Introducing UC Santa Cruz

2017-18 General Catalog

The University of California

The University of California opened its doors in 1869 with just 10 faculty members and 38 students, and it has since developed into one of the world’s most distinguished university systems. Acclaimed for its research, scholarship, and dedication to undergraduate and graduate education, the UC system improves the lives of people in California and around the world through world-class educational opportunities, groundbreaking research, top-rated health care, and agricultural expertise.

Ten University of California campuses are located regionally throughout the state, and the system also includes five medical centers, three national laboratories, and more than 800 associated research institutes, laboratories, agricultural field stations, and extension centers.

The University of California includes more than 238,000 students and more than 190,000 faculty and staff. More than 1.7 million UC alumni live and work around the world. UC faculty have won 62 Nobel prizes and 67 National Medals of Science. UC academics include more than 580 members of the National Academy of Sciences and more than 500 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The Santa Cruz Campus

Established in 1965, the University of California, Santa Cruz, is dedicated to excellence in undergraduate education, graduate studies, and research. Named to the 2017 US News & World Report top 50 Best Global Universities list, the campus has earned national and international recognition both for the impact of its research and for its long-established commitment to quality undergraduate instruction. UC Santa Cruz combines the facilities and resources of a world-class public research university with a distinctive undergraduate experience characterized by our college system. A strong program of general education is enhanced with opportunities for academic specialization and original research, and UC Santa Cruz also provides unparalleled opportunities for students to learn through hands-on experience. Strong commitments to environmental stewardship and community engagement are also central to the campus’s core values.

Fall enrollment for the 2016-17 academic year was 18,783 students, of whom 1,821 were graduate students. UC Santa Cruz seeks and welcomes students, faculty, and staff of diverse ethnic and cultural experiences and is dedicated to enrolling a student body that reflects the state’s ethnic and socioeconomic diversity. UC Santa Cruz is a Hispanic Serving Institution member of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, with approximately 30 percent of undergraduates identifying as Hispanic or Latino (fall 2016).

The UC Santa Cruz faculty includes two of the University of California’s honored University Professors, 21 members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, 12 members of the National Academy of Sciences, and 34 members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Three faculty members, three bachelor’s degree recipients, and two Ph.D. recipients have been named MacArthur Fellows. UCSC faculty and researchers regularly receive more than $100 million annually in external funding, with funding in contracts and grants totaling $686 million over the past 5 years.

The 10 residential colleges are supportive living and learning communities that characterize the UC Santa Cruz experience. All undergraduate students, whether they live in university housing or not, are affiliated with one of colleges. Self-contained and architecturally distinct, each college is a relatively small community of 30 to 110 faculty members and between 1,500 and 1,800 students, about half of whom live on campus. In addition to housing students in small-scale residential communities, each college provides academic support, organizes student activities, and sponsors events that enhance the intellectual and social life of the campus.

Each college has a distinctive quality derived from its core course and extracurricular programs and from its faculty fellows and their academic disciplines. However, all of the colleges are interdisciplinary, and all academic majors are open to students from all colleges. Detailed descriptions of the 10 colleges can be found in The Colleges section of the catalog.

Undergraduate education. The campus offers more than 60 undergraduate majors in the arts, engineering, humanities, physical and biological sciences, and social sciences—as well as interdisciplinary major programs and minors. A complete list of academic programs and concentrations appears on the Fields of Study chart, and detailed descriptions begin in the Programs and Courses section of the catalog.

The major and minor programs are administered by departments within the academic divisions. In most cases, departments are composed of faculty in the same field, but interdisciplinary programs draw on faculty from several fields.

Undergraduate education at UC Santa Cruz is focused on student success. The college core courses give first-year students a small-seminar experience, including intensive work in writing, discussion, and critical reasoning, while also providing an orientation to academic life. With few exceptions, letter grades are assigned in all credit courses. In addition, academic performance in each course may be recorded by a narrative performance evaluation. To fulfill the campus’s rigorous comprehensive requirement, every senior must pass a comprehensive examination or complete an equivalent body of work. See Evaluating Academic Performance for additional information.

