University of Rochester

The University of Rochester (UR) is a private, nonsectarian, coeducational, research university located in Rochester, New York. The university grants undergraduate, graduate, doctoral, and professional degrees. The university is home to several noted schools and programs, including the number one ranked Eastman School of Music, and The Institute of Optics, the oldest optics program in the U.S. The university enrolls approximately 4,600 undergraduates and 3,900 graduate students. University of Rochester competes in the NCAA’s Division III for athletics. UR is a highly research oriented institution, hosting numerous centers of research, and boasts the most powerful ultraviolet laser in the world. UR with its affiliated Strong Health System, is the largest employer in the Greater Rochester area.


The University of Rochester was founded in 1850 as a Baptist-sponsored institution. The impetus to form the university came primarily from the little town of Hamilton, New York, which has been home to Colgate University since 1819. In 1848, the Baptist Education Society planned to move Colgate University (Then known as Madison University) to the city of Rochester, but was halted by legal action. Dissenting Colgate trustees, faculty, and students founded the University of Rochester, receiving a charter from the Regents of the University of the State of New York on January 31, 1850. Classes began that November, with approximately 60 students enrolling, including 28 transfers from Madison.

University of Rochester’s campus was originally in downtown Rochester at the United States Hotel, which was located on Buffalo Street near Elizabeth Street, which today is West Main Street near the I-490 overpass. In 1853, the campus moved east to a then-suburban location on what is now University Avenue. Local businessman and Congressman Azariah Boody donated 8 acres of land for the new campus, and the University purchased a further 17 acres from him.

The first women students were admitted in 1900, the result of an effort led by Susan B. Anthony and Helen Barrett Montgomery. During the 1890s, a number of women took classes and labs at the university as “visitors” but were not officially enrolled nor were their records included in the college register. President David Jayne Hill allowed the first woman, Helen E. Wilkinson, to enroll as a normal student, although she was not allowed to matriculate or to pursue a degree. Thirty-three women enrolled among the first class in 1900, and Ella S. Wilcoxen was the first to receive a degree, in 1901.

Major growth occurred under the leadership of Rush Rhees, during his 1900-1935 tenure. During this time, George Eastman became a major donor, giving more than $50 million to the university. The first Ph.D. was awarded in 1925. In 1955, the separate colleges for men and women were merged into The College. In 1958, three new schools were created in engineering, business administration, and education.

In 1995, university president Thomas H. Jackson announced the launch of a “Renaissance Plan” for The College that, among several changes, reduced enrollment and created a more selective admissions process. The plan also revised the undergraduate curriculum significantly, creating the current system with only one required course and only a few distribution requirements(known as “clusters”).


  • Arts, Sciences, and Engineering
  • Eastman School of Music
  • School of Medicine and Dentistry
  • School of Nursing
  • William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development
Medical, Research, and Cultural Components

  • University of Rochester Medical Center
  • Strong Health
  • Laboratory for Laser Energetics
  • Memorial Art Gallery
  • Eastman Theatre
  • University of Rochester Press
  • Center for Optics Manufacturing
  • Susan B. Anthony Center for Women's Leadership
  • C. E. K. Mees Observatory (Bristol Hills)
University of Rochester’s undergraduate enrollment consists of about 4,500 full-time and about 100 part-time students from across the U.S. and over 90 countries.Graduate enrollment comprises about 3,300 full-time and about 550 part-time graduate students. The university has more than 97,000 living alumni. The university employs more than 1,200 tenure-track faculty, with more than 17,000 faculty and staff across the university and the Strong Health System. UR's faculty include fellows of all four National Academies of the U.S., Guggenheim Fellows, and recipients of many other awards and recognitions.

The defining feature of the undergraduate program at the University is the Rochester Curriculum. There are no required subjects outside of a prerequisite writing course, which may be tested out of. The Curriculum requires that undergraduates study in all of three areas of knowledge: humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. Aside from the area of study which a student’s major falls in, undergraduates must complete 3-4 courses of related materials (called “clusters”) within each of the remaining areas. For example, a student with a concentration in mathematics, a natural science field, must complete at least one cluster in the humanities and one in social sciences. A second concentration or a minor also satisfies this requirement. The only exceptions are students concentrating in an accredited engineering field (biomedical engineering, chemical engineering, electrical and computer engineering or mechanical engineering), who are only required to have one cluster in either humanities or social sciences.

Recent Rankings

Kaplan's 2008 "How to Get Into College" guide lists the Eastman School of Music as the Hottest Music School

Kaplan's 2007 guide includes the University of Rochester as one of 25 "New Ivies."
US News and World Report 2008
National universities: 35th
US News and World Report 2008
Best graduate schools—School of Engineering and Applied Sciences: 30th
Best graduate schools—political science: 13th
Best graduate schools—economics: 19th
Center for College Affordability and Productivity 2008

(ranks colleges based on student outcomes)
National universities: 29th
Times of London 2007
World universities: 21st
Washington Monthly 2007

(ranks colleges by what they give back to the country)
National universities: 45th

The University of Rochester ranked 95th in the 2007 THES-QS World University Ranking

The University of Rochester ranked 119th in the 2008 THES-QS World University Ranking

The University of Rochester ranked 141st in the 2009 THES-QS World University Ranking

The University of Rochester ranked 128th in the 2010 QS World University Ranking

The University of Rochester ranked 128th in the 2011 QS World University Ranking

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