Harvard University

Harvard University
Latin: Universitas Harvardiana
Former names
Harvard College
MottoVeritas (Latin)
Motto in English
TypePrivate research university
Established1636; 388 years ago (1636)
FounderMassachusetts General Court
Academic affiliations
Endowment$50.7 billion (2023)
PresidentAlan Garber (interim)
ProvostAlan Garber
Academic staff
~2,400 faculty members (and >10,400 academic appointments in affiliated teaching hospitals)
Students21,613 (Fall 2022)
Undergraduates7,240 (Fall 2022)
Postgraduates14,373 (Fall 2022)
Location, ,
United States

42°22′28″N 71°07′01″W / 42.37444°N 71.11694°W / 42.37444; -71.11694
CampusMidsize city, 209 acres (85 ha)
NewspaperThe Harvard Crimson
ColorsCrimson, white, and black
Sporting affiliations
MascotJohn Harvard
Websiteharvard.edu Edit this at Wikidata
Logotype of Harvard University

Harvard University is a private Ivy League research university in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1636 as Harvard College and named for its first benefactor, the Puritan clergyman John Harvard, it is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States. Its influence, wealth, and rankings have made it one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

Harvard's founding was authorized by the Massachusetts colonial legislature, "dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches", though never formally affiliated with any denomination, in its early years Harvard College primarily trained Congregational clergy. Its curriculum and student body were gradually secularized during the 18th century. By the 19th century, Harvard emerged as the most prominent academic and cultural institution among the Boston elite. Following the American Civil War, under President Charles William Eliot's long tenure (1869–1909), the college developed multiple affiliated professional schools that transformed the college into a modern research university. In 1900, Harvard co-founded the Association of American Universities. James B. Conant led the university through the Great Depression and World War II, and liberalized admissions after the war.

The university is composed of ten academic faculties plus the Harvard Radcliffe Institute. The Faculty of Arts and Sciences offers study in a wide range of undergraduate and graduate academic disciplines, and other faculties offer only graduate degrees, including professional degrees. Harvard has three main campuses: the 209-acre (85 ha) Cambridge campus centered on Harvard Yard; an adjoining campus immediately across Charles River in the Allston neighborhood of Boston; and the medical campus in Boston's Longwood Medical Area. Harvard's endowment is valued at $50.7 billion, making it the wealthiest academic institution in the world. Endowment income enables the undergraduate college to admit students regardless of financial need and provide financial aid with no loans. According to the American Library Association, Harvard University has the fourth largest library by volumes held in the United States.

Harvard alumni, faculty, and researchers have included 188 living billionaires, 8 U.S. presidents, numerous heads of state, founders of notable companies, Nobel laureates, Fields Medalists, members of Congress, MacArthur Fellows, Rhodes Scholars, Marshall Scholars, Turing Award Recipients, Pulitzer Prize winners, and Fulbright Scholars; by most metrics, Harvard ranks among the top globally in each of these categories. Additionally, students and alumni have won 10 Academy Awards and 110 Olympic medals (46 gold).


Colonial era

The Harvard Corporation seal found on Harvard diplomas. Christo et Ecclesiae (Latin: "For Christ and Church") is one of Harvard's several early mottoes.
Engraving of Harvard College by Paul Revere, 1767

Harvard was founded in 1636 during the colonial, pre-Revolutionary era by vote of the Great and General Court of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Its first headmaster, Nathaniel Eaton, took office the following year. In 1638, the university acquired British North America's first known printing press.

In 1639, it was named Harvard College after John Harvard, an English clergyman who had died soon after immigrating to Massachusetts, bequeathing it £780 and his library of some 320 volumes. The charter creating Harvard Corporation was granted in 1650.

A 1643 publication defined the college's purpose: "to advance learning and perpetuate it to posterity, dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches when our present ministers shall lie in the dust." The college trained many Puritan ministers in its early years and offered a classic curriculum based on the English university model—many leaders in the colony had attended the University of Cambridge‍—‌conformed to the tenets of Puritanism. Harvard never affiliated with any particular denomination.

