The history of the university began on July 5, 1952. For four decades, the institute was one of the leading universities not only in the republic, but also in the USSR. In 1991, the Ust-Kamenogorsk Pedagogical Institute was transformed into East Kazakhstan State University and became the third university in Kazakhstan – the same age as a sovereign state.
In October 2003, by the Decree of the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan, it was named after Sarsen Amanzholov – a scientist, linguist-Turkologist. The University is an active member of the Eurasian Association of Universities.