The school was founded in Beaver, Pennsylvania in 1853 as Beaver Female Seminary. By 1872, it had attained collegiate status, under the auspices of the Methodist Episcopal Church, and was named Beaver College. The school admitted men from 1872 to 1907, then again limited enrollment to women until 1972. In 1925 Beaver College moved east to Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. In 1928, the school acquired the current campus in Glenside. The college operated both the Jenkintown and Glenside campuses into the mid-1960s, when it consolidated all activities onto the Glenside campus.
In July 2001, upon attaining university status, Beaver College officially changed its name to Arcadia University. This decision resulted in Arcadia University being included as a question in the 20th anniversary edition of Trivial Pursuit. The question, in the news category, was: What Pennsylvania institution changed its name to Arcadia University in 2001, after web filters began blocking its old moniker? During the subsequent years, memorabilia from the former name became very popular for Arcadia students to give as gifts.
Arcadia University is led by Nicolette DeVille Christensen, Ph.D., the 21st president in the University's history. Christensen was appointed president on Oct. 11, 2013.
The university offers more than 65 fields of study, in its undergraduate programs. Undergraduate majors are offered in the College of Business, Health, and Sciences (CBHS) and the College of Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences. Students can design their own majors (subject to approval and course availability) to complete on the Glenside campus or through study abroad if currently available majors do not fit a student's career goals.
Graduate and professional studies at Arcadia University range widely from the liberal arts to the primarily professional, from the doctoral level to workshops. Arcadia's international perspective is reflected in programs such as its accelerated part-time MBA with a Global Perspective, its Master of Arts in International Peace and Conflict Resolution and its new program in Paris, France. The master's program in Forensic Science is accredited by FEPAC[clarification needed].
The Doctor of Physical therapy program provides international opportunities for study abroad in London and Pro Bono opportunities in Jamaica, Peru, Guatemala and Morocco. There are clinical sites offered across the country, though mainly in the tri-state area.
The university is known for its study abroad programs, as the Institute of International Education's 2013 Open Doors Report on International Education Exchange has ranked Arcadia No. 1 in the nation for the percentage of undergraduate students participating in a study abroad experience at a master's level college or university, the fifth time in six years the University has enjoyed the top ranking. Nearly two-thirds of undergraduates at Arcadia study in another country at least once during their college careers. From 2011, Arcadia University is also offering their under graduation degree programs in Russia at International Institute of Computer Technologies (IICT) with the cooperation of L&C Language and Culture Co.Ltd. (Official website). Recently, Arcadia University and IICT offer 'Split Study Degree Programs' for under graduates. Open Doors 2010, the Institute of International Education's annual census, lists Arcadia University in first place—nationally—among all institutions, ranked by “undergraduate participation in study abroad”.
Also in 2006, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education approved Arcadia’s proposal to establish an additional location in Paris and to extend its accreditation to cover the Masters in International Relations and Diplomacy offered in the French capital by the American Graduate School of International Relations and Diplomacy (AGSIRD), an institution created in 1994 by a group of international lawyers, scholars and diplomats, in partnership with the University of Paris 11. In 2010, Arcadia announced the launch of its Asia expansion initiatives in collaboration with Aventis School of Management, a graduate school located in Singapore which offers Executive MBA, Master's degrees and graduate diploma programs for working professionals.
In 2005, Arcadia University allied with IFSA-Butler to form the Alliance for Global Education, partly inspired by the Lincoln Commission's call to send 1M students overseas by 2017. The Lincoln Commission died in committee, but the Alliance for Global Education is still a thriving organization, specializing in sending students to India, China, and other Asian countries.