The founding of New York University in 1831 by a group of eminent private citizens marked a historic event in American education. In the early 19th century, the major emphasis in higher education was on the mastery of Greek and Latin, with little attention given to modern subjects. The founders of New York University intended to enlarge the scope of higher education to meet the needs of those aspiring to careers in business, industry, science, and the arts, as well as in law, medicine, and the ministry. The opening of the University of London in 1828 convinced New Yorkers that New York, too, should have a new university that fed off the energy and vibrancy of the city.
The first president of New York University's governing council was Albert Gallatin, former adviser to Thomas Jefferson and secretary of the treasury in Jefferson's cabinet. Gallatin and his cofounders envisioned a "national university" that would provide a "rational and practical education for all."
The result of the founders’ foresight is today a university that is recognized both nationally and internationally as a leader in scholarship. NYU is one of only 27 private universities in the nation to have membership in the distinguished Association of American Universities. Students come to NYU from all 50 states and from 131 foreign countries.
New York University includes three degree-granting campuses: New York City, United States; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; and Shanghai, China. In addition, the University has 14 global academic centers: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; Accra, Ghana; Berlin, Germany; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Florence, Italy; London, England; Los Angeles, CA, United States; Madrid, Spain; Paris, France; Prague, Czech Republic; Shanghai, China; Sydney, Australia; Tel Aviv, Israel; and Washington, DC, United States. Although overall the University is large, the divisions are small- to moderate-size units — each with its own traditions, programs, and faculty.
Enrollment in the undergraduate divisions at NYU ranges between 135 and 8,316; the University offers over 6,000 courses and grants more than 44 different degrees. Classes vary in size, but the University strives to create a sense of community among students within and among the different disciplines.