NTU's institutional predecessor was Taihoku Imperial University, founded in 1928 by the Japanese colonial administration. The first president was Dr. Taira Shidehara. In 1945, the Republic of China (R.O.C.) won the war of resistance against Japan, and Taiwan was handed over to the Nationalist government of China. On November 15 of that year, Taihoku Imperial University was formally transferred to Chinese administration and renamed as National Taiwan University, with Dr. Tsung-lo Lo appointed as the first President.
During the Japanese occupation, the University consisted of two academic faculties: the Literature and Politics faculty and the Science and Agriculture faculty, with about 60 students enrolled each semester. The Medical faculty was added in 1936, followed by the Engineering faculty division in 1943. Additionally, the University included the affiliated Agriculture and Forestry college, the affiliated Medical college, a Tropical Medicine research institute and a preparatory school. Also, in 1943 the Southern Humanities research institute and the Southern Resources research institute were added. At that time, each faculty operated according to the lecture system, with a full-time Professor in charge of a faculty of associate professors, lecturers, teaching assistants and staff. These divisions and institutes were financially independent and had their own libraries. By 1945, the university expanded to five faculties, including Literature and Politics, Science, Agriculture, Medicine and Engineering, with a total enrollment of 382 students.
After restructuring in accordance with the R.O.C. academic system in 1945, academic departments were established and the former faculties were renamed Colleges. The Literature and Politics division was divided into the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Law. Additionally, colleges of Science, Medicine, Engineering and Agriculture were established. Initially, there were six colleges with 22 departments. In 1945, student enrollment was 585. In the following years, the departments and colleges expanded in faculty and hardware in step with growing budgets and rising social expectations. In 1960, the night school was initiated on a trial basis, and in 1967 a new night school was established. In 1987, the College of Management was established, followed by the College of Public Health in 1993 and the College of Electrical Engineering in 1997. The College of Electrical Engineering was later rechristened the College of Computer Science and Electrical Engineering; in 1999, the College of Law was renamed the College of Social Sciences, and the Night School and the Center of Continuing Education were combined to form the School of Professional and Continuing Studies. In 2002, the College of Agriculture was renamed the College of Bio-resources and Agriculture, and in 2002 a College of Life Sciences was added. As of the academic year 2021-2022, the University has a total of 16 colleges (including International College, D-School, Graduate School of Advanced Technology, Center for Education, School of Professional Education and Continuing Studies), 3 professional schools (dentistry, veterinary medicine, and pharmacy), 56 departments and 139 graduate institutes (including 32 graduate programs), and the number of students reached over 32,000 in 2021, including over 16,000 undergraduates and 15,000 graduates. Now, the number of graduate students at NTU almost equals the number of university students, which indicates that NTU has successfully been transformed into a research university.