When the University of Georgia was incorporated by an act of the General Assembly on January 27, 1785, Georgia became the first state to charter a state-supported university. In 1784 the General Assembly had set aside 40,000 acres of land to endow a college or seminary of learning.

At the first meeting of the board of trustees, held in Augusta on February 13, 1786, Abraham Baldwin was selected president of the University. Baldwin, a native of Connecticut and a graduate of Yale University who had come to Georgia in 1784, drafted the charter adopted by the General Assembly.

The University was actually established in 1801 when a committee of the board of trustees selected a land site. John Milledge, later a governor of the state, purchased and gave to the board of trustees the chosen tract of 633 acres on the banks of the Oconee River in northeast Georgia.

Josiah Meigs was named president of the University and work was begun on the first building, originally called Franklin College in honor of Benjamin Franklin and now known as Old College. The University graduated its first class in 1804.

The curriculum of traditional classical studies was broadened in 1843 to include courses in law, and again in 1872 when the University received federal funds for instruction in agriculture and mechanical arts.

Seventeen schools and colleges, with auxiliary divisions, carry on the University's programs of teaching, research and service. These colleges and schools and the dates of their establishment as separate administrative units are:

The Division of General Extension, now the Georgia Center for Continuing Education, was incorporated into the University in 1947.

In 1931 the General Assembly of Georgia placed all state-supported institutions of higher education, including the University of Georgia, under the jurisdiction of a single board. This organization, known as the University System of Georgia, is governed by the Board of Regents. The Board of Regents' executive officer, the chancellor, exercises a general supervisory control over all institutions of the University System, with each institution having its own executive officers and faculty.