The Establishment of UTAR began with the story of Kolej Tunku Abdul Rahman (KTAR). In 1964 the Malaysian Chinese Association (MCA) mooted the idea of setting up a college which was subsequently named after the first Prime Minister of Malaysia.
On 15 September 1972, YAB Dato' Hussein Onn, the then Minister of Education handed over the Instrument of Government to the College. A 191-acre piece of land in Setapak, Kuala Lumpur was allocated for the construction of the KTAR Campus.
Established in 2002 with 411 students, today, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (UTAR) offers 110 programmes in fields including Accountancy, Actuarial Science, Agriculture, Arts, Business and Economics, Creative Industries and Design, Engineering and Built Environment, Information and Communication Technology, Life and Physical Sciences, Mathematics and Process Management, Medicine and Health Sciences, and Social Science and Education to more than 26,000 students in its nine faculties, three institutes and three centres located in Sungai Long and the main campus in Kampar, which was awarded the Pertubuhan Akitek Malaysia (Malaysian Institute of Architects) gold award in the education category in 2013. The employability of its 45,000 over graduates exceeds 97 percent within six months after graduation.
UTAR's efforts to excel in teaching and research to achieve its vision to be a global university of educational excellence with transformative societal impact have led it to be ranked as one of the top 300 universities in Asia in 2012 and 2013 by QS World University Rankings: Asia.
On 5 July 2001, the Minister of Education, YB Tan Sri Musa Mohamad, invited the MCA to establish UTAR. A steering committee, chaired by YABhg Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik was formed to draw up a blueprint. A working committee led by YBhg Tan Sri Dr Ng Lay Swee, who was then the Principal of KTAR, prepared the working papers for the formation of the University. After months of meetings, deliberations and research, a framework emerged.
UTAR would comprise the following:
These five faculties, one institute and one centre would offer a comprehensive range of courses to meet the varied needs of students.
In fact, the establishment was timely with the recognition of the private education industry by the Government of Malaysia as a vital engine in stimulating and sustaining the growth of intellectual capital to meet the complex needs of an increasingly knowledge-based and innovation-driven economy.
Guided by a vision to be a premier University for the advancement and dissemination of knowledge and expertise while emphasising the holistic development of individuals for nation building, UTAR would have to achieve global standards. To serve as a platform for international affiliations, the International Advisory Council (IAC) consisting of eminent scholars and scientists was established. With this array of distinguished scholars and scientists, UTAR has since then been working towards building a strong international base for its research programmes and courses of studies. The historic inaugural meeting of the IAC chaired by Tun Dr Ling Liong Sik, Chairman of UTAR Council, took place on 15 April 2002. It was indeed a meeting of keen minds with a myriad of vibrant ideas which provided an excellent start for the new University.
The University began by initially offering eight Honours degree programmes through three faculties:
These eight programmes, approved by the Ministry of Education, were:
On 10 June 2002, UTAR welcomed its first intake of 411 students to its Petaling Jaya Campus. On 13 August 2002, YABhg Tun Dr Mahathir bin Mohamad, then Prime Minister of Malaysia, officially launched UTAR. UTAR is thus officially established under the UTAR Education Foundation, a not-for-profit organisation.