Campus Overview

About UC Santa Cruz

Since its founding in 1965, the University of California, Santa Cruz, has earned international distinction as a university with high-impact research and an uncommon commitment to teaching and public service.

A campus with world-class facilities and one of the most visually spectacular settings in higher education, UC Santa Cruz offers rigorous academic programs and cutting-edge research opportunities that guide students in how to think, not what to think. A commitment to environmental stewardship and community engagement are central to the core values of UC Santa Cruz.

From 652 students in 1965, the campus has grown to its current (2020–21) enrollment of more than 17,000 students. Undergraduates pursue bachelor's degrees in 66 different majors supervised by divisional deans of arts, engineering, humanities, physical & biological sciences, and social sciences. Graduate students work toward graduate certificates, master's degrees, or doctoral degrees in 64 academic programs under the supervision of the divisional and graduate deans.

High-achieving faculty, students, and alumni

Faculty and emeriti who have been attracted to Santa Cruz include a Nobel Laureate12 members of the National Academy of Sciences, 25 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and 36 members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The outstanding strength and breadth of UCSC's faculty enables the campus to offer high-quality programs in letters, arts, and sciences:

In competition with scholars throughout the United States, UC Santa Cruz students and alumni have won National Science Foundation Fellowships, Fulbrights, Guggenheims, Pulitzer Prizes, and other prestigious awards in numbers that far exceed expectations for a campus of this size.

For more information, please see the Campus Achievements web site and the campus's An International Reputation for Excellence factsheet. And visit, a special web site commemorating the campus's 50th anniversary.

Undergraduate academic life and the residential colleges

All undergraduates, whether they live on campus or off, are affiliated with one of the UC Santa Cruz colleges (Cowell, Stevenson, Crown, Merrill, Porter, Kresge, Oakes, Rachel Carson, Nine, and Ten). Students may take classes in any number of colleges and academic units throughout the campus; core courses within each college provide a common academic base for first-year and transfer students.

In addition to their course work on campus, many UC Santa Cruz students participate in fieldwork or field study programs. Off-campus internships are an integral part of programs in community studies, economics, environmental studies, health sciences, Latin American and Latino studies, psychology, and teacher education. More information is available about academic field study programs, as well as other available internships off campus, from the UC Santa Cruz Career Center.

Students also can arrange to study at other UC campuses, at the University of New Hampshire or the University of New Mexico, in Sacramento, in Washington, D.C., or at host institutions affiliated with the UC Education Abroad Program.

At the conclusion of work in their major, all UCSC seniors must pass a comprehensive examination or, in some majors, complete a senior thesis or equivalent body of work.

Expanding programs in graduate studies

Graduate study began at UC Santa Cruz in 1966 with programs in astronomy, biology, and history of consciousness, a program that combines the humanistic disciplines with links to the social sciences, natural sciences, and arts. In 1967, graduate programs in chemistry, literature, and Earth & planetary sciences were introduced.

Today, UC Santa Cruz offers graduate study in 41 different advanced-degree programs. Please see the Graduate Studies web site for additional information.

Expanding programs in engineering

In 1997, building on the campus's core Computer Science and Computer Engineering Departments, UCSC began its first professional school, the Jack Baskin School of Engineering, and introduced a new undergraduate electrical engineering major. This was followed the next year by a major in information systems management. In 1997-98, UC Santa Cruz began offering a "distance-learning" version of the M.S. in computer engineering, with a concentration in networking engineering, at its Silicon Valley facilities. In 2001, an undergraduate major in bioinformatics was launched and, in 2003, M.S. and Ph.D programs in bioinformatics were initiated. The engineering school has continued to expand its academic offerings, and today students can enroll in 10 undergraduate and 13 graduate-degree programs.

In 2003, retired engineer and philanthropist Jack Baskin — whose $5 million gift had established UCSC's engineering schoolmade additional gifts to the campus for a new engineering building, Engineering 2, and established an endowed chair in the Department of Biomolecular Engineering.

World-class research and grant funding

In conjunction with graduate teaching and intellectual inquiry, the campus is home to three Organized Research Units: the Genomics Institute, Institute of Marine Sciences, and Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics. The University of California Observatories/Lick Observatory is a Multicampus Research Unit headquartered at UC Santa Cruz. UC's Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics (IGPP), a Multicampus Research Unit, includes a branch on the UCSC campus established in 1999. UC Santa Cruz also is one of several UC campuses sponsoring the Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research (QB3), and the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS), two of the California Institutes for Science and Innovation established in 2000-02. More details and a complete list of research groups are available at the research programs web site.

Over the years, UC Santa Cruz researchers in these units have been generously supported by contracts and grants — speaking to the value of their research activities. In the past five years (2011-12 through 2015-16), support in this form totaled $680 million.

Private support

The 10 UC Santa Cruz undergraduate colleges — each a separate community with its own buildings and administration — are built around a core of shared university facilities. These include the main and science/engineering libraries, performing arts buildings, visual arts studios, classrooms, computer facilities, and a complex of highly specialized buildings for the physical and biological sciences, and for engineering. Athletic facilities are provided on the east and west sides of the campus.

Significant private funds — gifts valued at more than $75 million in 2015-16 — have been donated to build or enhance academic, student-life, and other facilities at the campus, as well fund programs, research, and scholarships.

In the fall of 2013, the campus publicly announced its first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign. The $300 million goal was surpassed in 2016, well before the campaign's planned conclusion on June 30, 2017.  

Architectural history

The campus was planned by architect John Carl Warnecke and landscape architect Thomas Church. Ralph Rapson designed the original Theater Arts Center. Antoine Predock of Albuquerque was the architect for the award-winning Music Center, and SRG Partnership of Portland, Oregon, for the Seymour Center at Long Marine Lab. The Engineering 2 Building, which was dedicated in fall 2004, won a merit award for design from the American Institute of Architects, Los Angeles Chapter. Anshen + Allen Los Angeles was the architect for Engineering 2.

The architects for the residential colleges were as follows: Cowell — Wurster, Bernardi & Emmons; Stevenson — Joseph Esherick & Associates; Crown — Ernest J. Kump Associates; Merrill — Campbell Wong & Associates and Wong & Brocchini; Porter — Hugh Stubbins and Associates; Kresge — MLTW/Moore-Turnbull; Oakes — McCue, Boone & Tomsick; Rachel Carson College — Simon Martin-Vegue Winkelstein Moris; Colleges Nine and Ten — Esherick Homsey Dodge and Davis.

Institutional growth and academic opportunity

UC Santa Cruz is increasing both its enrollment and resources and diversifying its educational and research opportunities. New academic programs are considered and added when desirable and feasible. The campus's physical growth is guided by its most recent Long-Range Development Plan which is being updated. In 2013-14 the campus initiated a strategic planning process to identify priorities and published its final report in March 2017.

A number of state-of-the-art buildings have been completed on campus in recent years, including the Biomedical Sciences Building, the Humanities and Social Sciences Facility, the Digital Arts Research Center, and the McHenry Library expansion. A restored and updated Quarry Amphitheater is scheduled to reopen in fall 2017.

UC Santa Cruz continues to move forward with its Silicon Valley Campus, a multi-disciplinary teaching and research hub that is home to a master’s degree program in games and playable media, engineering faculty, the new office of industry alliances and technology commercialization, UCSC Silicon Valley Extension, and UC Scout.