The Ardhi University (ARU) was established after transforming the former University College of Lands and Architectural Studies (UCLAS) which was then a constituent college of the University of Dar es Salaam from 1st July 1996. The history of Ardhi University, however, dates back to 1956 when the then Surveying Training School offering land surveying technician certificate courses was established at the present location of Mgulani Salvation Army Camp in Dar es Salaam. Then, that school was moved to the present location at which it is today (the Observation Hill) in 1958. In 1972, the school became called Ardhi Institute. The Institute offered two-year diploma programmes in the fields of Land Surveying and Land Management and Valuation. In the same year a three-year Diploma program in Urban and Rural Planning was introduced.
By the Act of the Parliament No. 35 of 1974, Ardhi Institute was made a parastatal organisation and consequently the duration of two-years was extended to three years. Later in 1975, all the three-year diploma programes were upgraded to Advanced Diploma level. The Building Design and Building Economics courses started in 1976 and 1978 respectively. In the 1979, the Centre for Housing Studies was established as a joint project between the Government of Tanzania and the Netherlands. The centre has now grown into the Institute of Human Settlement Studies (IHSS). In early 1980s, the Public Health Engineering (later named Environmental Engineering) course was introduced.
As pointed out earlier, in 1996 the Ardhi Institute was affiliated to the University of Dar es Salaam and became a constituent college of the University. It then became known as the University College of Lands and Architectural Studies (UCLAS). Two legal instruments, namely, Government Notice (GN) Number 148 of June 29th, 1996 and University of Dar es Salaam (UDSM) Act No.12 of 1970 provided the basis for the establishment of UCLAS.
Within ten (10) years of its existence (i.e. 1996-2006) UCLAS increased the number of academic programmes from six (6) to thirty nine (39). The programmes ranging from diploma to PhD were offered by two faculties, that is, the Faculty of Architecture and Planning (FAP) and the Faculty of Lands and Environmental Engineering (FLEE). As a result of those changes, student enrolment increased from only 400 in 1996 to about 1,400 in 2007. At the same time the number of academic staff with PhD increased from 3 in 1996 to 43 in 2008.
At last, Ardhi University came into being after the signing of Ardhi University Charter by His Excellency the President of United Republic of Tanzania, Hon. Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete on 28th March, 2007. The University Charter was prepared basing on the Universities Act No. 7 of 2005. The establishment of ARU went concurrently with the establishment of various schools.