The University's story starts in 1858, when the art critic, patron and philanthropist John Ruskin opened Cambridge School of Art. The art school grew to become Anglia Ruskin University, shortened to ARU.
Over the years, a number of colleges and institutes have become part of ARU. They include the Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology (CCAT) and the Essex Institute of Higher Education (formerly the Chelmer Institute – itself formed from the Mid-Essex Technical College and the Brentwood College of Education). At first, these colleges combined to become Anglia Polytechnic, and then Anglia Polytechnic University in 1992.
As well as Cambridge, the University has campuses in Chelmsford and London. A new campus will be opened in the city of Peterborough, in September 2022.