The University of South Australia (UniSA) was established in 1991 but our foundations date back to the latter half of the 19th century.

The forerunners of today’s UniSA were the South Australian School of Art, founded in 1856, the first of several Teacher Training Colleges formed in 1876, and the School of Mines and Industries which was established in 1889. These schools were renowned for providing quality education and for responding to the needs of the nascent colony of South Australia.

Under the University's Act, our mission was "to preserve, extend and disseminate knowledge through teaching, research, scholarship and consultancy, and to provide educational programs that will enhance the diverse cultural life of the wider community."

A faculty structure was adopted in 1992, and in 1993 UniSA established the Australian Technology Network (ATN) with the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Curtin University of Technology in Perth, RMIT University in Melbourne and the University of Technology, Sydney.

In 1994, the first two research institutes the Ian Wark Research Institute and the Institute for Telecommunications Research were established, followed in 1996 by the Flexible Learning Centre, which played a major role in facilitating strategic directions for improving teaching and learning.

In 1997, UniSA became one of the first universities to identify seven Graduate Qualities, which remain central to our teaching and learning framework, and adopted a Statement of Commitment to Aboriginal Reconciliation.

A Statement of Strategic Intent was formalised in 1998 to clearly define the University's character and objectives, and the current divisional structure replaced the faculty structure.

Central to the University's evolution as a modern and diverse institution was Blueprint 2005, a $140 million project that saw the closure of the Underdale campus, the construction of major buildings at City West, City East and Mawson Lakes campuses, and the extension of others. Phase one was completed in early 2005 and phase two which included the construction of the Hawke Building at City West was completed in October 2007.

In 2008 a new Vision, Mission and Values statement was released as a 21st century statement of who we are and what is important to us.

In 2010 Horizon 2020, a 10-year plan to guide our growth and development, was launched and in 2013, Crossing The Horizon refined that vision with detailed action sets that the University has taken towards becoming Australia’s University of Enterprise. In 2018, Enterprise25 was released to build and refine the University's strategic direction and set further goals for the next seven years.

Check out A New Kid On The Block, Emeritus Professor Alison MacKinnon’s history of UniSA