By 2021, the University of Arkansas will be recognized as one of the nation's top public research universities with nationally ranked departments and programs throughout the institution.
The mission of the University of Arkansas is to provide an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in a wide spectrum of disciplines; contribute new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research and creative activity; and provide service to academic/professional disciplines and society, all aimed at fulfilling its public land-grant mission to serve Arkansas and beyond as a partner, resource, and catalyst.
Founded as a land-grant college and state university in 1871, the University of Arkansas opened its doors to students on January 22, 1872. Under the Morrill Land-Grant College Act of 1862, federal land sales provided funds for the new university, which was charged with teaching “agricultural and the mechanic arts,” “scientific and classical studies,” and “military tactics” to Arkansas scholars.
Statewide elections, held to establish bonds to help finance the university, eventually determined the school’s location. Washington County and the city of Fayetteville submitted the highest bid, a total of $130,000, to which was added a $50,000 state appropriation for the benefit of the institution and $135,000 from the sale of federal lands. With $12,000 of this money, the university purchased a 160-acre farm, the homestead of William and Martha McIlroy, and established its campus on a hilltop overlooking the Ozark Mountains.
There were few facilities and little money that first academic year, but the eight students and three faculty members who gathered for classes in 1872 showed the same dedication to learning and commitment to excellence that has carried the University of Arkansas into the 21st century. Over the past 140 years, the university has developed into a mature institution with 10 schools and colleges, more than 1,100 full-time faculty members, and more than 26,000 students. It serves as the major provider of graduate-level instruction in Arkansas. The research and scholarly endeavors of its faculty make it an economic and cultural engine for the state. And its public service activities reach every county in Arkansas, throughout the nation, and around the world. Find out more about the university's history or browse our timeline.
Today at the University of Arkansas Campus
Students pursue a broad spectrum of academic programs leading to baccalaureate, master’s, doctoral, and professional degrees, not only in traditional disciplines within arts, humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, but also in the core professional areas of agricultural, food and life sciences; architecture; business; education; engineering; nursing; human environmental sciences; and law.
The University of Arkansas houses more than 200 academic programs and offers bachelor’s degrees in 75 areas of study. Students may also pursue a wide range of graduate degrees, including the Master’s, the Educational Specialist, the Doctor of Education, and the Doctor of Philosophy.
The Carnegie Foundation categorizes the University of Arkansas as a research institution with “very high research activity,” placing the university among the top 2 percent of universities nationwide and in a class by itself within the state of Arkansas. U.S. News and World Report consistently ranks the university among the top tier of institutions of higher education. Faculty members perform cutting-edge research for which they annually win prestigious grants and awards, and the university encourages undergraduates to participate in the research process. Such opportunities enhance the learning process by providing hands-on experience in lab and research techniques, by developing students’ abilities to implement, experiment, discover and teach, and by fostering a mentoring relationship early in students’ academic careers.
Research programs involving both faculty and students serve as vital sources of information on the economic and social needs of Arkansas. In many fields, research performed at the University of Arkansas reaches beyond the state to provide insight and guidance on issues of national and international concern. The university provides extensive technical and professional services to varied groups and individuals throughout the state, helping to further Arkansas’ economic growth. The university operates nationally respected self-paced (correspondence) courses; it assists other institutions in developing educational programs; it offers graduate programs, both cooperatively and singly, throughout the state; and it makes specialized campus resources such as computing services and library holdings available to other institutions in the state.
Classes at the university maintain a low average ratio of students to instructor, although individual classes may range from a large general-lecture class of 200 to a focused special-topics class of 4 or 5 students. University of Arkansas students are given the tools and encouragement needed to excel. Over the last 15 years, more than 200 undergraduate Arkansas students have become Rhodes, Gates Millennium, Madison, Marshall, Goldwater, Fulbright, Boren, Gilman and Truman scholars. More than 100 graduate students have received National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships. Find out more about the university's numbers.