Our Core Values: Inquiry, Care, Integrity, Agency, Interconnection


san francisco university high school

Academic Program

San Francisco University High School seeks to provide each student with a broad background in the liberal arts. The curriculum represents a combination of required courses thought to be fundamental to a liberal education, a rich selection of elective courses aimed at meeting the needs and interests of a diverse student body, and a variety of opportunities to pursue independent programs of study.

Please check out our 2019–20 Course Catalog in the sidebar for a complete listing of courses offered this year!


The Arts program is designed to fulfill two functions in the student’s growth and development. The first is to develop an understanding of the richness of the arts; the contributions that they have made and continue to make to humankind; and the basic elements that are the foundations of visual arts, music, and theater. The second function is to offer students an opportunity to participate directly in the creative process through entry level courses in each discipline, as well as through upper level courses for those students who wish to pursue depth and mastery in a particular art. The arts curriculum is designed to allow students to develop in both the understanding and the creation of the arts.

The foundation of the student’s understanding of the arts is provided by Western Civilization: History of the Arts, an interdisciplinary course which is required for sophomores and is taught by a team of teachers representing the fields of art, music, and history. The history, cultural concepts, theories, elements, and facts presented in this course are echoed in the studio and performing classes in the analysis of works and in student project designs.

The arts curriculum also offers a rich selection of studio and performing courses in visual arts, music, and theater and focuses on building skills which will enable students to fulfill their creative visions. Students may take any entry-level course in the three disciplines, as well as pursue greater depth and skill development through upper-level courses such as the level III studio courses, the upper division performing ensembles, AP Studio Art, Theater Production II: Advanced Projects, AP Music Theory, and AP Art History.

The graduation requirement includes two semesters of arts courses, in addition to Western Civilization: History of the Arts.
You can learn more about University's numerous fine arts offerings by visiting our Arts pages.


The graduation requirements of University High School include four years of English.

In their freshman and sophomore years, students take a core program that emphasizes reading, writing, and critical thinking. They read a wide variety of literary works and write and revise continually in response.

In their junior and senior years, students take semester-long electives, choosing from a variety of options each term. All the electives offer sustained instruction in analytical writing, and many of them require creative or personal writing, as well. To make the writing process as accessible and as individualized as possible, each major assignment goes through multiple steps of prewriting, writing, and revising, with frequent opportunities for constructive criticism from teachers and peers along the way.

The English Department has chosen the electives model to allow students to pursue topics of particular interest and to go into more depth with each than would otherwise be possible. We also believe, however, that the electives approach allows students to be exposed to a diverse array of texts and to a variety of contexts in which to read them. To encourage students to take advantage of the breadth available to them, we recommend that they think about their choices in light of what they have already taken and what they hope to take. Some courses are organized around a genre, such as poetry, while others take a theme as a guiding principle. Still others focus on the literature of a region or nation. It is our intent that, as juniors and seniors, our students will discover increasingly wider circles of their own interests and that they will be inspired to make connections among these interests.


The study of history is an essential part of University’s comprehensive program. To deepen our students’ understanding of the world past and present, as well as to build and refine their skills in service of historical inquiry and analysis, the History Department offers a four-year curriculum of core courses and electives.

History I: Non-Western Civilizations introduces students to the practice of historical inquiry and to area studies and is required of all freshmen. The multidisciplinary course, Western Civilization: A History of the Arts, although housed in the Arts Department, furthers sophomores’ study of history. All students must take United States History in their junior or senior year, and may elect to sit for the Advanced Placement examination in that subject. The capstone is our rich elective program, which allows juniors and seniors to do further investigation and skills refinement in area studies and/or in theme-based courses.


The study of language and culture offers new dimensions to students’ lives, as it opens doors to the world; it also provides them with the opportunity to gain new perspectives on their own languages and cultures. For students to achieve such understanding, we encourage them to study a language other than what is spoken at home.

To graduate from UHS, a student must complete level three or three years of study (whichever comes first) of one of four languages offered: Chinese, French, Latin, and Spanish. Students benefit most from language study when they pursue the same language as far as possible. Therefore, if they choose to enroll in a second language, we recommend doing so only after they complete an advanced level of the first.

A shared goal of all language study at UHS is the close reading and interpretation of a range of texts in the target language, with special emphasis on literary texts as windows into diverse philosophical and cultural points of view. In the case of the modern spoken languages, an equal goal is to ensure that students can communicate fluently and that they have a broad understanding of the countries and cultures where the language is spoken. In so doing, we seek to empower students to attain the linguistic precision, cultural empathy, and sheer enjoyment that come from the spirited pursuit of knowledge.

Please read about our Academic Integrity and Tutoring Guidelines here


The Mathematics requirement for graduation consists of a three-year sequence of courses: Mathematics I, II, and III. These courses emphasize modes of mathematical reasoning and techniques of problem solving through the traditional topics of algebra, geometry, and right-triangle trigonometry. Students who wish to continue their study of mathematics have a variety of electives to choose from. Precalculus, Statistics, AP Calculus, AP Statistics, and AP Computer Science are offered every year. There is also a changing menu of various special electives that are offered occasionally, including Non-Euclidean Geometry, Chaos Theory, Discrete Mathematics, Evolution of Mathematics, and Decision Theory.


