University of Virginia


“This institution will be based on the illimitable freedom of the human mind. For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.”

—Thomas Jefferson, 1820, in a letter to William Roscoe

The University of Virginia was established in 1819 by Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States and the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. An avid architect, Jefferson designed the Albemarle Academy (his original working name for the University) as an “academical village,” a learning community in which students and professors lived, studied, and interacted.

Today the academical village, or Lawn, is still the center of the University. Fourth-year students are chosen by their peers to live in its residential rooms, and distinguished faculty members are chosen to live in its pavilions. By any standard, the Lawn is a masterpiece. In fact, in 1996 the New York Times called it, “The greatest campus plan in the history of American architecture.”

The University is consistently ranked either first or second among public universities by U.S. News & World Report. It is the only university in the United States to be designated a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. The University has the highest graduation and retention rate of any public college or university, and it has produced more Rhodes Scholars than any other state-supported university. With six undergraduate schools, the University offers more than sixty major areas of study.