Middle East Technical University is founded under the name of "Orta Doğu Yüksek Teknoloji Enstitüsü" (Middle East High Technology Institute) on November 15, 1956 to contribute to the development of Türkiye and Middle East countries and especially to train people so as to create a skilled workforce in the fields of natural and social sciences. "Arrangements and Procedures as for the Foundation of METU, Law No 6887" was enacted on January 29, 1957. Finally, "Foundation Act No 7307", which sets forth the particular standing of METU and describes the conditions rendering METU as a juridical entity, was enacted on May 27, 1959.

METU as a pioneer of high quality university education in Türkiye, introduced new methods and innovations in research to Turkish higher education system. In its earliest years, part of METU was located in a small building that belonged Social Security Office of Retirees at Kizilay's Müdafaa Street and the other section was located in the barracks behind the TBMM (Türkiye's National Grand Assembly). In 1963, the University moved to its current campus location which is the first university campus of Türkiye.

In 1956, the first academic program to start education was the Department of Architecture. Then in spring semester of 1957, Department of Mechanical Engineering launched its academic program. At the onset of 1957-1958 academic year, the Faculty of Architecture, Faculty of Engineering and Faculty of Administrative Sciences were established. In 1959, the tasks undertaken to establish Faculty of Arts and Sciences were completed. Faculty of Education launched its academic program in 1982. Today, there are a total of 41 undergraduate programs in five faculties of METU.

There are 107 graduate and  69 doctorate programs available in Graduate Schools of Natural Sciences, Social Sciences, Informatics, Applied Mathematics and Marine Sciences Graduate Schools. Marine Sciences conducts the academic program studies at İçel-Erdemli.

The language of instruction at METU is English. METU School of Foreign Languages takes the initiative to teach English to students at Preparatory School.

As a distinguished research university, METU has been commited to excellence in science and top-quality higher education since its foundation. Today, the University is proud to employ about 791 faculty (professors, associates professors etc.), 225 academic instructors and 1.273 research assistants. It is a great pleasure to offer education to over 28.000 students. The total number of the alumni now is above 120.000.

Former Presidents of METU:

Name and Surname Served Between
1 Prof. Dr. Turhan FEYZİOĞLU 17.08.1960-08.02.1961
2 Prof. Dr. Seha MERAY 23.02.1961-05.08.1961
3 Kemal KURDAŞ 20.11.1961-30.11.1969
4 Prof. Dr. Erdal İNÖNÜ 11.09.1970-09.03.1971
5 Em.Gen. Şefik ERENSÜ 04.06.1971-23.03.1972
6 Prof. Dr. İsmet ORDEMİR 01.04.1972-01.04.1974
7 Prof. Dr. Tarık SOMER 01.04.1974-04.04.1976
8 Prof. Dr. Ilgaz ALYANAK 05.04.1976-12.02.1977
9 Prof. Dr. Hasan TAN 14.02.1977-05.10.1977
10 Prof. Dr. Nuri SARYAL 05.10.1977-25.06.1979
11 Prof. Dr. Mehmet KICIMAN 25.06.1979-31.07.1982
12 Prof. Dr. Mehmet GÖNLÜBOL 01.08.1982-31.07.1987
13 Prof. Dr. Ömer SAATÇIOĞLU 01.08.1987-19.08.1992
14 Prof. Dr. Suha SEVÜK 20.08.1992-06.08.2000
15 Prof. Dr. Ural AKBULUT 07.08.2000-05.08.2008
16 Prof. Dr. Ahmet ACAR 06.08.2008-28.07.2016
17 Prof. Dr. Mustafa Verşan KÖK 29.07.2016-Continuing