The first state colleges in California were established in the late 1800s, and a system emerged (rather than a single university), incorporating over 20 campuses. The state colleges were brought together by the Donahoe Higher Education Act of 1960, and by 1982, the system had taken on its current name, California State University (CSU).
All California State campuses offer undergraduate and graduate courses and require, for graduation, a basic programme of ‘General Education-Breadth Requirements’ across the university.
CSU academic portfolio comprises 1,800 bachelor’s and master's programmes spanning 357 subject areas, with most masters courses possible to complete in part-time, late afternoon and evening study, while a limited number of doctoral degrees are offered jointly with the University of California and other private institutions within the state. Since 2005, California State has been authorized to independently offer Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) degrees.
There are some 474,000 students at California State taught by a faculty of 49,000, meaning that, of the degrees awarded in California, CSU is responsible for about half of all bachelors and a third of masters’ degrees.
Separate from its many main campuses, CSU also maintains a dozen or so off-campus branches, allowing better access for those in the state who live further away. A series of institutes, laboratories and observatories are used by different campuses for different types of research. For example, South California Marine Institute is operated by California state to conduct studies in the Los Angeles Basin, and a Desert Studies Centre allows for biological studies in the Mojave desert, powered by a solar panel array.
The California Maritime Academy is the only campus with a specific admissions process, whereby prospective students must pass a physical examination, and acts as the only maritime academy in the western United States.