Increase Mather served as Harvard College's president from 1681 to 1701. In 1708, John Leverett became the first president who was not also a clergyman.

19th century

John Harvard statue on Harvard Yard

In the 19th century, Enlightenment ideas of reason and free will were widespread among Congregational ministers, putting those ministers and their congregations at odds with more traditionalist, Calvinist parties.: 1–4  When Hollis Professor of Divinity David Tappan died in 1803 and President Joseph Willard died a year later, a struggle broke out over their replacements. Henry Ware was elected Hollis chair in 1805, and liberal Samuel Webber was appointed president two years later, signaling a shift from traditional ideas at Harvard to liberal, Arminian ideas.: 4–5 : 24 

Charles William Eliot, Harvard president from 1869 to 1909, decreased the favored position of Christianity from the curriculum while opening it to student self-direction. Though Eliot was an influential figure in the secularization of American higher education, he was motivated more by Transcendentalist Unitarian convictions influenced by William Ellery Channing, Ralph Waldo Emerson and others of the time, than by secularism.

In 1816, Harvard launched new programs in the study of French and Spanish with George Ticknor as first professor for these language programs.

20th century

A 1906 watercolor painting of the campus, facing northeast

Harvard's graduate schools began admitting women in small numbers in the late 19th century. During World War II, students at Radcliffe College (which, since its 1879 founding, had been paying Harvard professors to repeat their lectures for women) began attending Harvard classes alongside men. In 1945, women were first admitted to the medical school. Since 1971, Harvard had controlled essentially all aspects of undergraduate admission, instruction, and housing for Radcliffe women; in 1999, Radcliffe was formally merged into Harvard.

In the 20th century, Harvard's reputation grew as its endowment burgeoned and prominent intellectuals and professors affiliated with the university. The university's rapid enrollment growth also was a product of both the founding of new graduate academic programs and an expansion of the undergraduate college. Radcliffe College emerged as the female counterpart of Harvard College, becoming one of the most prominent schools for women in the United States. In 1900, Harvard became a founding member of the Association of American Universities.

The student body in its first decades of the 20th century was predominantly "old-stock, high-status Protestants, especially Episcopalians, Congregationalists, and Presbyterians", according to sociologist and author Jerome Karabel. In 1923, a year after the percentage of Jewish students at Harvard reached 20%, President A. Lawrence Lowell supported a policy change that would have capped the admission of Jewish students to 15% of the undergraduate population. But Lowell's idea was rejected. Lowell also refused to mandate forced desegregation in the university's freshman dormitories, writing that, "We owe to the colored man the same opportunities for education that we do to the white man, but we do not owe to him to force him and the white into social relations that are not, or may not be, mutually congenial."

President James B. Conant led the university from 1933 to 1953; Conant reinvigorated creative scholarship in an effort to guarantee Harvard's preeminence among the nation and world's emerging research institutions. Conant viewed higher education as a vehicle of opportunity for the talented rather than an entitlement for the wealthy. As such, he devised programs to identify, recruit, and support talented youth. An influential 268-page report issued by Harvard faculty in 1945 under Conant's leadership, General Education in a Free Society, remains one of the most important works in curriculum studies.

Between 1945 and 1960, admissions standardized to open the university to a more diverse group of students; for example, after World War II, special exams were developed so veterans could be considered for admission. No longer drawing mostly from select New England prep schools, the undergraduate college became accessible to striving middle class students from public schools; many more Jews and Catholics were admitted, but still few Blacks, Hispanics, or Asians versus the representation of these groups in the general population. Throughout the latter half of the 20th century, Harvard incrementally became vastly more diverse.

21st century

Drew Gilpin Faust, who was dean of Harvard Radcliffe Institute, became Harvard's first female president on July 1, 2007. In 2018, Faust retired and joined the board of Goldman Sachs. On July 1, 2018, Lawrence Bacow was appointed Harvard's 29th president. Bacow retired in 2023.

In February 2023, approximately 6,000 Harvard workers attempted to organize a union.

On July 1, 2023, Claudine Gay, a Harvard professor in the Government and African American Studies departments and Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, succeeded Bacow as the university's 30th president. In January 2024, Provost Alan Garber succeeded Gay as interim president after Gay resigned.


