redefined the University of North Carolina to include three state-supported institutions: The campus at Chapel Hill (now the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill), North Carolina State College (now North Carolina State University at Raleigh), and Woman's College (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro). The new multi-campus University operated with one board of trustees and one president. By 1969, three additional campuses had joined the University through legislative action: the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the University of North Carolina at Asheville, and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington.

In 1971, the General Assembly passed legislation bringing into the University of North Carolina the state's ten remaining public senior institutions, each of which had until then been legally separate: Appalachian State University, East Carolina University, Elizabeth City State University, Fayetteville State University, North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, North Carolina Central University, the North Carolina School of the Arts, Pembroke State University, Western Carolina University, and Winston-Salem State University. This action created the current 16-campus University. (In 1985, the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, a residential high school for gifted students, was declared an affiliated school of the University.)

The UNC-Board of Governors is the policy-making body legally charged with "the general determination, control, supervision, management, and governance of all affairs of the constituent institutions." It elects the president, who administers the University. The 32 voting members of the Board of Governors are elected by the General Assembly for four-year terms. Former board chairmen and board members who are former governors of North Carolina may continue to serve limited periods as non-voting members emeriti. The president of the UNC Association of Student Governments, or that student's designee, is also a non-voting member.

Each of the 16 constituent institutions is headed by a chancellor, who is chosen by the board of Governors on the president's nomination and is responsible to the president. Each institution has a board of trustees, consisting of eight members elected by the Board of Governors, four appointed by the governor, and the president of the student body, who serves ex-officio. (The NC School of the Arts has two additional ex-officio members.) Each board of trustees holds extensive powers over academic and other operations of its institution on delegation from the Board of Governors.

Equality of Opportunity: The University of North Carolina and all of its constituent institutions are committed to equality of opportunity. There shall be no discrimination within the University against applicants, students, or employees on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, age, handicap, or national origin, consistent with the provisions of applicable state and federal law.

Promoting Racial Integration: The University of North Carolina actively seeks to promote racial integration at each of its constituent institutions.


   Last modified: January 10, 2008

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