The University of Haifa was founded in 1963 by Haifa mayor Abba Hushi, to operate under the academic auspices of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem,   Four hundred and seventy two students attended the University in its first year. Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences were offered in the following departments: Biblical Studies, Hebrew Literature and Language, Jewish History, General History, French Literature and Language, English Literature and Language, Arabic Literature and Language, Geography, Sociology, and Political Science. The academic staff included 180 instructors, 50 of them Haifa residents.

In 1967, the University of Haifa awarded a diploma to its first graduates, 75 in number, three-quarters of whom intended to be teachers.

The first home of the University of Haifa was in Erdstein House in the Hadar HaCarmel section of Haifa, but it soon became too crowded. The University moved to Merkaz HaCarmel, and was housed in the building that now serves the Municipal High School No. 5.  In 1966, the University moved to the top of Mount Carmel, the present location of its main campus.

The University’s first building, the “Multi-Purpose Building”, was constructed in 1966. It contained classrooms, halls, laboratories, a library with 110,000 books, and a cafeteria. Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer planned the campus to include all the University’s facilities in one complex. More recently, additional buildings have been built nearby. Niemeyer did not complete the detailed design phase, instead Shlomo Gilad received the commission for the overall planning of the campus.  Gilad retreated from Niemeyer’s design, but retained the character of the main building, Eshkol building, named for the ex-prime minister Levi Eshkol.  The Eshkol Building stayed as the highest building in the city of Haifa until 2002.