Memorial Hall


Harvard's 209-acre (85 ha) main campus is centered on Harvard Yard ("the Yard") in Cambridge, about 3 miles (5 km) west-northwest of downtown Boston, and extends into the surrounding Harvard Square neighborhood. The Yard contains administrative offices such as University Hall and Massachusetts Hall; libraries such as Widener, Pusey, Houghton, and Lamont; and Memorial Church.

The Yard and adjacent areas include the main academic buildings of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, including the college, such as Sever Hall and Harvard Hall.

Memorial Church

Freshman dormitories are in, or adjacent to, the Yard. Upperclassmen live in the twelve residential houses – nine south of the Yard near the Charles River, the others half a mile northwest of the Yard at the Radcliffe Quadrangle (which formerly housed Radcliffe College students). Each house is a community of undergraduates, faculty deans, and resident tutors, with its own dining hall, library, and recreational facilities.

Also in Cambridge are the Law, Divinity (theology), Engineering and Applied Science, Design (architecture), Education, Kennedy (public policy), and Extension schools, as well as the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study in Radcliffe Yard. Harvard also has commercial real estate holdings in Cambridge.


Harvard Business School, Harvard Innovation Labs, and many athletics facilities, including Harvard Stadium, are located on a 358-acre (145 ha) campus in Allston, a Boston neighborhood just across the Charles River from the Cambridge campus. The John W. Weeks Bridge, a pedestrian bridge over the Charles River, connects the two campuses.

The university is actively expanding into Allston, where it now owns more land than in Cambridge. Plans include new construction and renovation for the Business School, a hotel and conference center, graduate student housing, Harvard Stadium, and other athletics facilities.

In 2021, the Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences expanded into a new, 500,000+ square foot Science and Engineering Complex (SEC) in Allston. The SEC is adjacent to the Enterprise Research Campus, the Business School, and the Harvard Innovation Labs to encourage technology- and life science-focused startups as well as collaborations with mature companies.


Harvard Medical School

The schools of Medicine, Dental Medicine, and Public Health are located on a 21-acre (8.5 ha) campus in the Longwood Medical and Academic Area in Boston, about 3.3 miles (5.3 km) south of the Cambridge campus. Several Harvard-affiliated hospitals and research institutes are also in Longwood, including Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Boston Children's Hospital, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Dana–Farber Cancer Institute, Joslin Diabetes Center, and the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering. Additional affiliates, most notably Massachusetts General Hospital, are located throughout the Greater Boston area.


Harvard owns the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington, D.C., Harvard Forest in Petersham, Massachusetts, the Concord Field Station in Estabrook Woods in Concord, Massachusetts, the Villa I Tatti research center in Florence, Italy, the Harvard Shanghai Center in Shanghai, China, and the Arnold Arboretum in the Jamaica Plain neighborhood of Boston.

Organization and administration


School Founded
Harvard College 1636
Medicine 1782
Divinity 1816
Law 1817
Engineering and Applied Sciences 1847
Dental Medicine 1867
Arts and Sciences 1872
Business 1908
Extension 1910
Design 1936
Education 1920
Public Health 1913
Government 1936
University seal

Harvard is governed by a combination of its Board of Overseers and the President and Fellows of Harvard College (also known as the Harvard Corporation), which in turn appoints the President of Harvard University. There are 16,000 staff and faculty, including 2,400 professors, lecturers, and instructors.

The Faculty of Arts and Sciences is the largest Harvard faculty and has primary responsibility for instruction in Harvard College, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, the John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), and the Division of Continuing Education, which includes Harvard Summer School and Harvard Extension School. There are nine other graduate and professional faculties as well as the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Joint programs with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology include the Harvard–MIT Program in Health Sciences and Technology, the Broad Institute, The Observatory of Economic Complexity, and edX.


Harvard has the largest university endowment in the world, valued at about $50.7 billion as of 2023. During the recession of 2007–2009, it suffered significant losses that forced large budget cuts, in particular temporarily halting construction on the Allston Science Complex. The endowment has since recovered.

