The University of Michigan:
An Institution of Global Learning, Knowledge and Engagement

UM seal

“The mission of the University of Michigan is to serve the people of Michigan and the world through preeminence in creating, communicating, preserving and applying knowledge, art and academic values, and in developing leaders and citizens who will challenge the present and enrich the future.”

Since the nineteenth century the University of Michigan has been a national and international model of a diverse and comprehensive public institution of higher learning that supports excellence in research, provides outstanding undergraduate, graduate and professional education, and serves people and organizations in the community, region, state, nation, and around the world through its many partnerships and collaborations. The University’s leading position in higher education rests on the outstanding quality of its nineteen schools and colleges, and on its nationally and internationally recognized departments and programs.  The “Michigan Difference” reflects the intellectual quality, vitality and passion of its students, its faculty’s major scholarly and creative contributions, and an outstanding staff. The University’s location in the heart of beautiful Ann Arbor offers unrivaled access to the cultural richness of the University and the community, with exceptional museums, galleries, performance venues, entertainment, sports, and outdoor spaces. Learn more about the University of Michigan on our about U-M website.

This web environment provides information about the University of Michigan's activities toward re-accreditation as an institution of higher education. With the support of the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association, the University planned for and implemented a set of activities linked to the re-accreditation process that are both meaningful and useful to the University community and to the many constituencies we serve. This accreditation webportal shows the results of those activities and provides a window into the many facets of the University of Michigan. 

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Welcome to the University of Michigan, from President Mary Sue Coleman.

Background on Institutional Accreditation

The University of Michigan receives its institutional accreditation status from the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), an independent corporation that holds membership in the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA). The NCA is one of six regional agencies that provide institutional accreditation on a geographical basis as part of a national accreditation structure in which non-governmental agencies accredit institutions of higher education.

The accreditation process has two primary goals—to ensure the quality of institutions of higher education, and to promote improvement. Since the Federal Government depends on this accreditation structure to decide which institutions qualify for disbursement of Federal financial aid funds, it is also essential for the University to be formally accredited in this way.

The HLC evaluates institutions based on five criteria, each containing several core components: mission and integrity; preparing for the future; student learning and effective teaching; the acquisition, discovery, and application of knowledge; and engagement and service. Every ten years, the University files a request with the Higher Learning Commission to be reaccredited, with the next review scheduled for March 15-17, 2010. The five criteria form the basic structure for a Self-Study that the University has engaged in.  However, the HLC allows complex institutions like the University of Michigan to tailor our reaccreditation activities through a special-emphasis study (SES) on a topic that is important to the institution. The leadership of the University has chosen Internationalization as the topic of the SES for activities linked to the 2010 re-accreditation process.

A Brief History of the University of Michigan

The University of Michigan was founded in 1817 as one of the first public universities in the nation. It was first established on 1,920 acres (7.8 km^2) of land ceded by the Chippewa, Ottawa, and Potawatomi people “...for a college at Detroit.” When the school moved from Detroit to Ann Arbor in 1837, Ann Arbor was only 13 years old. Established in 1824 by two Easterners, John Allen and Elisha Rumsey, the city had a booming population of 2,000, a courthouse and jail, a bank, four churches, and two mills. The two men named the town in honor of their wives, Mary Ann Rumsey and Ann Allen, and also because of the natural arbor created by the massive oaks in the area.

University of Michigania


Legislative act of 1817 establishes the Catholepistemiad, or University of Michigania.

(Bentley Image Bank, Bentley Historical Library)


It took four years to build the necessary facilities for the new campus in Ann Arbor. The buildings consisted of four faculty homes and one classroom-dormitory building. One of the homes is still standing and is now the President’s House. Cows owned by the faculty grazed over much of campus. As late as 1845, much of the campus was covered in the summer with a crop of wheat, grown by a janitor as part of his compensation. Faculty families harvested peaches from the orchard of the old Rumsey farm, and a wooden fence ran along the edge of campus to keep University cows in and city cows out.

In its first year in Ann Arbor, the University had two professors and seven students, but even more regents (nineteen). The reorganized University did not have a president. Instead, the faculty members elected a presiding officer each year from among their ranks.

UM around 1855
University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, by Jasper Cropsey (1855). (Bentley Historical Library)


Freshmen entering in 1841 (women were not admitted to the University until 1870) took admissions examinations in mathematics, geography, Latin, Greek, and other subjects. They also had to furnish “satisfactory testimonials of good moral character.” Students paid an initial admissions fee of ten dollars (equivalent to about $200 in 2008), but no tuition. In 1866, twentyfive years after the move to Ann Arbor, the University of Michigan became the largest university in the country, with 1,205 enrolled students. In 1867, enrollment reached an all-time high of 1,255 students. At that time, the University was comprised of the Medicine Department with 525 students, the Law Department with 395 students, and the Literary Department with 335 students. There were 33 faculty members. The Bentley Historical Library offers an historical tour of the Ann Arbor campus.


