With the vision of inspiring students, businesses, and communities to succeed, the Universal College of Learning was founded in 1902 as Palmerston North Technical School, and it specialized in trade apprenticeship courses. Along with it, various hobby courses were also offered in arts and crafts. There were night shift business programs for the working adult. With the mission of developing great graduates who make a difference wherever they work in the world, the school expanded as growth increased and started delivering foundation and certificate programs, diplomas, degrees, and postgraduate courses options in a range of subjects as well as community-based programs.
The school's name was changed to universal College of learning in 1998, and after a few years in 2002, it expanded and introduced Masterton and Wanganui. The University partners with local businesses to provide work experience for their students studying diplomas and postgraduate programs.