The idea of a university in the Agder region is not completely new. In his short period as ruler of the union of Denmark and Norway, Johann Friedrich Struensee planned on reforming the University of Copenhagen. He gave Bishop Johann Ernst Gunnerus of Trondhjem the task of developing more detailed plans. Gunnerus presented a proposal in 1771 in which he suggested establishing a new university in Norway, and placing it in Kristiansand.
The motives for suggesting Kristiansand as a university town have been debated. Regardless, the idea was soon discarded as planning began for the first Norwegian university. In 1811, a resolution was passed to establish Norway's first university in Christiania (Oslo).
Even without a university in the region, and as the need for better educated employees rose, several smaller colleges were established thoughout the Agder region. The first, Kristiansand Teacher Training College was originally founded at Holt in Aust-Agder in 1839, making it one of the oldest institutions of higher education in Norway. It was followed by Arendal College of Nursing (1920), Agder Music Conservatory (1965), Agder Regional College of Technology (1967), Agder Regional College (1969) and Kristiansand College of Nursing (1976).
Agder University College was established by a merger in 1994, when the six public regional colleges in the Agder counties became one institution. The University College received full university accreditation and became the University of Agder on 1 September, 2007. In 2012, the University of Agder has approximately 10,000 students, 1000 employees and an annual budget of about 950 million NOK.
Recently, the process of consolidating the University has developed even more. The previous campus in Arendal merged with the Grimstad campus to form a brand new campus in Grimstad 1st of August, 2010. The Faculty of Fine Arts can also now enjoy a new and signifiantly larger music building on the Kristiansand campus, previously this was located in Kongensgate(city centre). The music building opened 1st of January 2011.
Today the University of Agder has therefore two campuses: Kristiansand (also called Gimlemoen) in Vest-Agder and Grimstad in Aust-Agder.