Universitas Gadjah Mada was born out of revolutionary struggle for independence of the Indonesian nation. Founded in the early period of independence, UGM was declared as the scientific and cultural centre for national higher education administration.

Established by the name of “Universitas Gadjah Mada”, this university is the amalgamation of several higher education institutions that had been established previously, including Gadjah Mada Higher Education Centre, Engineering College, and Politics Academy in Yogyakarta, Lawyers Education Centre in Solo, and Pre-clinical Unit of Medical University in Klaten, all endorsed by Government Regulation No 23. Year 1949 regarding Regulations on Amalgamation of Higher Education Institutions into University. Although the date of establishment stated in the Government Regulation was actually 16 December 1949, UGM anniversary date was marked on 19 December due to the historical events of Indonesia taking place on that day.

The name of Gadjah Mada also had a special meaning, containing the spirit and good example of Prime Minister Gadjah Mada of the Majapahit Empire that was able to unify the Nusantara archipelago. This was interpreted into the formulation of identity of UGM as a national university, spirit of existence of the Republic of Indonesia, university of Pancasila, university of the people, and centre of culture university. In the initial period of establishment, UGM had 6 faculties, namely Faculty of Medicine, Faculty of Law, Faculty of Engineering, Faculty of Letters and Philosophy, Faculty of Agriculture, and Faculty of Veterinary Medicine. The early lectures were conducted in the Sitihinggil and Pagelaran compounds, employing rooms and facilities of the Kraton Palace in Yogyakarta. In 1951 physical construction of the Bulaksumur campus began and, entering the decade of 1960s, UGM already had facilities such as hospital, radio transmitter, and other facilities that supported student learning in addition to serving society’s interests. Now UGM has 18 faculties, one graduate school, one vocational school, and tens of study programmes.