According to the study of Sarawak Foundation in 1998, there is a need of human resources for the state of Sarawak. As the response to such study, Sarawak State Government invited a foreign, technologically focused university to be set up in Sarawak. Therefore, the Swinburne University of Technology of Melbourne, Australia was identified by the State Government as a viable partner in assisting the state's educational needs. Following a long-term strategy by Swinburne Australia to "globalize its operations and provide all Swinburne students worldwide with international living, working and learning opportunities", and the approval of the then Minister of Education of Malaysia, Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak (who currently is Prime Minister) in 1999, the Swinburne Sarawak Institute of Technology was set up within a State Office Complex building at Jalan Simpang Tiga, Kuching, Sarawak.
The first batch of 130 students was enrolled in August 2000.The campus was officiated by Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, Chief Minister of Sarawak, on 13 June 2001. Following a press conference in Kuching by Datuk Adenan Satem, then Minister for Natural Resources and the Environment, who is also Chair of the Council of Swinburne University of Technology Sarawak Campus, Swinburne Sarawak Institute of Technology was officially granted status as a university branch campus on 10 June 2004, effectively becoming Swinburne's sixth and latest campus, joining five other campuses in Melbourne, Australia.
The university was since then known as Swinburne University of Technology, Sarawak Campus and was, at the time, the fifth branch campus university in the country. Student population was at 700.
Work on a RM110 million (approx AUD$46 million) campus expansion started in late 2005, aiming to boost student capacity to 5,000 and further expand its facilities. This project was wholly funded by the Sarawak Government. Construction on the extended campus was completed in August 2008.By then, Swinburne Sarawak had grown to having more than 3,000 full-time students from over 30 countries. The new extended campus was officially declared open by Pehin Sri Abdul Taib Mahmud, on 23 August 2008 which is the fourth and current Chief Minister of Sarawak. He is also the state Financial Minister and Resource Planning and Environment Minister.
Swinburne Sarawak has engaged in research into the development of software for the healthcare industry, software for the verification and authentication of digital biomedical media as well as research in biotechnology. These projects were funded by the public and private sector.
Swinburne Sarawak has excellent student facilities, including a library that accommodates over 700, a 10,244 sq ft-lecture theatre equipped with the latest audio-visual technology and sound-proofed walls and wireless network coverage across the campus. For recreation, the campus has a gym, badminton, basketball, tennis and squash courts.
16.5 acre site consist of eight buildings that are custom-designed which currently provide:
- 34 for engineering lab
- 10 for research lab
- 24 for computers lab
- 15 for science lab
- 37 tutorial rooms
The campus is located in Kuching, the capital city of the Malaysian state of Sarawak.