It was built in 1936, but not opened until after World War II as the Yorkshire Agricultural Institute. It first opened to students in 1948. The college runs courses in Agriculture, Animal Management, Veterinary Nursing, Equine, Engineering, Motorsport, Horticulture, Arboriculture, Floristry, Countryside Management, Outdoor Adventure Sport, Sport Coaching and Fitness, Uniformed Public Services and Foundation Vocational Programmes.
The college farm is 1,022 acres (414 ha) and supports three farms: Westfield Farm which accommodates a 250 Holstein Friesian dairy herd and the National Beef Training Centre; East Barrow Farm which houses the college Equine Department with 53 horses and Animal Management Department; and Headley Hall Farm which is the arable farm formerly of the University of Leeds.
Newton Rigg College, based in Penrith, Cumbria, became part of Askham Bryan College in 2011; while Liz Philip was Principal; in 2020 Tim Whitaker announced that teaching at the site would cease in July 2021.  According to Cumbrian Lord Inglewood, the process of asset stripping may be "unlawful". Between 2016 and 2020 student numbers at Newton Rigg fell by 40%. 
- "Askham Bryan College". The Independent. 11 August 2010. Retrieved 8 June 2011.
- "Askham Bryan College". Ofsted. 9 April 2009. Retrieved 8 June 2011.
- "Askham Bryan College". The Independent. 9 August 2013. Retrieved 26 April 2021.
- "Newton Rigg Review". Askham Bryan College. Retrieved 13 January 2021.
- Newton Rigg College
- "'Asset stripping' of Newton Rigg may be 'unlawful'". Farmers Guardian. 20 May 2021.
- "Questions should be asked over falling student numbers at Newton Rigg". Cumberland Herald. 18 February 2021.
- "Roy Lancaster plants tree at Askham Bryan College in memory of Geoffrey Smith". York Press. Retrieved 26 April 2021.