What to Know About Harvard University

Harvard University is one of the most prestigious and renowned educational institutions in the world. Located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it was founded in 1636, making it one of the oldest universities in the United States. Harvard has a rich history, a strong commitment to academic excellence, and a profound influence on education, research, and global society.

The Massachusetts colonial legislature allowed Harvard’s foundation, “dreading to leave an illiterate ministry to the churches”; though never technically linked with any faith, Harvard College largely trained Congregational clergy in its early years. Throughout the 18th century, its curriculum and student body were steadily secularized.

Harvard has the world’s largest university endowment, estimated at over $50.7 billion as of 2023. During the 2007-2009 recession, it incurred considerable losses, forcing large budget cuts, including temporarily suspending development of the Allston Science Complex. Since then, the endowment has recovered.

Here are some key aspects of Harvard University:

1. History

Harvard’s history dates back to its establishment in 1636 when the Massachusetts Bay Colony’s General Court approved a college to train clergy. Initially named “New College,” it was later renamed Harvard College in 1639 after its first benefactor, John Harvard. The university has since evolved into a comprehensive institution with a global reputation for academic excellence.

2. Academic Excellence

Harvard is renowned for its rigorous academic programs and exceptional faculty. It offers a wide range of undergraduate, graduate, and professional degree programs, with a focus on the liberal arts, sciences, business, law, medicine, and more. The university’s commitment to academic excellence has earned it a consistent top-ranking position in global university rankings.

3. Harvard Campus

Harvard’s campus is a combination of historic and modern architecture, situated along the banks of the Charles River in Cambridge. The campus is characterized by iconic buildings such as Widener Library, Harvard Yard, and the John Harvard Statue. It provides a picturesque setting for academic activities and fosters a strong sense of tradition.

4. Diversity

Harvard is dedicated to fostering diversity and inclusion. It attracts students and faculty from all over the world, contributing to a rich and varied academic community. The university’s commitment to diversity is evident in its various initiatives aimed at promoting equity and inclusion on campus.

5. Research and Innovation at Harvard

Harvard University is a powerhouse of research and innovation. Its faculty and students are engaged in cutting-edge research across various disciplines. The university has a vast network of research centers, institutes, and libraries that facilitate groundbreaking discoveries and academic collaboration.

According to the Carnegie Classification, Harvard is a founding member of the Association of American Universities and a prominent research university with “very high” research activity (R1) and comprehensive PhD programs in the arts, sciences, engineering, and medicine.

Biomedical research is an area of special strength for the university, with the medical school frequently ranking first among medical schools for research. At the medical school and its 15 connected hospitals and research institutions, more than 11,000 faculty and over 1,600 graduate students do research. In 2019, the medical school and its affiliates received $1.65 billion in competitive research grants from the National Institutes of Health, more than twice the amount received by any other university.

6. Harvard Alumni Network

Harvard boasts an impressive alumni network that includes numerous distinguished individuals, including U.S. presidents, Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, CEOs of major corporations, and leaders in various fields. The Harvard alumni community is known for its extensive influence and contributions to society.

7. Harvard Financial Status

Harvard University has the world’s largest university endowment, valued at more than $50.7 billion as of 2023. During the 2007-2009 recession, it suffered significant losses, necessitating significant budget cuts, including the temporary suspension of development of the Allston Science Complex. The endowment has since returned.

Annually, around $2 billion in investment income is dispersed to fund operations. The ability of Harvard to support its degree and financial aid programs is dependent on the performance of its endowment; a poor performance in fiscal year 2016 resulted in a 4.4% reduction in the number of graduate students funded by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Endowment income is crucial because tuition, fees, room, and board account for only 22% of earnings.

This financial resource allows the university to support research, scholarships, and a wide range of educational and cultural initiatives.

8. Public Service

Harvard places a strong emphasis on public service and encourages its students to engage in community outreach and global service projects. The university’s commitment to public service is evident through programs like the Harvard Kennedy School and the Harvard School of Public Health, which focus on addressing global challenges.


Harvard University is an institution deeply rooted in history and tradition, while also being at the forefront of modern academia and research. It continues to shape the future of education and society through its dedication to excellence, diversity, and public service, making it a symbol of intellectual achievement and influence in the world of higher education.

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