Original undergraduate research is encouraged, and hundreds of research papers coauthored by UC Santa Cruz undergraduates and their professors have been published in journals. For additional information, visit the Undergraduate Research Opportunities website.

Each year more than 500 UC Santa Cruz students broaden their academic horizons through the UC Education Abroad Program (UCEAP), which enables students to incorporate full-time study abroad as UC credit toward their degrees. The UC Santa Cruz campus also strongly encourages undergraduate students to take advantage of the many opportunities for public service, such as those provided through the campus’s field programs, colleges, and Career Center. Individual studies, apprentice teaching, field studies, and internships can be important parts of the undergraduate experience (see Field Programs).

Graduate education. UC Santa Cruz offers graduate study in more than 40 academic fields, incorporating a range of options for concentrated study in a specialized field. Graduate study at UC Santa Cruz emphasizes close interaction between faculty and students, independent student research, supervised teaching experience, and interdisciplinary work. Further graduate program information is provided in the Graduate Education section of the catalog.

Research. The UC Santa Cruz campus hosts a number of major research units. UC Observatories, the Santa Cruz Institute for Particle Physics (SCIPP), and the Institute of Marine Sciences conduct state-of-the-art research on topics ranging from the discovery of planets outside our solar system, to the detection of new sub-atomic particles, to the ecology of marine mammals. UC Santa Cruz is also a primary partner in inter-UC campus initiatives—such as the Institute for Quantitative Biomedical Research (QB3) and the Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS)—which focus on human health and the use of information technology to solve social, environmental, and health care problems. The Institute for Humanities Research (IHR) oversees a range of topical centers that promote interdisciplinary research, including the Center for Cultural Studies, the Center for Jewish Studies, the Center for Labor Studies, the Linguistics Research Center, and the Dickens Project. Research enterprises within the arts benefit from the Arts Research Institute and the Center for Documentary Arts and Research, while the Institute of the Arts and Sciences emphasizes interdisciplinary exhibitions, events, and residency programs. The Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems, the Center for Integrated Spatial Research, the Chicano/Latino Research Center, and the Science & Justice Research Center provide pioneering directions for research in the social sciences. Engineering at UC Santa Cruz has focused on strategic initiatives that include the UC Santa Cruz Genomics Institute, the Institute for the Biology of Stem Cells, the Center for Games and Playable Media, and the Center for Sustainable Energy and Power Systems. Beyond these organized research enterprises, UC Santa Cruz has a wide suite of investigator-driven research that spans the width and breadth of campus inquiry. For additional information see Resources for Learning and Research.

Location and facilities. The main UC Santa Cruz campus occupies 2,000 acres on the west side of the city of Santa Cruz, on Monterey Bay, about 75 miles south of San Francisco and 35 miles southwest of San José. Expansive meadows at the campus entrance gradually slope up to a redwood forest that covers most of the site. Each residential college is within easy access of the campus’s central core, which includes library facilities, science laboratories, lecture halls, art studios, theater arts and music centers, a student union, and athletic facilities. Although the campus is spread out over many acres of hilly terrain, its programs are accessible to people with mobility impairments (see Disability Resource Center).

The UC Santa Cruz Coastal Science Campus, located on the edge of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, provides extensive research and education facilities focused on marine and environmental sciences.

The city of Santa Cruz is a well-known recreational area and center for the arts. Mild weather, miles of beaches, and many cultural opportunities combine to make Santa Cruz an enjoyable place to study and live.

Accreditation. The University of California, Santa Cruz, is accredited by the Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), 985 Atlantic Avenue, Suite 100, Alameda, CA 94501, (510) 748-9001, an institutional accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education and the U.S. Department of Education.

Specific degree programs at UC Santa Cruz are also accredited: The Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET, (Electrical Engineering); the American Chemical Society Committee on Professional Training (Chemistry); and the California State Commission on Teacher Credentialing (Education). To review accreditation documents, please contact the Office of the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, Kerr Hall, (831) 459-1349, or

[top of page]

Revised 09/01/17