Founded in 1754 as King’s College by Royal Charter of King George II of England, Columbia is the oldest university in the state of New York and one of the oldest in the US.
Its main landmark is the Low Memorial Library, which was built in the Roman Classical style and still houses the university’s central administration offices.
As well as its main campus in the heart of New York City on Broadway, Columbia has two facilities outside Manhattan: Nevis Laboratories, a centre for the study of high-energy experimental particle and nuclear physics in Irvington, New York, and the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York.
More than 80 faculty members, adjunct staff and alumni of Columbia have won a Nobel prize since 1901, when the awards were first granted. These include chemist Robert Lefkowitz, economist Joseph Stiglitz and US President Barack Obama, who was given the Peace Prize in 2009.
Columbia has also educated Founding Father of the US Alexander Hamilton, US presidents Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt and actors Jake Gyllenhaal, Katie Holmes and Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
The private research-based university has 20 schools – which include architecture, planning and preservation; business; Jewish theological seminary; and law – and 23 libraries that are scattered across the city. Sponsored research from its medical centre produces more than $600 million annually.
Columbia Technology Ventures, the institution’s technology transfer office, manages more than 400 new inventions each year and has been involved in launching over 150 start-up companies based on Columbia’s technologies.
The university also has nine Columbia Global Centres, which aim to promote and facilitate collaboration between the university’s staff, students and alumni in order to address global challenges. These are in China, Jordan, Turkey, Kenya, India, France, Chile, Brazil and New York City.
In 2014-15, the university’s total endowment value passed the $9.6 billion mark.
Lee Bollinger became Columbia University’s 19th president in 2002, making him the longest-serving leader of an Ivy League institution.