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The History of the University of Illinois

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 0 0

Home of the Fighting Illini, the University of Illinois (UofI) has three distinct campuses, Urbana-Champaign being the system’s flagship.  As a whole, the university is the best in the state of Illinois.  It is also the largest with 71,000 students enrolled accross campuses and thousands more pursuing degrees online.

UofI logo

In 1867 the University was founded thanks to a 480,000 acre land grant on behalf of the government.  It began as a single building in the fields between the train station in Champaign and the courthouse in Urbana, who campus would eventually develop in the Urbana-Champaign spread of buildings that the University’s system is focused on.  At the time, the school was called the Illinois Industrial University and it was focused on giving working people access to higher education.

Come 1885, the school changed it’s name to the University of Illinois in an effort to highlight higher educational aspirations and draw attention to the school’s increasing enrollment. And in 1896 the school became a founding member of the Big Ten Conference.

In 1896 the Chicago College of Pharmacy in the city became the School of Pharmacy for the University of Illinois, kicking off the Chicago campus.  Affiliates of the college began interaction with the University, and in 1913 other Chicago based colleges incorporated into the UI system to become the colleges of medicine and dentistry.  In the 1930s the colleges consolidated on the Near West Side to make Chicago home to one of the world’s largest concentration of medical education venues. 

After World War II, the University created a temporary two-year branch campus on Navy Pier that was swarmed by student veterans, who then completed their degrees at Urbana.

UofI Navy Pier Campus
It created a demand for a public university in the city center (as opposed to the University of Chicago in Hyde Park and Northwestern in Evenston) and in 1965 the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle opened in Near West Side as a complete degree-granting institution. The faculty pushed for a research-oriented school, as UofI was already a strong research institution, and within five years the ‘Circle’ offered graduate degrees in almost every department.

In 1982, the medical school and the Circle campus combined and became the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC).  The campus quickly gained respect as a result, earning Carnegie Research 1 status in 1987 and now is one of the top 50 national universities for research and development dollars (as is UofI).

The Springfield campus was the Sangamon State University, established by the Illinois General Assembly in 1969, but joined the University of Illinois in 1995. Opposed to the research based focus of the other two campuses, the University of Illinois at Springfield (UIS) is a liberal arts school. Located in the capital of the state, students have great opportunities to work in a variety of fields to get hands on experience.

The University today is internationally known for research and discovery, having won more federal research dollars than other public Illinois higher education school.  Closer to home, it's also involved with 700 public service and outreach programs within the State.  The school has a distinguished curriculum and offers numourous programs, making it one of the best in the nation.


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