University High School requires that each student complete two years of a science for graduation. For students in the Class of 2019 and before, this requirement is met by the biology and chemistry sequence in ninth and tenth grades. Starting with the Class of 2020, the requirement will be met by ninth-grade physics and tenth-grade chemistry, respectively. However, all students are strongly encouraged to leave UHS with a foundation in all three fundamental sciences (biology, chemistry, and physics). The advanced electives that we may offer in upcoming years include Astronomy, Geology, Physics, Physics Honors, Advanced Projects in Physics, Advanced Topics in Modern Chemistry, AP Environmental Science, and three courses under the heading of Advanced Topics in Biology: Microbiology, Molecular Biology, and Physiology. Industrial Design is offered in conjunction with the Arts Department. Any elective with an “AP,” “Advanced,” or “Honors” designation is considered a “college-level” course. Permission to enroll in some advanced courses is granted at the discretion of the instructor and the science department as a whole and will be based on a student’s past record in science classes. Taking more than one science course at a time requires permission of the department and space in the desired course. In scheduling classes we will accommodate all single-course students first.


The University High School Human Development curriculum is designed to support the overall cognitive, social, and emotional development of each student by creating opportunities for experiential and project-based learning. The curriculum, which spans all four years of a student’s time at UHS, focuses on five main areas: learning and metacognition, cultural competency, health and wellness, community engagement, and college counseling. The Human Development faculty work closely with one another, as well as with the mentors to design, deliver, and support learning that aligns with the school’s mission, philosophy, and goals for student competencies.


The principal objectives of the Physical Education program are to stimulate interest in physical education and physical fitness and to provide students with an opportunity to participate in activities that may be of ongoing interest to them throughout their lives.

With physical education, the year is divided into thirds (trimesters) to match the athletic program seasons (fall/winter/spring). Students must meet a PE requirement each semester of their four years (12 trimesters). A student may fulfill this requirement in one of three ways: 1) participation on an interscholastic team, 2) enrollment in a physical education class, or 3) participation in the Alternate Activity program.

Most students at UHS participate on one or more interscholastic teams (listed in the accompanying chart). This breadth of offering would compare favorably to many college programs. UHS encourages all students to participate in interscholastic athletics and over 90% of our students do participate on at least one team during their years here. The spring season in particular sees about 60% of the student body playing on one of 17 teams. For more information about UHS sports teams, see the www.uhsathletics.org website or contact the Athletic Department staff.

Students not participating on a team in a particular season often enroll in a PE class. Classes meet one-two times a week, almost always after school. Class sizes are generally small, permitting instructors to offer individual students a considerable amount of personal guidance and attention. The following activities are traditionally offered in the Physical Education program: archery, badminton, bowling, fencing, fitness training, lacrosse (co-ed), rock climbing,* running club, squash,* softball, strength and conditioning, urban hiking, and yoga. *Additional fee involved.

Strength and conditioning classes are offered by the school’s in-house S&C coach and are integrated into interscholastic team practices and also available separately for out-of-season athletes. The classes are designed to reduce the risk of injury and to build stronger foundations for athletic development. They are offered most days of the week after school on campus.

The Alternate Activity program is designed to accommodate students who wish to pursue physical activities and interests outside the school’s core program. Each year the list of accepted activities is long and varied. Typical examples might include ballet, cycling, figure skating, gymnastics, horseback riding, ice hockey, martial arts, or pilates. Athletes playing on outside club teams receive PE credit through this program as well. Any student interested in participating in off campus activities must submit a completed contract to the director of physical education at the beginning of the trimester. The student must also take responsibility for submitting completed logs to the PE Department at designated deadline dates.

Through this three-pronged approach to physical education, we hope that all UHS students will find their own passion for athletic activities, will learn how to develop and maintain a desired level of physical conditioning, and will leave UHS more likely to have an ongoing interest in physical fitness and sports for years to come.

Outside of the PE program, the Athletic Department also offers an extensive intramural program during lunch time. Activities have included: badminton, volleyball, indoor soccer, dodgeball, and basketball. Intramurals provide a fun way for students and the faculty to interact in friendly competition.


To provide students opportunities to pursue self-directed learning, the school offers a rich program of independent study. Following our belief that students learn best when they become architects of their own education, the program encourages students to pursue independent study by awarding transcript credit for a variety of self-initiated projects. A committee comprised of teachers across the disciplines oversees the approval process for these projects.

Students who wish to apply for an independent study should first enlist the sponsorship of a UHS faculty member or, in some cases, the supervision of an adult off-campus. Students should indicate their interest in pursuing independent study on the program planning form and then develop their proposals with their sponsors. In most cases, a student will meet with a sponsor at least twice prior to submitting an independent study proposal, once to discuss the general idea for the independent study and once to review and refine the written independent study proposal.

Students may apply for full-semester credit for projects that will require at least four hours of work per week, and for half-semester credit for projects that will require at least two hours per week. Students will discuss with their faculty sponsor whether the independent study will receive a letter grade or credit only, and will designate on the application the option on which the student and sponsor have agreed.

While faculty sponsors will develop their own specific criteria for evaluating the independent studies they sponsor, all graded independent studies will include evaluation of the following: consistency of the student’s preparation and attendance; depth and sophistication of the student’s engagement; and some kind of culminating project, which could take the form of a paper, a performance, a presentation, or some other form of sharing what the student has learned with the school community. independent studies receiving credit only will be assessed based on the consistency of preparation and attendance.

Applications must be submitted on time and are usually due on the Friday following the grace period of either semester. First semester students who wish to continue an independent study during the second semester must re-apply.

Each independent study proposal must include a “milestone,” which serves as a safety measure to protect students from overcommitting themselves. Students must complete their milestone goals by a date specified by the independent study committee, usually the Friday preceding the end of the 1st quarter in the fall or the third quarter in the spring. If the student does not complete the milestone goal, the independent study is removed from his or her schedule. Once the proposal is approved and the milestone is successfully completed, the student is responsible for finishing the independent study.