The UNC System
History of the University

 

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 at Chapel Hill is one of the constituent institutions of the multicampus state university.

The University of North Carolina, chartered by the North Carolina 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 18th 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 North Carolina 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 Native Americans. 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 North Carolina 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 of Agriculture and Engineering at Raleigh (now North Carolina State University at Raleigh) and the North Carolina College for Women (Woman's College) at Greensboro (now the University of North Carolina at Greensboro). The new multicampus 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 10 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, North Carolina School of the Arts, Pembroke State University, Western Carolina University, and Winston-Salem State University. This action created a 16-campus University. In l985 the North Carolina School of Science and Mathematics, a residential high school for gifted students, was declared an affiliated school of the University, and it recently became the 17th constituent institution.

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 are elected by the North Carolina General Assembly for four-year terms. Former board chairs and board members who are former governors of North Carolina may continue to serve for limited periods as nonvoting members emeriti. The president of the UNC Association of Student Governments, or that student's designee, is also a nonvoting member.

Each of the 17 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 North Carolina 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.