About $2 billion of investment income is annually distributed to fund operations. Harvard's ability to fund its degree and financial aid programs depends on the performance of its endowment; a poor performance in fiscal year 2016 forced a 4.4% cut in the number of graduate students funded by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Endowment income is critical, as only 22% of revenue is from students' tuition, fees, room, and board.


Since the 1970s, several student-led campaigns have advocated divesting Harvard's endowment from controversial holdings, including investments in apartheid South Africa, Sudan during the Darfur genocide, and the tobacco, fossil fuel, and private prison industries.

In the late 1980s, during the divestment from South Africa movement, student activists erected a symbolic "shantytown" on Harvard Yard and blockaded a speech by South African Vice Consul Duke Kent-Brown. The university eventually reduced its South African holdings by $230 million (out of $400 million) in response to the pressure.


Teaching and learning

Massachusetts Hall (1720), Harvard's oldest building
Harvard Yard

Harvard is a large, highly residential research university offering 50 undergraduate majors, 134 graduate degrees, and 32 professional degrees. During the 2018–2019 academic year, Harvard granted 1,665 baccalaureate degrees, 1,013 graduate degrees, and 5,695 professional degrees.

Harvard College, the four-year, full-time undergraduate program, has a liberal arts and sciences focus. To graduate in the usual four years, undergraduates normally take four courses per semester. In most majors, an honors degree requires advanced coursework and a senior thesis. Though some introductory courses have large enrollments, the median class size is 12 students.


Harvard is a founding member of the Association of American Universities and a preeminent research university with "very high" research activity (R1) and comprehensive doctoral programs across the arts, sciences, engineering, and medicine according to the Carnegie Classification.

With the medical school consistently ranking first among medical schools for research, biomedical research is an area of particular strength for the university. More than 11,000 faculty and over 1,600 graduate students conduct research at the medical school as well as its 15 affiliated hospitals and research institutes. The medical school and its affiliates attracted $1.65 billion in competitive research grants from the National Institutes of Health in 2019, more than twice as much as any other university.

Libraries and museums

Widener Library anchors the Harvard Library system.
Henry Moore's sculpture Large Four Piece Reclining Figure, near Lamont Library

The Harvard Library system is centered in Widener Library in Harvard Yard and comprises nearly 80 individual libraries holding about 20.4 million items. According to the American Library Association, it is the 4th largest library by volumes held in the United States.

Houghton Library, the Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, and the Harvard University Archives consist principally of rare and unique materials. America's oldest collection of maps, gazetteers, and atlases is stored in Pusey Library and open to the public. The largest collection of East-Asian language material outside of East Asia is held in the Harvard-Yenching Library.

The Harvard Art Museums comprise three museums. The Arthur M. Sackler Museum covers Asian, Mediterranean, and Islamic art, the Busch–Reisinger Museum (formerly the Germanic Museum) covers central and northern European art, and the Fogg Museum covers Western art from the Middle Ages to the present emphasizing Italian early Renaissance, British pre-Raphaelite, and 19th-century French art. The Harvard Museums of Science and Culture are made up of the Harvard Museum of Natural History, which itself includes the Harvard Mineralogical and Geological Museum, the Harvard University Herbaria featuring the Blaschka Glass Flowers exhibit, and the Museum of Comparative Zoology; the Harvard Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments, found in the Harvard Science Center; the Harvard Museum of the Ancient Near East featuring artifacts from excavations in the Middle East; and the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, specializing in the cultural history and civilizations of the Western Hemisphere. Other museums include the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, designed by Le Corbusier and housing the film archive; the Warren Anatomical Museum, found at Harvard Medical School's Center for the History of Medicine; and the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African & African American Art at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research.

