Vista University (Vista PE) was founded on 1 January 1982. Subsequently, seven decentralized contact tuition campuses were established, centred on township areas where the need for accessible and affordable higher education was most urgent. In 1982 the Port Elizabeth campus consisted of a small, prefabricated building patched between the national road to Uitenhage and the edge of Zwide township. Its location opened up access to higher education for many students from socially and financially disadvantaged backgrounds.
The campus had its first academic year in 1983 and in 1991 a permanent brick structure was completed. Later additions such as the Conference Hall and Arena provided accessible facilities for the surrounding community for large events. With seating for 5 000, the Arena is the Eastern Cape’s largest indoor venue.
Initially focused on the upgrading of teachers through its Education Faculty, in its subsequent growth Vista far surpassed the narrow field of expertise cut out for it, producing graduates in business, law, science and the humanities.
At the time of the merger, Vista PE had approximately 2 000 students and was led by Acting Campus Principal Prof Miemie Struwig.