The Technical University of Kenya shares history with the development of the first three higher education institutions in East Africa. In the 1920s there were heightened agitations for the expansion of access to higher education by indigenous leaders in the East African Territories. Concerted efforts in the form of committees, commissions and conferences resulted in positive developments that included the elevation of Makerere Institute of to Makerere University College of the University of London in 1949, proposal to establish the Royal Technical College (RTC) in Nairobi was approved and construction started on 25th January 1952 and establishment of Dar es Salaam University College in 1961.
RTC in Nairobi admitted the first cohort of students pursuing Architecture, Arts, Domestic Science, and Engineering and Science in 1956. Simultaneously, another group of students were registered to the Kenya Technical Institute but admitted (in 1956) within the tuition of RTC in Nairobi.
The Government of Kenya immediately initiated the development of the Kenya Technical Institute at its present site within Nairobi CBD in three phases. The first phase, 1957-1958, comprised planning and working drawing. Activities of the second phase included construction of administration block, tuition block and supply of equipment in the period 1958-1959. The third phase, 1959-1960, covered the construction of laboratory wing, workshops, roads and site work and supply of equipment. The Kenya Technical Institute started operating on its new site from 1st January 1961 with the relocation of students from tution blocks of RTC but was only officially opened on 29th May 1961. It was later renamed the Kenya Polytechnic.