Reputation and rankings

Academic rankings
U.S. News & World Report3 (tie)
Washington Monthly1
U.S. News & World Report1

When QS and Times Higher Education collaborated to publish the Times Higher Education–QS World University Rankings from 2004 to 2009, Harvard held the top spot every year and continued to hold first place on THE World Reputation Rankings ever since it was released in 2011. It was ranked in the first tier of American research universities, along with Columbia, MIT, and Stanford, in the 2023 report from the Center for Measuring University Performance. Harvard University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

Among rankings of specific indicators, Harvard topped both the University Ranking by Academic Performance (2019–2020) and Mines ParisTech: Professional Ranking of World Universities (2011), which measured universities' numbers of alumni holding CEO positions in Fortune Global 500 companies. According to annual polls done by The Princeton Review, Harvard is consistently among the top two most commonly named dream colleges in the United States, both for students and parents. Additionally, having made significant investments in its engineering school in recent years, Harvard was ranked third worldwide for Engineering and Technology in 2019 by Times Higher Education.

In international relations, Foreign Policy magazine ranks Harvard best in the world at the undergraduate level and second in the world at the graduate level, behind the Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University.

School Founded Enrollment
Harvard University 1636 31,345
Medicine 1782 660
Divinity 1816 377
Law 1817 1,990
Dental Medicine 1867 280
Arts and Sciences 1872 4,824
Business 1908 2,011
Extension 1910 3,428
Design 1914 878
Education 1920 876
Public Health 1922 1,412
Government 1936 1,100
Engineering 2007 1,750

Student life

Student body composition as of May 2, 2022
Race and ethnicity Total
White 36% 36
Asian 21% 21
Hispanic 12% 12
Foreign national 11% 11
Black 11% 11
Other 9% 9
Economic diversity
Low-income 18% 18
Affluent 82% 82

Student government

The Undergraduate Council represents College students. The Graduate Council represents students at all twelve graduate and professional schools, most of which also have their own student government.


Both the undergraduate College and the graduate schools have intramural sports programs.

Harvard College competes in the NCAA Division I Ivy League conference. The school fields 42 intercollegiate sports teams, more than any other college in the country. Every two years, the Harvard and Yale track and field teams come together to compete against a combined Oxford and Cambridge team in the oldest continuous international amateur competition in the world. As with other Ivy League universities, Harvard does not offer athletic scholarships. The school color is crimson.

Harvard's athletic rivalry with Yale is intense in every sport in which they meet, coming to a climax each fall in the annual football meeting, which dates back to 1875.

Harvard University Gazette

The Harvard Gazette, also called the Harvard University Gazette, is the official press organ of Harvard University. Formerly a print publication, it is now a web site. It publicizes research, faculty, teaching and events at the university. Initiated in 1906, it was originally a weekly calendar of news and events. In 1968 it became a weekly newspaper.

When the Gazette was a print publication, it was considered a good way of keeping up with Harvard news: "If weekly reading suits you best, the most comprehensive and authoritative medium is the Harvard University Gazette".

In 2010, the Gazette "shifted from a print-first to a digital-first and mobile-first" publication, and reduced its publication calendar to biweekly, while keeping the same number of reporters, including some who had previously worked for the Boston Globe, Miami Herald, and the Associated Press.

Notable people


Over more than three and a half centuries, Harvard alumni have contributed creatively and significantly to society, the arts and sciences, business, and national and international affairs.

Harvard's affiliates (official counts) include eight U.S. presidents, 188 living billionaires, 49 Nobel laureates, 7 Fields Medal winners, 9 Turing Award laureates, 369 Rhodes Scholars, 252 Marshall Scholars, and 13 Mitchell Scholars. Harvard students and alumni have won 10 Academy Awards, 48 Pulitzer Prizes, and 108 Olympic medals (including 46 gold medals), and they have founded many notable companies worldwide.

  1. ^ a b Nominal Harvard College class year: did not graduate


Literature and popular culture

Tower at the University of Puerto Rico, showing the emblem of Harvard (on right), the oldest in the United States, and that of National University of San Marcos, Lima (left), the oldest in the Americas

The perception of Harvard as a center of either elite achievement, or elitist privilege, has made it a frequent literary and cinematic backdrop. "In the grammar of film, Harvard has come to mean both tradition, and a certain amount of stuffiness," film critic Paul Sherman has said.



Harvard permits filming on its property only rarely, so most scenes set at Harvard (especially indoor shots, but excepting aerial footage and shots of public areas such as Harvard Square) are in fact shot elsewhere.

See also

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