Gujarat Vidyapith was founded by Mahatma Gandhi on October 18, 1920 to liberate the Indian youths from the shackles of British colonial rule. As against the British colonial education system, propounded by Lord Macaulay, that produced human resources for the oppressive British Empire , Gandhi wanted his Vidyapith to prepare the youths for the task of national reconstruction and usher in 'Hind Swaraj', the India of his dream.

Gujarat Vidyapith was established as a national university without a government charter. Gandhiji was its life-long chancellor. Professor A T Gidwani was its founder vice-chancellor. Later, many more institutions, colleges and schools were affiliated to the Vidyapith. In 1923, the total number of students in these institutions stood at 30,000.

After Gandhiji, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Dr. Rajendra Prasad and Morarji Desai adorned the post of chancellor of the Vidyapith.

Until 1930, Vidyapith imparted graduation-level courses in languages such as Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali, Sanskrit, Persian, English as well as in History, Mathematics, Philosophy, Economics, Accountancy, Music, Political Science, Pharmacy, Archaeology and Indology.

The Vidyapith stopped functioning temporarily during the civil disobedience movements of 1930 and 1932 and the Quit India movement of 1942. The students and faculty members participated actively in the freedom struggle, many of them courting arrest.

The Vidyapith started functioning afresh from 1945 and in June 1947, the Mahadev Desai College of Social Work was established. The Government of India declared the Vidyapith as a deemed university in 1963.

Today, it is one of the national universities with a charter from the Government of India and seeks to promote Gandhiji's ideals of service-oriented education.