The University of North Carolina

The University of North Carolina is a multi-campus state university that encompasses 16 such institutions, as well as the NC School of Science and Mathematics, the nation’s first public residential high school for gifted students. Chartered by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1789, the University of North Carolina 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.

Additional institutions of higher education, diverse in origin and purpose, began to win sponsorship from the General Assembly beginning as early as 1877. Five were historically black institutions, and another was founded to educate American Indians. Some began as high schools. Several were created to prepare teachers for the public schools. Others had a technological emphasis. One is a training school for performing artists.

The 1931 session of the 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 Women'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 legislation was passed 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 (now the University of North Carolina School of the Arts), Pembroke State University (now the University of North Carolina at Pembroke), Western Carolina University, and Winston-Salem State University. In 1985 the NC School of Science and Mathematics was declared an affiliated school of the University; in July 2007 NCSSM by legislative action became a constituent institution of the University of North Carolina. All the schools and universities welcome students of both sexes and all races.

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 for 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 UNC campuses 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 university 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 UNC School of the Arts has two additional ex officio members; and the NC School of Science and Mathematics has a 27-member board as required by law.) Each Board of Trustees holds extensive powers over academic and other operations of its campus on delegation from the Board of Governors.

In addition to its teaching role, the University of North Carolina has a long-standing commitment to public service. The UNC Center for Public Television, the UNC Health Care System, the cooperative extension and research services, nine area health education centers, and myriad other University programs and facilities reap social and economic benefits for the state and its people.


The mission of the University is shaped in large measure by the constitutional and statutory mandates by which public higher education is established and maintained. Article IX of the Constitution of the State declares:

Sec. 8. Higher education. The General Assembly shall maintain a public system of higher education, comprising The University of North Carolina and such other institutions  of higher education as the General Assembly may deem wise.

Sec. 9. Benefits of public institutions of higher education. The General Assembly shall provide that the benefits of The University of North Carolina and other public institutions of higher education, as far as practicable, be extended to the people of the State free of expense.

This constitutional mandate for a public system of higher education is effected by Chapters 115 and 116 of the General Statutes. Chapter 115A, enacted in 1963, provides for a statewide network of community and technical colleges and institutes which offer two-year college transfer and technical and vocational programs. Chapter 116 of the statutes, as amended by the General Assembly effective July 1, 1972, provides in Section 3 that:

The board of trustees of the University of North Carolina is hereby redesignated, effective July 1, 1972, as the 'Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina.' The Board of Governors shall be known and distinguished by the name of 'the University of North Carolina' and shall continue as a body politic and corporate and by that name shall have perpetual succession and a common seal.

Section 4 of the statute provides for the University of North Carolina to be composed of the 16 public senior institutions in the state.

The Higher Education Reorganization Act of 1971, which placed those 16 institutions under one governing board, asserted the basic objectives and purposes for the University of North Carolina: to foster the development of a well-planned and coordinated system of higher education, to improve the quality of education, to extend its benefits, and to encourage an economical use of the state's resources.

Central to the process of strategic planning is the clarification of the overall mission of the University as a whole and the role and scope of the constituent institutions within that overall mission. As a part of the comprehensive mission review of 1992, the Board of Governors adopted a general mission statement for the University. This statement, with minor modifications, was given statutory status in 1995 when the General Assembly amended Chapter 116-1 of the General Statutes to include the following as the official mission statement of the University of North Carolina:

The University of North Carolina is a public, multi-campus university dedicated to the service of North Carolina and its people. It encompasses the 16 diverse constituent institutions and other educational, research, and public service organizations. Each shares in the overall mission of the University. That mission is to discover, create, transmit, and apply knowledge to address the needs of individuals and society. This mission is accomplished through instruction, which communicates the knowledge and values and imparts the skills necessary for individuals to lead responsible, productive, and personally satisfying lives; through research, scholarship, and creative activities, which advance knowledge and enhance the educational process; and through public service, which contributes to the solution of societal problems and enriches the quality of life in the State. In the fulfillment of this mission, the University shall seek an efficient use of available resources to ensure the highest quality in its service to the citizens of the State.

Teaching and learning constitute the primary service that the University renders to society. Teaching, or instruction, is the primary responsibility of each of the constituent institutions. The relative importance of research and public service, which enhance teaching and learning, varies among the constituent institutions, depending on their overall missions.

Board of Governors

Peter D. Hans, Chair

W. Louis Bissette, Jr.

Dudley E. Flood

Charles H. Mercer, Jr.

John M. Blackburn

Paul Fulton

Fred G. Mills

Peaches Gunter Blank

Hannah D. Gage

Burley B. Mitchell, Jr.

Laura W. Buffaloe

Ann B. Goodnight

Hari H. Nath

Cameron Carswell

H. Frank Grainger

David M. Powers

Frank Daniels, Jr.

Thomas J. Harrelson

Irvin A. Roseman

William Daughtridge, Jr.

James E. Holshouser, Jr.

Richard F. “Dick” Taylor

Walter C. Davenport

Adelaide Daniels Key

Raiford Trask III

James M. Deal, Jr.

G. Leroy Lail

Phillip D. Walker

Phillip R. Dixon

Mary Ann Maxwell

J. Bradley Wilson

Fred N. Eshelman

Franklin E. McCain

John C. Fennebresque

W. Edwin McMahan

Aldona Zofia Wos

David W. Young