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What is a Land Grant Research University?

If you are interested in higher education in the United States, you might have come across a term called “land grant research university” and wondered about its meaning. In this blog post, we will explore the history of the land grant system, what defines a land grant research university and why they are institutions of academic and scientific excellence in the US.

History of the Land Grant System

The origin of the land grant system goes back to the mid-nineteenth century when the US government passed the Morrill Act in 1862. The act was named after Justin Morrill, a Vermont congressman who proposed legislation that authorized the sale of public lands to create colleges that would teach subjects such as agriculture, mechanics, and military tactics.The Morrill Act led to the creation of land grant institutions, which were tasked with providing education in agriculture and the mechanical arts. The philosophy behind the land grant system was to make education accessible to a wider range of people, particularly those interested in practical education such as farming or engineering.

What defines a Land Grant Research University?

The Morrill Act of 1862 provided each state with a certain amount of federal land to sell or use for agricultural and technical colleges. In 1890, the Second Morrill Act focused on providing funding for African American colleges and expanded the land grant system further. Today, there are 19 historically black land grant institutions and 72 regular land grant universities in the US.The main goal of a land-grant university is to improve the quality of life of citizens through education, research, and public service. Their mission is to make higher education accessible and relevant to all people, regardless of their background or socio-economic status.To qualify as a land grant research university, an institution has to meet four criteria:1. The university must receive federal funds under the Morrill Act of 1862 or 1890 or the Hatch Act of 1887.2. The university must provide instruction in agriculture, engineering, and military tactics, as well as classical studies.3. The university must have a commitment to conduct research in these fields.4. The university must have a cooperative extension service that transfers research-based knowledge to the general public.These criteria are what set land grant universities apart from other institutions. They have a three-fold mission: teaching, research, and outreach.


Education is the primary mission of land grant research universities. They offer courses in various disciplines and degrees at undergraduate and graduate levels. Apart from the traditional classroom setting, land grant universities also offer online and distance learning programs to make education accessible to those who cannot attend lectures physically. They offer scholarships and other financial assistance to students from diverse backgrounds to make higher education more affordable.


Research is another essential aspect of land grant universities. They conduct research in various fields such as agriculture, environmental science, engineering, and biotechnology. The research conducted at these universities aims to solve real-world problems and improve people’s quality of life. The results of these research efforts are often applied to agriculture, engineering, and other practical fields, offering solutions to local, national, or global challenges.


Outreach is the third mission of land grant universities. They use the knowledge and results gained from research to benefit society by transferring it through outreach programs. The outreach aims to engage with communities through partnerships and other programs, including agricultural extension offices, public workshops, and other events. They work to promote economic development, create jobs, and improve the quality of life for citizens.

Land Grant Universities and Society

Land grant universities have a profound impact on the society and economy of the United States. They provide essential services that have helped to shape America the way we know it today. Through research, teaching, and outreach, land grant universities have made significant contributions to society, including:- Significant contributions to the agricultural sector by researching and developing sustainable farming techniques and agriculture practices that are highly productive and cost-effective.- The development of innovative technologies in engineering, including aerospace and computer science, which have helped enhance communication and automation, revolutionizing industries such as manufacturing and transportation.- Public health initiatives aimed at improving the health and quality of life of citizens.- Research on clean energy technologies and other environmental improvements that help mitigate environmental challenges.


In conclusion, land grant research universities are institutions of academic and scientific excellence in the United States. They are primarily focused on teaching, research, and outreach, with the goal of making higher education accessible and relevant to all people. By conducting research and implementing practical solutions, land grant universities help address many of the issues facing society today. They provide critical contributions to society and are a testament to the remarkable, scientific, economic, and societal contributions that universities make.