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A New President and an Economic Crisis

The Debate over Admissions


Research and Economic Growth

New Directions for Outreach

Tidal Wave II and New Approaches to Admission

Achievement versus Aptitude


The University Past and Present

University of California Campuses

Presidents of the University of California

Chief Campus Officers and Chancellors of the University of California


Chapter 40: The University Past and Present

In the early days of statehood, the University served not only as a source of education but as a path to distinction for individuals in a new society that had few status-granting authorities. Later, it fed California's growing regionalism by establishing campuses in developing areas of the state: the struggle that ended with UCLA's taking its place as an equal alongside Berkeley was one skirmish in the long battle between the established, settled north and the youthful, exploding south.

And from early on in the state's history, the University's education, research, and service have been responsible in major ways for California's emergence as an international economic and cultural leader. Conversely, California's citizens have given the University the monetary and political support to create one of the most exciting and innovative centers of learning in the world. All of which is to say that the story of the University is the story of California itself.

The University of California today enrolls 200,000 students and employs 160,000 faculty and staff. UC encompasses ten campuses, five medical schools and teaching hospitals, three law schools, and more than 600 research centers, institutes, and programs. Its research and extension facilities span and crisscross the State of California, from a peak in the Sierra Nevada (the White Mountain Research Station) to below sea level in the Imperial Valley (an agricultural Weld station).

UC's more than 100 libraries house some thirty million volumes and are surpassed in size on the American continent only by the Library of Congress.

No university or university system has such a major share of research dollars coming from the federal government, and private giving to UC exceeds that of any nonprofit institution except the Salvation Army. Its annual budget of $13 billion is larger than that of many states.

But what is really important about the University lies beyond the reach of numbers. The University of California is the product of three distinctive dreams, whose power has moved Californians to support it despite its occasional lapses and inevitable flaws. The first, brought west by New Englanders like Henry Durant, was the dream of a liberal education. The second was the dream of the university as an active force in society's problems and progress, symbolized by the Morrill Land-Grant College Act of 1862. The third is the dream of universal access, which binds the University to its sister segments, the California State University and the Community Colleges, in a commitment to the fullest possible realization of individual talent.

These dreams are the material out of which the University invented itself—and has sometimes been forced to reinvent itself as California has grown and changed. They have created that rarest of institutions, a public university of outstanding academic quality devoted to balancing a broad liberal education with highly specialized research.

Nothing could be more American—or more Californian—than the expectation that a UC Berkeley or a UC San Diego could be the equal of a Harvard or a Cambridge. Yet it is easy to forget what a bold assumption this is, and how profound its consequences have been.





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Last updated 09/29/05.