​The foundation of the University of Vale do Itajaí – Univali - on March 21st 1989, was a natural step in the history of higher education in Itajaí and neighboring towns. The origin of the university dates back to 1964, when the Sociedade Itajaiense de Ensino Superior – SIES (Itajaí Society for Higher Education) signed, on September 16th, the official documentation to set up its first two schools: the School of Law and Social Sciences and the School of Philosophy, Sciences and Letters. On September 22nd, the SIES, a private institution, was converted into a government-owned authority through a municipal law.

On October 25th, 1968, Municipal Law no. 892 was published, which founded the Autarquia Municipal de Educação e Cultura (Municipal Autarchy for Education and Culture) in Itajaí, and in 1970, it became the Fundação de Ensino do Pólo Geoeducacional do Vale do Itajaí (Educational Foundation for the Geoeducational Center of Vale do Itajaí) – Fepevi. In 1986, the previously separate schools of Law and Social Sciences, Philosophy, Sciences and Letters, Nursing and Obstetrics, were amalgamated to form the Faculdades Integradas do Litoral Catarinense (Integrated Schools of the Santa Catarina Coast) - Filcat

On February 16th, 1989, Filcat became the University of Vale do Itajaí, through Resolution 51/89 of the Ministry of Education, and on March 21st of the following year, the institution was officially established. Having gained recognition as a university, Univali was granted the autonomy to start new courses, which was one of the factors that helped it to expand, becoming what is now the largest institution of higher education in the State of Santa Catarina.

The University soon spread beyond its boundaries, through its policy of commitment to the local community, lessening social injustice and promoting quality of life across all the regions covered by it.