By the late 1950s, the University of Adelaide's North Terrace campus was approaching capacity. In 1960, Premier Thomas Playford announced that 150 hectares (370 acres) of state government-owned land in Burbank (now Bedford Park) would be allocated to the University of Adelaide for the establishment of a second campus.
Planning began in 1961. The principal-designate of the new campus, economist and professor Peter Karmel, was adamant that the new campus should operate independently from the North Terrace campus. He hoped that the Bedford Park campus would be free to innovate and not be bound by tradition.
Capital works began in 1962 with a grant of ₤3.8 million from the Australian Universities Commission. Architect Geoff Harrison, in conjunction with architectural firm Hassell, McConnell and Partners, designed a new university that, with future expansions, could eventually accommodate up to 6000 students.