The university was founded in 1961 as Technische Hogeschool Twente or (THT). After Delft University of Technology and Eindhoven University of Technology, it became the third polytechnic institute in the Netherlands to become a university. The institution was later renamed to Universiteit Twente (University of Twente) in 1986, as the result of the changes in the Dutch Academic Education Act in 1984.
The UT collaborates with Delft University of Technology, Eindhoven University of Technology and the Wageningen University and Research Centre under the umbrella of 4TU and is also a partner in the European Consortium of Innovative Universities (ECIU).
The university has been placed in the top 400 universities in the world by multiple major ranking tables. The UT was ranked 65th in the Reuters's 2017 European Most Innovative Universities, and, 184th worldwide in 2019 according to the Times Higher Education magazine.