Although the university was founded as late as 1946, academic activity had taken place in Bergen since the founding of Bergen Cathedral School in 1153, the Seminarium Fredericianum in 1750 and the establishment of the Royal Norwegian Naval Academy in 1817. Academia and higher education would also be significanlty advanced in the city with the establishment of Bergen Museum, later renamed University Museum of Bergen, in 1825. Founded by Wilhelm Frimann Christie and Jacob Neumann, the museum became a venue for both research and education specialized on natural science, and featured prominent researcher like Michael Sars, Daniel Cornelius Danielssen and Fridtjof Nansen.
Bergen would eventually become a city with several arenas for higher education and research with the Geophysical Institute being established in 1917, the Chr. Michelsen Institute in 1930, the Norwegian School of Economics in 1936 and finally the university in 1946.
The University of Bergen has an elected rector, currently Dag Rune Olsen (As of August 1, 2013–present). The university has 7 faculties, the newst being The Faculty of Fine Art, Music and Design which was established in 2017. The University of Bergen Library and the University Museum of Bergen have a faculty-like status. Most of the university campus and administration is located in the Nygård neighbourhood, which has resulted in the campus area often being referred to as Nygårdshøyden or simply høyden, meaning "the hill".
In 2010 the university was ranked as number 135 worldwide by the Times Higher Education World University Rankings, and 181st worldwide by the 2015/16 QS World University Rankings. UiB was also ranked number 148 worldwide in the July 2010 Webometrics Ranking of World Universities. The URAP (University Ranking by Academic Performance) has ranked UiB for 2014/2015 as the 219th worldwide.
The University of Bergen, in common with other Norwegian universities, does not charge tuition fees, which also applies to international students. Students are however required to be members of the student welfare organisation. As of Fall 2015, this fee (semesteravgift) is NOK 590 (approx. US$ 72) per semester, and provides access to several services, including cultural activities, childcare, refunds for many medical expenses and subsidized accommodation. 40kr of the fee is a donation to the SAIH, a student charity, but this is optional. However most of the students give the donation.
The faculty revised its structure and names in August 2007.