The roots of NUS can be traced to the founding of The Straits Settlements and Federated Malay States Government Medical School in 1905. The School was renamed King Edward VII Medical School in 1913 and was the first institution of higher learning in Singapore. It gained recognition and rose in status to become the King Edward VII College of Medicine in 1921.

In 1928, Raffles College was established to offer tertiary-level courses in Arts and Science. In 1949, it merged with the King Edward VII College of Medicine to form a full-fledged University, the University of Malaya. With full degree-granting powers, the University was a beacon of knowledge for both sides of the Causeway.

With the decision of the Governments of Singapore and the Federation of Malaya that the Singapore Division and the Kuala Lumpur Division of the University of Malaya should become autonomous national universities in their respective countries, the University of Singapore, with its campus in Bukit Timah, was established on 1 January 1962.

In 1955, Nanyang University was established from contributions and resources pooled from the Chinese community in Singapore. To the Chinese community, Nanyang University was more affectionately known as ‘Nantah’.

On 8 August 1980, the National University of Singapore was formed through a merger between the University of Singapore and Nanyang University. The sprawling 150-hectare Kent Ridge site became the new home for the University. The then President of the Republic of Singapore, Dr Benjamin Sheares, become NUS’ first Chancellor. The Kent Ridge site was developed over the years and the transfer of all the Faculties and Departments to the new campus was completed in 1986.