The University of Trento was founded in 1962 as a higher University Institute of Social Sciences, by Bruno Kessler.
In 1968 it is the first university to be occupied in Italy and becomes the cradle of the student movement of the Sixty-Eight and the protestation, among the first leaders of the movement are Mauro Rostagno and Marco Boato. In this period, under the direction of Francesco Alberoni, the "critical" University comes to life, a model of university based on direct participation in teaching choices.
With a view to expanding the training offer, in 1972 the Faculty of Sciences was established and in 1973 the Faculty of Economics; in the same year the University became a free university, remaining such until 1983, when it was recognized State University with a statute guaranteeing competences of self-government. The academic project was strengthened in 1984 with the faculties of letters and jurisprudence and in 1985 with the Faculty of engineering. More recently, in 2004, the Faculty of cognitive Sciences was established, the first in Italy, based in Rovereto.
In 2016, the university opened the Centre for Agriculture, Food and the environment in San Michele all'adige, while in August 2013 an agreement was signed in Alpbach, on the occasion of Tyrol day at the European Forum, between the Universities of Trento, Bolzano and Innsbruck. The purpose is to create a structured collaboration, based on research and high training, common projects, shared lines of teaching, trade short-term or long-term professors and researchers, and the possibility for students to test multiple languages.
The University of Trento, in addition, together with other entities of the Trentino system of higher education and research, is involved in the IEEE smart cities-Trento project whose supervision is entrusted to the Italian section of the IEEE.
In 2012, the University of Trento celebrated its first 50 years: a tradition that brings it to be acknowledged as one of the leading universities in Italy, as indicated by several national rankings: the quality of the University of Trento was confirmed by the first national evaluation carried out by MIUR (The Ministry of Education, Universities and Research) and published in the summer of 2009. The University of Trento, according to the ministerial criteria, proved to have reached the best national standards for the quality of its research and teaching. With this result the University earned the title of “the most virtuous university in Italy”. The 2013 Report by ANVUR (Italian National Agency for the Evaluation of the University system) UniTrento ranks first in the category of scientific production of medium-sized universities.