The university was originally founded in Shanghai as Guanghua University in 1925. On June 3, students broke away from St. John's University after the May 30th Movement. Under the leadership of the prominent scholar Zhang Shouyong, Guanghua University was founded. Following the outbreak of the Second Sino-Japanese War with Japan, the university moved to the inland city of Chengdu in 1938. In 1946, the branch campus in Chengdu proclaimed independence and was renamed the private Chenghua University. In 1952, the university was transformed into the public Chenghua University, it merged with schools and departments of business and economics from 16 other universities and colleges and was renamed Sichuan Institute of Finance and Economics. In 1980, People's Bank of China, China's central bank, took over the administration of the university and renamed it the Southwestern University of Finance and Economics (SWUFE) in 1985. The university was listed in the 211 Project in 1995. PBC administered the university until the administration was transferred to the Ministry of Education in 2000. It was listed in the 985 Innovative Platforms for Key Disciplines Project in 2011.