A Legacy of Excellence

On This Page

The largest and most diverse of UC Berkeley's colleges and schools — encompassing three-quarters of its undergraduates and half of its faculty and graduate students — the College of Letters & Science is at the core of the university’s intellectual preeminence. L&S is renowned for the distinction of our faculty and students, the scope of our research, and the breadth, depth and innovation of our liberal arts program.

Throughout L&S’s history, discoveries made here have transformed lives and changed the way we think about the world. Our faculty discovered vitamin E, identified the flu virus, and led the fight against disease. Berkeley researchers invented the cyclotron, discovered new worlds inside the atom, unveiled mysteries of the universe, shed light on the evolution of human ancestors and on the evolution of human languages. And the books, poems, and other creative pursuits of our scholars have left their mark in every field of knowledge, winning awards as prestigious as Nobel and Pulitzer Prizes.

Perhaps most importantly, our teachers have shaped minds of generation after generation of students, whose accomplishments equaled or surpassed those of their mentors.

Top Rankings

UC Berkeley has long been ranked in the top tier of preeminent universities on all national and international rankings of academic excellence. According to studies conducted by the National Research Council (NRC), UC Berkeley ranks first nationally in the number of graduate programs in the top five in their fields. Additionally, the NRC report placed 48 of UC Berkeley's 52 ranked Ph.D. programs in the top 10. U.S. News & World Report also ranks UC Berkeley consistently as the nation’s top public university.

Best Students

Berkeley draws its undergraduates from the top 10 percent of California’s high school graduates, as well as from every state and some 75 countries. While Berkeley is well known for its stellar graduate programs, undergraduate teaching is a campus priority. The College of Letters & Science leads this effort by exposing students to the widest range of exciting coursework, and opening doors with scholarships and research opportunities. As a result of these efforts and opportunities, more Berkeley undergraduates go on to earn Ph.D.'s than those of any other college or university. Perhaps the most crucial ingredient in building and sustaining the excellence of our programs is the great quality of our graduate students. These students are attracted to Berkeley by the high quality of the faculty. In turn, faculty members depend on excellent graduate students to perform much of their research. And undergraduates benefit directly as well, by being guided throughout their undergraduate careers by exceptional graduate students. Berkeley graduate students lead the country in receiving National Science Foundation (NSF) fellowships each year. Berkeley is also among the universities receiving the highest number of Fulbright fellowships.

Stellar Faculty

At the heart of Berkeley’s achievements is a faculty made up of highly distinguished researchers and scholars. While many of them are celebrated for their awards and honors, the single most important contribution teachers can make is to spark the joy of discovery and knowledge in their students.

"I'm happiest about how well my students have done,” says Michael Manga, professor of earth and planetary science, and winner of the MacArthur “genius” award. “We're training the next generation of academics and researchers.”

For more on our faculty see Our Faculty page and Recent Faculty Awards.


The presence of some of the world’s most prestigious faculty attracts half a billion dollars in research funding to Berkeley to advance human knowledge and contribute to the greater good of society. From discoveries about the expanding universe to creating atomic-sized engines and exploring new approaches to treating AIDS, Berkeley is home to big concepts and great minds that probe them.

With more distinguished research programs than any other U.S. university, Berkeley and L&S offer students research excellence across the disciplines, a chance to work alongside world-class researchers, and access to state-of-the-art research centers and facilities. Here, faculty and students are involved the multidisciplinary research that brings together experts from a multitude of research areas to solve mysteries bigger than any one field of study.

Berkeley is also unique for its commitment to including undergraduate students in research enterprises. Undergraduate Research Fellowships allow students to participate in groundbreaking research with our professors. And many of the laboratories, libraries and specialized equipment used to conduct the groundbreaking research Berkeley is known for are also available to Berkeley undergraduates.

Unprecedented Opportunities

More than any other university, Berkeley offers students the opportunity of a lifetime through access to higher education and academic excellence.

  • One-third of our undergraduates have a family income of less than $40,000, making them eligible for income-based Pell Grants.
  • Berkeley serves more of these economically disadvantaged students than all of the eight Ivy League universities combined.
  • Seventeen percent of our freshmen are the first in their families to attend college.
  • Sixty-five percent of our undergraduates receive some form of financial aid. Forty percent of our undergraduates pay no tuition.

And in turn, our students make us proud:

  • We award more Ph.D.’s than any other university. 
  • Berkeley continues to be the only school in the country to have produced more than 3,500 Peace Corps volunteers.

Related Links

  1. Graduate Program Rankings
  2. Awards & Honors
  3. Recent Awards
  4. Our Faculty