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Overview

The University of California was formed in 1868 through the merger of two fledgling institutions: the private College of California in Oakland; and a new state land-grant institution, the Agricultural, Mining, and Mechanical Arts College.

The College of California, led by former clergyman Henry Durant and modeled after Yale and Harvard, featured core courses in Latin, Greek, history, English, mathematics and natural history, with the addition of modern languages. Though it had little funding, it had land — both in Oakland and four miles north at a town site eventually named for George Berkeley, an 18th-century Irish philosopher and bishop.

Meanwhile the state college, created by the state legislature pursuant to the federal land-grant legislation, had funding but as-yet no campus. Leaders of the two institutions decided to join the two schools to their mutual advantage, blending their curricula to form a "complete university." On March 23, 1868, the state governor signed into law the Organic Act, "to Create and Organize the University of California."

Land-grant status

The Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890 are United States statutes that allowed for states to establish land-grant colleges. Federally controlled land was granted to the states to be developed or sold to found learning institutions that would focus on agriculture, science and engineering. Most of these institutions evolved into public universities such as UC.

Growth of the university

The 10 UC campuses were founded over a 140-year period, with Berkeley (1868) the oldest campus and Merced (2005) the newest.  However, the majority of the campuses — Santa Barbara, Riverside, Davis, San Diego, Irvine and Santa Cruz — became UC general campuses within a relatively short period of time, between 1944 and 1965.

Three campuses — Berkeley, Irvine and Merced — were first established as full-fledged campuses within the UC system. The other campuses either had UC affiliations, generally as research entities predating their establishment as full-fledged campuses, or they existed as independent institutions prior to being incorporated into the UC system:

  • UC San Francisco was founded as Toland Medical College in 1864. Toland and the California College of Pharmacy affliated with UC in 1873; eight years later, the UC Regents added a dental college. Official campus status was given in 1964.
  • UC Riverside, founded in 1907, grew out of a citrus experiment station. The College of Letters and Science was established in 1948; general campus status was granted in 1959.
  • UC Davis started in 1905 as a university farm extension of UC Berkeley. It became a general campus in 1959.
  • UC San Diego evolved from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (1903); it became a general campus in 1960.
  • UC Santa Cruz has a predecessor in the Lick Observatory (1888); it because a general campus in 1965.

Two campuses were originally established as teachers colleges within the state college system:

  • UCLA, established in 1882 as the Los Angeles State Normal School, joined the UC system in 1919.
  • UC Santa Barbara, established in 1909 as Santa Barbara State College, joined the UC system in 1944.
California Master Plan for Higher Education

UC's historical strengths in research were recognized as the California Master Plan for Higher Education (1960) designated UC as the primary state-supported academic research institution. The Master Plan also gives UC exclusive jurisdiction in public higher education for doctoral degrees (with the exception that the California State University system can award joint doctorates) and for instruction in law, medicine, dentistry and veterinary medicine.

Sources:  Campus websites; UC Communications

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