The idea for the establishment of Universiti Tun Abdul Razak was mooted by Datuk Hassan Harun, the former chairman of KUB Malaysia Berhad. His strong interest and vast experience in the field of education materialised with the setting up of Maktab Adabi, in 1969. From this humble beginning, he continued to work on his vision for a bumiputra-owned private university.
With the advent of the IT age, Datuk Hassan incorporated the idea of an IT-based learning environment. His working paper was presented to the then Prime Minister of Malaysia, YAB. Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad in 1996. After deliberating on the proposal, the Prime Minister gave his blessing. This proposal was then presented to YB. Dato' Sri Mohd Najib Tun Razak, who was then the Minister of Education.
Dato' Sri Mohd Najib and members of the late Tun Abdul Razak's family were agreeable to the establishment of the university and also the use of Tun Abdul Razak's name for the university. The name is significant as Tun Abdul Razak is also known as the Father of Development, and the university aspires to actively contribute to the development efforts of the nation.
Universiti Tun Abdul Razak was launched on the 21st of December, 1998. Its establishment was of great significance, as it is part of a larger national agenda to liberate and democratise education in the country.
On 1st March 2007, Tun Abdul Razak Education Foundation (Yayasan PINTAR) purchased shares of Universiti Tun Abdul Razak Sdn. Bhd. from KUB Malaysia Berhad.