St Joseph’s was founded by the catholic priests of Missions Etrangeres\' de Paris (MEP) in 1854. It was first started as a seminary on a piece of land known as St John’s Hill (near present day St. John’s Church, north-west of Ulsoor, Bengaluru).
The small seminary was transformed to a full fledged college by the then rector Fr. Maurice Vissac in 1882. He had the college affiliated to the Madras University which could prepare and send students for the F.A. (First Arts) exams.
In 1884, 2 candidates appeared for this exam and qualified successfully. Fr. Vissac, being a visionary, wanted the school to be located in the heart of the city and shifted the college to the vicinity of St Patrick’s Church, Bengaluru.
In 1937, the management of the college was transferred to the Jesuit order. Following the independence of the country and the birth of the state of Karnataka, the college was affiliated to the Mysore University.
With the establishment of the Bangalore university, the college was permanently affiliated to it since 1967.
In 1986, it became the first affiliated college in Karnataka to offer postgraduate programmes.
In 1988, it became the first college in Karnataka to get a research center.
The college is also one of the early ones to go for NAAC accreditation in 1998.
In 2001 the college moved from the Residency Road campus to its present location at the intersection of Langford Road and Lalbagh Road. The college held many achievements to its credit.
In February 2021, St. Joseph\'s University bill was presented in the Karnataka Legislative Assembly. It was subsequently passed by the Karnataka Legislative Council.
The college received its University status on 2nd July 2022. On 27th September 2022, the institution was inaugurated as India\'s first public-private University under RUSA 2.0 by the President of India, Smt. Droupadi Murmu.