The University was established in 1967, on the joint initiative of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The objective was to take care of the cultural and educational needs of the youth among the Tibetan diaspora in India, and those of the Himalayan regions of India, who earlier had the opportunity of being educated in Tibet, this came to be discontinued in the wake of the Chinese occupation. The University combines traditional wisdom with modern educational pedagogy, and courses are offered in a graded fashion leading up to M.Phil and Ph.D. levels.
There is a vibrant publication unit, which has published a good number of important texts, restored and translated from Tibetan sources. There are ongoing projects on encyclopedia, lexicons and editing of rare texts, Sanskrit and Tibetan. The annual publication of a journal, Dhih, carrying the reports of research has been widely acclaimed.