Swinburne was first established as the Eastern Suburbs Technical College by George Swinburne with the first students enrolled in 1909, when classes began in carpentry, plumbing and blacksmithing. In 1913 the institution changed its name to the Swinburne Technical College to commemorate the Honourable George Swinburne.

After many developments, the 1992 proclamation by the Parliament of Victoria of the Swinburne University of Technology Act marked not only recognition of Swinburne's distinguished history, but the beginning of a new period of growth and innovation for Swinburne. From its establishment in 1908 in Melbourne's eastern suburbs at Hawthorn, through mergers with Prahran College of Advanced Education in 1992 and Eastern Institute of TAFE in 1998, Swinburne has grown from being a local provider of technical education into a multi-disciplined, multi-campus provider of vocational and higher education and training of national and international significance.