Higher education in Namibia started around 1979/80. Prior to this, all students wishing to pursue higher education had to go to South Africa or other countries abroad.
The Polytechnic of Namibia has its roots in the establishment of the Academy for Tertiary Education by Act No. 13 of 1980. Classes in Teacher Training and Secretarial Courses started on 14 January 1980.
Five years later, another Act, number 9 of 1985 was promulgated and, by it, the Academy consisting of a university component (the present University of Namibia ), a Technikon, and College for Out of School Training was established. The Technikon offered a total of 17 diploma and certificate courses in Agriculture and Nature Conservation, Personnel Management, Public Administration, Cost Accounting, Secretarial, and Communicative and Legal Training. The College for Out-of-School Training (COST) offered 13 certificate courses in Technical and Commerce/General areas. Some of the courses included pre-tertiary teacher training.
Shortly after independence in 1990 it was resolved that the three components be collapsed into two independent higher education institutions, namely, a university and a polytechnic.
Act No. 18 of 1992 that established the University of Namibia was promulgated and this left the Technikon and COST in some kind of limbo, but they were placed under the auspices of the new university until the promulgation of the Polytechnic Act.
Two years later, with the establishment of the Polytechnic of Namibia by Act No. 33 of 1994, Technikon Namibia and the College for Out-of School Training (COST) merged to become the Polytechnic of Namibia. The Act provided for the gradual phasing out of vocational training courses and the granting of degrees by the Polytechnic.
The former City Campus (former Academy) became the Polytechnic and its first Rector, Prof. Tjama Tjivikua, was appointed on 4 August 1995. The first meeting of Council was held on 10 August 1995. This event accelerated and completed the de-linkage of the two institutions of higher education in December 1995. The Polytechnic thus became an independent and autonomous institution in January 1996.
It held its first graduation ceremony at which the President of the Republic of Namibia, Dr. Sam Nujoma, delivered the keynote address on 18 April 1996.
The Polytechnic's governing structure includes the Council, its supreme policy-making body, the Senate, which is responsible for the academic component of the institution, the Rector, its chief academic and administrative officer, and a Students Representative Council.