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UNF Over the Years

The University of North Florida is a public university located in Jacksonville, Florida, the largest city in terms of land area in the contiguous United States. A member institution of the State University System of Florida, UNF is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges* to award baccalaureate, masters and doctorate degrees. 

The 1,381-acre campus in Northeast Florida is considered a driver in the region, with an annual economic impact of nearly $1 billion. There are six colleges at UNF: the Brooks College of Health, the Coggin College of Business, the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Computing, Engineering and Construction, the College of Education and Human Services, and the Hicks Honors College.

The University’s campus was first established in 1969 when 1,000 acres between downtown Jacksonville and Jacksonville Beach were set aside for development of the University. Until UNF’s establishment, the only publicly funded institution of higher learning in the area 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 president was Thomas G. Carpenter, and the first class was supported by 117 faculty and more than 150 staff members. UNF graduated 35 students during that first commencement ceremony 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, Ozzie the Osprey, was adopted in November 1979. The lively mascot can often be seen around campus and at athletic competitions, swooping the Ospreys on to victory.

In 1980, there was a legislative effort to merge UNF with the University of Florida, but Gov. Bob Graham vetoed the measure. Initially designated as 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 the spring of 2000, UNF graduated more than 1,000 students, breaking its own record for commencement. Today, nearly 4,000 students graduate each year from the University of North Florida.

The new century brought with it significant development on campus including many new buildings such as the Social Science Building, Science and Engineering building, College of Education and Human Services building, Fine Arts Center, Student Union, Student Wellness Complex and Osprey Fountains residence hall.

In 2002, a 13-member Board of Trustees began overseeing the University. Former Jacksonville Mayor John A. Delaney was appointed president of UNF in 2003. A major tenet of his presidency was a focus on “green” building and on-campus sustainability. In Fall 2006, the Social Sciences Building became the first facility to be LEED-certified in Northeast Florida. To date, there are 11 LEED-certified structures on campus, four of which have received gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council for excellence in sustainability.

There are currently six residence halls, including the five-story Osprey Fountains, which opened in 2009, along with the Flats at UNF, an upper-class, apartment-style housing option that was purchased in 2014.

UNF began intercollegiate sports in 1983 as a member of the NAIA, later moving to NCAA Division II. The North Florida Ospreys made the move to Division I in 2009 and currently compete in the Atlantic Sun Conference. In 2015, the men's basketball team competed in the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

The University of North Florida currently has an enrollment of 17,000 students and employs more than 500 full-time faculty and over 1,000 staff members. UNF offers more than 50 undergraduate degree programs, about 30 graduate-degree programs and five doctoral programs, with distinguished Flagship Programs in international business, coastal biology, nursing, nutrition and dietetics, transportation and logistics, and music. UNF is known for providing students with Transformational Learning Opportunities, or TLOs, as they are known on campus. Each student has a chance to take part in a life-changing experience — conducting research with faculty, taking part in community-based learning or studying abroad, which UNF students do at twice the national average.

UNF has more than 200 clubs and organizations for students, as well as an active Student Government and Greek life. Spinnaker Media is a student-run magazine, radio and television operation that has won a number of national awards.

The University consistently ranks high nationally. The Princeton Review has named UNF one of the best colleges in the Southeast for nine consecutive years, and U.S. News & World Report named UNF a Best Regional College for the eighth year in a row ... just to name a few. UNF also received the prestigious Carnegie Classification for Community Engagement. While national recognition is an important benchmark of the University’s quality and value, it is the small class sizes and individualized attention that have become hallmarks of a UNF education. 


In 2018, Dr. David M. Syzmanski became the sixth president of the University of North Florida. Committed to excellence and innovation, Szymanski believes in leading with respect and recognizes the value of partnerships in moving the University forward. Under his leadership, the University of North Florida maintains a commitment that students are always the first priority.



* Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Ga. 30033-4097, or call (404) 679-4500 for questions about UNF’s accreditation. 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.