The University of Port Elizabeth (UPE), the country’s first dual-medium residential university, came into being on 31 January 1964 with the adoption by Parliament of Act 1 of 1964. The first academic year commenced on 1 March 1965.
Initially situated in a series of buildings in Bird Street, in the historic Central district, UPE moved to a modern, purpose-built campus – incorporating residences, sports complex and the towering Main Building – in Summerstrand in 1974. The campus was officially opened in August 1975 and the final move from Bird Street came in 1979 with the opening of the science blocks at Summerstrand. The University retained some of its Bird Street buildings and these became the centre of community outreach activities.
Built on 830 ha of land donated by the then Port Elizabeth City Council, the campus was declared a nature reserve in 1983.
At the time of the merger, UPE had more than 9 000 contact students and almost 5 000 distance education students. The last Chancellor was Dr Brigalia Bam, the last Vice-Chancellor Dr Rolf Stumpf and the last Chair of Council Mr Trevor Jennings.