The university has been developing and expanding since its inception, which started with the enrolment of 57 science based students. Now, USM offers courses at undergraduate and postgraduate levels to approximately 20,000 students. USM has also become a well-known university locally and internationally.
USM was founded after an agreement made on a resolution approved by the Penang State Legislative Council in 1962, which suggested that a university college be established in the state. An area in Sungai Ara was identified and later the foundation stone was placed by the then Prime Minister, Y.T.M Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj on the 7th of August 1967.
In 1969, the University of Penang was established in response to the need for a larger campus with a more conducive environment, appropriate to the needs of the future of the country.
In April 1969, Professor Hamzah Sendut was elected the Vice-Chancellor. Two months later, a group of 57 students was accepted to begin their studies. Since the area of Sungai Ara could not be developed as fast as required, the group was placed at the Malayan Teachers’ Training College at Bukit Gelugor on loan from the Education Ministry. In 1971, the campus, which was originally planned to be situated in Sungai Ara, moved to its present site, Minden, a beautiful location with an area measuring 500 acres. The green and hilly scenery facing the sea is truly captivating.
Since its beginning, USM has implemented a school system, as opposed to the traditional faculty system. What is unique about this system is that each school could fulfil the needs of a more focused degree in the chosen area of study and at the same time, students could have the opportunity to explore other areas of study offered by another school.
The interdisciplinary approach ensures that USM, the first in the country to adopt this system, would produce trained, multi-skilled graduates.