In 1964, the Australian Government set up the Currie Commission to inquire into higher education in Papua New Guinea. The outcome of that report was the establishment of the University as a corporate body under the University of Papua New Guinea Ordinance in 1965, by the then PNG House of Assembly. (The 1965 Ordinance was repealed in May 1983 and a new Act, known as the University of Papua New Guinea Act No.18 of 1983, was passed by the National Parliament.)
An Interim Council was established in 1965, which governed the University until December 1968 when the permanent Council was appointed.
In 1978, a review of the University Ordinance and its accompanying Statutes and by-laws was called for, following a period of student unrest. As a result, a Commission of Inquiry was set up to investigate the problems and to ascertain whether or not the current legislation was adequate in dealing with them. The Commission ultimately recommended repeal of the 1965 Ordinance and the creation of a new Act to replace it.
After thorough research, a bill to repeal the old Ordinance and establish the new University Act was passed by the National Parliament in August 1983. The new Act saw the re-structuring of the University Council. The present membership is 32, including representatives of the National Parliament, members appointed by the Minister, representatives of the academic and non-academic staff, university graduates and students, members from connected institutions, and members elected by the Council.
Another restructure was drawn up after a decade of planning to introduce wide-ranging changes to academic programs and administration. A Bill to amend the University Act (Chapter 169) and its Statutes was passed by Parliament in June 2000 to effect the implementation of the new restructure.
Implementation begun in January 15, 2001 after confirmation by the Council. Academic departments were de-established, strands created and strand coordinators appointed. Single school offices were established to support respective strands under them. The focus of the restructure is to enhance the operations of the whole University by fostering interdisciplinary and inter-school relationships in the interest of the core business of education, research, scholarship and service.