TERI SAS's roots can be traced back to 1998, when 'TERI School of Advanced Studies' was established. TERI SAS was conceived to cater to the need of disseminating the vast reservoir of knowledge created by TERI, a not for profit, independent research institute recognized globally for its contribution to scientific and policy research in the realms of energy, environment, and sustainable development. The genesis of TERI SAS is rooted in the comprehensive research, consultancy and outreach activities of TERI. The relationship with TERI has propelled and influenced the evolution of the Deemed University's academic units. This relationship is enshrined in a memorandum of understanding between the Deemed University and TERI, wherein the two have agreed on collaborative research and programmes, joint studies and mutual support for seminars, symposia and conferences.
This vision was further strengthened in 1999, when the University was granted "Deemed to be University" status by the University Grants Commission and notified vide Ministry of Human Resources Development, Department of Education, Government of India, notification no. F 9/19/95-U-3 dated October 5, 1999. Since its inception, the Deemed University offers not just world-class education, but also an environment that enables its students to develop fresh perspectives on their subjects of study. This includes regular interactions with researchers, scientists and academicians. The Deemed University's first convocation was held on 16 October 2006, where 8 doctoral and 36 master's degrees were awarded. Mr Nandan Nilekani, CEO and MD, Infosys Technologies, delivered the convocation address, stressing on sustainable development and incorporation of related concepts in higher education.
Before moving into the Vasant Kunj campus, the Deemed University was housed in Darbari Seth Block of India Habitat Centre from 1998 to 2008. In 2008, TERI SAS started functioning from the new 'green campus', located in Vasant Kunj- a prestigious institutional area in New Delhi. However, it continues to share the rich and diverse resources of TERI in terms of knowledge and expertise. The new campus has been planned to provide a setting that enhances learning, while simultaneously showcasing the concept of modern green buildings. Giving an importance to international perspectives in its programmes, TERI SAS has entered into memorandums of understanding with several international universities aimed at facilitating mutually beneficial exchange of students, faculty, knowledge, resources and ideas.
In 2007, the Deemed University launched an academic exchange programme with Yale University (School of Forestry and Environmental Studies) with support from the V K Rasmussen Foundation. Subsequently, in 2008, the Deemed University launched another academic exchange programme with Freie University of Berlin, Germany, with support from DAAD (the German Academic Exchange Service). In 2009, four scholarship programmes were set up for students in various programmes at the TERI SAS, funded by Sindicatum Climate Change Foundation, HSBC, Deutsche Bank and IOCL (IndianOil Corporation Ltd.), benefiting 16 students till now.
From launching the first doctoral programme in 2001 with 13 students and master's programmes in 2003 with 19 students, to 173 doctoral students and 573 master's students on the rolls in the 2015 academic year, the Deemed University has come to stand for excellence and quality within a remarkably short span of time. Over this period of time, the Deemed University has grown to offer a wide range of academic programmes related to sustainable development.