The University of Virginia, now nearly 200 years old, is a vigorous, modern institution, animated by the forward-looking spirit of its founder, Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson’s powerful conviction — the idea that the university exists to train young people for public affairs and the belief that the liberal arts constitute the foundation for any education — continues to inspire its students and faculty and guide the development of its programs.
Jefferson was involved in all aspects of founding the University. He outlined the institution’s purpose, designed its buildings, supervised construction, and planned its curriculum. He also directed the recruitment of its initial faculty.
When classes began in 1825, with 68 students and a faculty of eight, the University of Virginia embodied dramatic new ideas in American higher education. In an era when colleges trained scholars for the clergy and academia, Jefferson dedicated his University to the education of citizens in practical affairs and public service. The innovative curriculum permitted the student a broader range of study than was available at other colleges and universities of the day, and Jefferson implemented novel ideas concerning student selfgovernment and religious freedom.