The university has its roots in the traditions of its four constituent colleges, all of which were founded in the 19th century as teacher training colleges. All four colleges were founded to address the need to educate poor and disadvantaged children. In 1975, the four colleges joined to form the Roehampton Institute of Higher Education.
Roehampton was formerly an equal partner in the now-dissolved Federal University of Surrey (along with the original University of Surrey in Guildford). On 1 August 2004, the University of Surrey Roehampton became Roehampton University. Since 2011, the university has been branded University of Roehampton. However, its legal name remains Roehampton University. In 2012 the last college, Whitelands, was legally merged with the university, bringing all the colleges into a common management structure. Schiller International University degrees are awarded and accredited by Roehampton.