UET was established in 1921 as the Mughalpura Technical College. Its more familiar name of the pre-University era, the Maclagan Engineering College, was adopted in 1923 when Sir Edward Maclagan, the Governor of the Punjab, laid the foundation stone of the building, now called the Main Block.
In 1932 the institution became affiliated with the University of the Punjab for award of a bachelor’s degree in Engineering. At the time of the partition of British India, in 1947, it had well-established Bachelor of Science courses in electrical, mechanical and civil engineering, and the quality of its scholastic standards had won it a place of prestige throughout British India.
In 1954 it started a bachelor’s degree program in Mining Engineering. Expansion and development commenced in 1961, upon its transformation into the West Pakistan University of Engineering & Technology. The first priority was to start teaching of those disciplines which were crucial for national development but were not catered for by any institution in the country. Accordingly, in the 1960s, bachelor’s degree courses were started in Chemical Engineering, Petroleum & Gas Engineering, Metallurgical Engineering, Architecture and City & Regional Planning.
Later , the University concentrated its energies and resources on developing its postgraduate programs. By the 1970s it had established over a score of master’s degree courses in diverse specializations of engineering, architecture, planning and allied disciplines. PhD degree programs were also instituted in a number of disciplines. Presently, the institute offers a diverse range of programs in different disciplines of engineering under the supervision of its six faculties.
In 2008 and 2009 , UET Lahore was ranked among the top 600 universities of the world by the Times Higher Education QS World University Rankings.