It is the oldest public university in Pakistan. With multiple campuses in Gujranwala, Jhelum, and Khanspur, the university was formally established by the British Government after convening the first meeting for establishing higher education institutions in October 1882 at Simla. The Punjab University was the fourth university to be established by the British colonial authorities in the indian subcontinent; the first three universities were established in other parts of British India.
Approximately 30,000 enrolled students are currently attending the university, the PU has a total of 13 faculties within which there are 63 academic departments, research centers, and institutes. The Punjab University has ranked first amongst large-sized multiple faculty universities by the HEC in 2012. There are also two Nobel Laureates amongst the university's alumni and former staff. Additionally, the university is also a member of Association of Commonwealth Universities of the United Kingdom.
The University of the Punjab was given its initial impetus by Wood's despatch in 1854. Gottlieb Wilhelm Leitner was the founder of the university. Contrary to the three previously established universities, which were only examining institutions, the University of the Punjab was both a teaching as well as an examining body right from the beginning.
From its formation in 1882 until 1947, the University of the Punjab served the educational needs of the entire region of pre-independence Punjab and northern India. Mohindra College, Patiala was the first college of higher learning to affiliate with University of Punjab in 1882; followed by St. Stephen's College, Delhi. The independence of Pakistan in 1947 reduced the geographical jurisdiction of the university, as it was split into two separate universities in the respective countries. The Indian portion of the university is referred to as Panjab University, Chandigarh, India. The current Institute of Administrative Sciences was created in 1962.
Many major institutions that were previously affiliated to Punjab University have now become independent universities on their own, such as Government College University, Lahore and Medical and Engineering Colleges. 
By far the Punjab University remains a hub of student activisim despite the Universities attempt to curtail any such activites. Particularly the Islami Jamiat Talaba has held a sway over the affairs of students but is in steep decline.   The Islami Jamiat Talba and the Imamia Students Organization often clash over events giving rise to a sectarian air. 
At present PU has 28 dorms 17 for male and 11 for female students. Most of these students are accommodated in the dorms at the Quaid-e-Azam Campus. Total number of hostel residents is 6961.
On-campus housing facilities include 89 houses for teachers and University officers and 249 houses for junior staff of the University. About forty houses and eighty single accommodations are available in the various student hostels that are occupied by Wardens, Superintendents and Assistant Superintendents. The University plans to build more houses for the academic faculty and other employees. A bachelor teacher's hostel provides accommodation to the younger members of the academic staff. A guesthouse within the Residential Colony and the guestrooms in the Student-Teacher Center provide accommodation to the academics visiting the University. 
There are 13 faculties in the University with 10 constituent colleges, over 73 departments, centres, and institutes. It has over 808 permanent faculty members involved in teaching/research and over 36,000 on campus students.:
The university has collaborated with different universities globally and has articulation agreements with the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences of Cornell University and San José State University in the United States. It also has agreements with the University of Manchester, University of Luton, University of Bedfordshire, University of Birmingham, University of Surrey, University of Bradford, University of Cambridge, University of Derby, and University of Glasgow in the United Kingdom. In China, Punjab University has collaborations with Beijing University of Chemical Technology, City University of Hong Kong, Wuhan University School of Foreign Languages and Literature, University People’s Republic of China, Sichuan University, and Zhengzhou Medical University and in Iran with Markaz Nashr-e-Miras-e-Maktoob, Ferdowsi University of Mashhad, University of Tehran, and Tarbiat Modares University.
Punjab University Library is one of the largest libraries among the universities of Pakistan. The library has more than 500,000 collection of books, magazines and periodicals. This collection is in nine different national and international languages and different types as print material, CDs, DVDs, Microfilms, Microfiches, Video and Audio Cassettes and Manuscripts. Punjab University Library has beautiful two-storey building and total area of the building is 102,000 sq. feet. There are reading halls in both ground and 1st floor with approximately seating capacity of 2500 readers. The library has internet lab for the students to research according to the new technologies of 21st century. In the library there is computerised "MLIMs" catalogue for searching material.