Formerly known as the South China Institute of Technology, it was established in 1952, through a reorganization process that unified the engineering schools and departments of major universities from five provinces in central and Southern China, including the former Zhongshan University, Lingnan University, Hunan University, Guangxi University, South China Joint University, and four others. In 1960, it was selected as one of 33 National Key Universities, under the direct administration of the Chinese Ministry of Education. The University was renamed as South China University of Technology in 1988.
In 1995, it was selected as one of the universities into which China will make significant investment in the 21st century. In 1999, it was rated "excellent" during the Undergraduate Teaching Assessment, and was among the first "Excellent Universities of Undergraduate Education" in the country. In the same year, a national science park was established with the authorization of State Ministry of Technology and State Ministry of Education. In 2000, Graduate School was authorized to be established. In 2001, the new cooperative construction of State Ministry of Education and Guangdong Province was implemented in SCUT and it was listed among the top universities in the country.