In October 2002 the University opened at the District Farm Institute located on Awich Street in Laroo Division, Gulu Municipality. The University opened with the Faculty of Science Education and Institute Human Resource Development.
Initially, the University was named Gulu University of Agriculture and Environmental Science and was to specialize in agricultural mechanization. However, it was later proposed that the University should widen its scope beyond agricultural mechanization and produce high level human resource that can effectively participate in solving the social and economic problems of the country. It was then renamed Gulu University.
From 2002 the University steadily increased its intake, faculties and programmes due to the demand to satisfy practical needs regionally, nationally, and internationally.