The history of the University goes back to 1920 when the foundation stone of the Longmarket Street Building of the then Cape Technical College was laid in Cape Town. The establishment of the college followed more than ten years of representations by the community for the consolidation of the technical courses which had been offered in various venues in town.
In 1962 the Peninsula Technical College was established to cater for the steady growth in the number of Coloured apprentices in a variety of trades. Classes were conducted in Cape Town until the relocation to the venue in Bellville in 1967.
The two institutions had their status changed to College for Advanced Technical Education in the late sixties and early seventies respectively, and were then known as the Cape and Peninsula Colleges for Advanced Technical Education.
After the promulgation of the Technikons Act in 1976, these colleges could offer tertiary education in selected fields of study.
During 1979 both colleges were legally established as technikons: Peninsula Technikon in Bellville and Cape Technikon in Cape Town.
The infrastructure of the two institutions grew dramatically over the following years, incorporating, amongst others, the development of new campuses in Bellville and Cape Town and the acquisition of Granger Bay Campus.
During the apartheid era, all educational institutions were forced to serve a specific race group. In 1987 the Peninsula Technikon opened its doors to all South Africans. In the same year, the Cape Technikon applied for and was granted special permission to have the Government’s regulation lifted on the quota for black students.
In 1993 the Technikons Act was promulgated, empowering technikons to offer degrees: Bachelors, Masters and Doctoral degrees in Technology.
In 1997 the Peninsula Technikon restructured its academic programmes into the faculties of Engineering, Business and Science. Likewise, the Cape Technikon launched its new organisational structure with six faculties, a new corporate identity and Vision and Mission in 1999 and 2000. In 2001 the Boland and Mowbray Education Colleges were incorporated into the Cape Technikon, forming the Faculty of Education at Wellington and Mowbray.
In March 2001, the Minister of Education, Kader Asmal announced the National Plan on Higher Education (HE) which was set to change the HE landscape. A National Working Group (NWG) on HE was tasked to make recommendations to the Minister on the future of higher education. Each institution had to make submissions to the working group on their programme, qualification mixes and niche areas.
In May 2002, the Minister announced the possible merger of the Cape Technikon and Peninsula Technikon in January 2005. This followed after the NWG initially recommended that Peninsula Technikon and the University of the Western Cape should merge.
In August 2002 both of the institutions submitted responses to the Minister on the proposed merger and various meetings were held with stakeholders. Towards the end of 2002, the Minister announced that the merger between the two technikons would go ahead in January 2005.
In line with the Department of Education’s Guidelines for Mergers and Incorporations, the Cape and Peninsula Technikons set up combined and individual merger task teams. Merger offices were established during early 2003, to coordinate the process. In August 2003, the two technikons made a combined submission to the Minister on the new name and address of the merged institution, as well the members of the Interim Council.
In October 2003 the Minister approved the address and new name, Cape Peninsula University of Technology, and announced that the status of technikons would be changed to universities of technology.
The Executive Interim Management for the CPUT was appointed towards the end of 2004.
Prof L Vuyisa Mazwi-Tanga was appointed as the first Vice-chancellor of the Cape Peninsula University of Technology in February 2006.
In May 2008 Dr Trevor Manuel was elected as the first Chancellor of the University.