History of UNF


The University of North Florida is a public university located in Jacksonville, Florida. A member institution of the State University System of Florida, The University of North Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award baccalaureate, masters and doctorate degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of the University of North Florida.


Individual contact to the Commission on Colleges about the University of North Florida accreditation status should occur only if there is evidence that appears to support significant noncompliance with a requirement or standard.


Located amid a natural preserve in the largest city, in terms of land area, in the continental United States, the university was established in 1969 when 1,000 acres between downtown Jacksonville and the Jacksonville Beaches were set aside for its development. Until UNF’s establishment, the only publicly funded institution of higher learning was Florida Community College at Jacksonville, now Florida State College at Jacksonville. 

Construction on classrooms and buildings began in 1971 and UNF opened its doors to 2,027 juniors in the fall of 1972. The first class was supported by 117 faculty and more than 150 staff members. Its first president was Thomas G. Carpenter. 

UNF graduated 35 students in 1973. The school was quick to expand and it was first accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1974. The school’s mascot, the osprey, was adopted in November 1979. The male and female versions of the mascot are known as Ozzie and Harriet and are often seen around campus at events and athletic competitions. 

In 1980, there was a legislative effort to merge UNF with the University of Florida but was vetoed by Governor Bob Graham. 

Initially designated an upper-division college for juniors and seniors, UNF eventually began admitting freshmen in 1984. Enrollment at UNF exceeded 10,000 in 1995 and in spring of 2000, UNF graduated more than 1,000 students, breaking its own record for commencement. 

The new century saw significant development on campus as many new buildings, including the social science building, science and engineering building, College of Education and Human Services building, Fine Arts Center, Student Union and Osprey Fountains residence hall were built. 

In 2002, a 13-member Board of Trustees began work to oversee UNF. Former mayor of Jacksonville, John A. Delaney, was appointed president of the university in 2003. 

In Fall 2006, the social sciences building became the first facility to be LEED-certified in Northeast Florida, as well as the first “green” building on campus. As of 2010, there are five buildings on campus that have been certified by the U.S. Green Building Council. 

Although the majority of students reside off campus, there are currently six areas of on-campus housing, including the five-story Osprey Fountains, which opened in 2009. 

UNF began intercollegiate sports in 1983 as a member of the NAIA, later moving to NCAA Division II. The university is currently a member of the Atlantic Sun Conference and its NCAA Division I athletic teams are known as the North Florida Ospreys. UNF was officially reclassified as an NCAA Division I school for its athletics programs in 2009. 

The university currently has an enrollment of more than 16,000 students and employs more than 500 full-time faculty. UNF is organized into five colleges which offer 53 undergraduate degree programs and 28 graduate-degree programs, with noted business, coastal biology, nursing, nutrition and music programs. 

UNF has more than 140 clubs and organizations for students, as well as an active Student Government and Greek life. The student-run newspaper — The Spinnaker — is published weekly. Beginning in 2007, The Princeton Review has named UNF one of the best colleges in the Southeast for four consecutive years, and has been named one of “America's Best Colleges” by Forbes Magazine.