Central Campus around 1930.

(Bentley Image bank)


Today, the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor is one of the most distinguished universities in the world and a leader in higher education. It consistently ranks among the nation’s top universities, with over 41,000 students in the University’s nineteen schools and colleges, and 6,000 faculty members. The University of Michigan has one of the largest health care complexes in the world and one of the most extensive university library systems in the country. Each term, more than 5,500 undergraduate students enroll in courses across more than 200 programs and in hundreds of majors. Undergraduate, graduate, and professional students have a choice of over 1,000 student organizations, thousands of concerts, recitals, speakers, symposia, films, readings and sports events, and a wealth of other experiences each year.

An Overview of Today's University of Michigan

The University of Michigan-Ann Arbor is located 40 miles (65 km) west of Detroit, along the beautiful Huron River. It consists of five major areas--Central Campus, East Campus, North Campus, Medical Center, and South Campus--that total 3,070 acres (12.4 km^2), with 483 major buildings and 1,082 family and single graduate housing units. Interactive aerial views of today’s University of Michigan are available through Google Map and Google Earth. University Housing is host to about 25% of the student body in 16 residence halls, 392 undergraduate apartments, and 1,082 family and single graduate units. Ninety-six percent of all first-year students and approximately 36% of all undergraduates live in University housing. In support of our teaching mission, which is at the heart of the University, the housing department supports ten residential academic programs known as Michigan Learning Communities. In these learning communities, as in all the University’s academic programs, students learn and challenge themselves as they come into contact with people, cultures, and ideas from all over the world.



A view of today's Central Campus.



google earth view

Google Map (interactive)
Google Earth (interactive)

The University community has about 41,000 students in 19 schools and colleges, and more than 38,000 faculty and staff. The students at the University come from all 50 states and over 100 foreign countries, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. The University’s faculty in both the instructional and research tracks similarly includes many internationals, and is considered among the best in the country. Looking beyond the local borders of the campus community, more than 480,000 University of Michigan alumni live and work (and cheer) all over the world.

The University’s research mission had expenditures in FY09 that exceeded $1 billion, which is one of the largest expenditure totals among U.S. universities. Federal agencies provided the largest portion of funds at 64% (led by the Department of Health and Human Services), with the remainder coming from University funds (24%) and non-federal sources that include industry and foundations.

Among the many resources that allow the University to meet its teaching and research goals are the libraries and museums. The University Library system has 19 libraries, which include the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library, Health Sciences Libraries, Harold T. and Vivian B. Shapiro Undergraduate Library, Shapiro Science Library, and the Art, Architecture & Engineering Library. Together the libraries hold over 8 million volumes and over 70,000 serial titles. The University is a national leader in the development of digital library resources, having digitized over 2.5 million books to date. Museums that are open to the public are the Detroit Observatory, Exhibit Museum of Natural History (with a planetarium), Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, Museum of Art, Sindecuse Museum of Dentistry, and the Stearns Collection of Musical Instruments. Research museums that house extensive collections include the Museum of Anthropology, Museum of Paleontology, Museum of Zoology, and the University Herbarium.

The University of Michigan is dedicated to service in the larger world. Faculty and students conduct hands-on research on a range of critical issues, including health care, energy and the environment, social interventions, education reform and improvement, and many others. By sharing their fundamental knowledge and advancing innovations in technology, scientists and engineers at the University contribute to advances that are transforming life and that contribute to building the economy of the region, state, and the nation. For their part, students participate in hundreds of community-based service and learning projects and a wide range of other service activities. In collaboration with other universities, colleges, and K-12 schools, the University conducts research and provides other services for the benefit of a variety of state, national, and private agencies.

University contributions to the state are multifaceted, and include dollars that flow into the University, as well as local goods and services purchased by the University and by its employees, students, and visitors. The Ann Arbor campus has a total annual payroll and benefits expenditure of over $3.2 billion. During the past five years the University has helped to create thousands of new jobs, while research activity has resulted in more than 1,750 invention disclosures and dozens of new start-up companies. Retail spending, athletics, and cultural events generate hundreds of millions of dollars for the local economy each year and attract more than 350,000 people to the area.

The University of Michigan’s size, complexity and academic strength, its array of resources and opportunities, and the quality of its faculty, students, and staff collectively contribute to a rich environment where members of the University community engage in research and creative work, teaching and learning, and service and engagement. Each of these primary areas of commitment and activity will be explored in this report.