The history of Samarkand State University began on September 21, 1420, from the moment the madrasah of Mirzo Ulugbek was founded. The great scientist Muhammad Khavofi had made a scientific report on the theory of Claudius Ptolemy in front of a learned audience of over a 100 on that day. Since that day, the madrasah of Mirzo Ulugbek began to function, where, along with the canons of Islam, students were taught such fundamental sciences as mathematics, algebra (al-zhabr), geometry (handasa), law (fiqh) and some other subjects.
Written sources and scientific research confirm that Samarkand State University is a direct descendant of the madrasah of Mirzo Ulugbek. In light of this, in 2020 Samarkand State University celebrates its 600th anniversary.
Since 1920, based on the decision of the Turkestan Area administration, the teachers of the Mirzo Ulugbek Madrasah (mudarris) were involved in short-term training-courses for pedagogical personnel. The graduates of these courses were later enrolled in ‘enlightenment’ institutes. On January 22, 1927, this Madrasah was converted into Higher Pedagogical Institute in Samarkand, which was then a capital of the Uzbek Republic. This educational institution was one of the first higher educational institutions in Central Asia. The most educated intelligentsia of the area, who had received their higher education in the Madrasah, were involved in teaching activities of the institute, along with invited professors and teachers from other republics of the ex-USSR, though mainly from the cities of Moscow, Leningrad and Kiev.
In 1930, this educational institution was renamed as Higher Pedagogical Academy. Mr. Karim Abdullaev was the first rector of the academy during 1931-1935. Later, he was one of the victims of Stalin's repressions. In 1933, Higher Pedagogical Academy and the local Medical Institute were merged and renamed as the Uzbek State University. It became one of the largest universities in Central Asia.
In 1941, the 500th anniversary of Alisher Navoi (poet, philosopher and statesman, who had studied at the Mirzo Ulugbek Madrasah during the 1460s) was celebrated, and Uzbek State University was renamed after him. Later in 1941, due to the outbreak of World War II, the university was closed. In 1941-1944 the University was temporarily merged with Tashkent State University.
In 1944, the Uzbek State University was restored, in line with the proposal of the rector Mr. Musa Muminov and with the support of the country's administration.
During 1944-1951, Mr. M. Muminov attracted such prominent scientists as S. Aini, U. Tursunov, I. Kukles, R. Iskandarov, I. I. Umnyakov and others.
In 1961, Uzbek State University was renamed as Samarkand State University and named after Alisher Navoi.
In 1992, Samarkand Pedagogical Institute named after S. Aini became a part of Samarkand State University.
In 1994, Samarkand State Institute of Foreign Languages was created, on the basis of the Faculty of Foreign Languages of Samarkand State University.
In different years, dozens of major state, cultural and scientific figures, writers and poets have emerged from the university. The most famous of them were Sharaf Rashidov, Hamid Alimjan, Uygun, Academician Ibrahim Muminov, Academician Yakhya Gulyamov, Muhammad Asimi, Abdullo Ghani, Mirtemir, Usman Nasyr, Manzura Sobirova, Khabib Yusufi and others.
Samarkand State University has a publishing wing which publishes the journal SamSU Scientific Bulletin. This journal is published 6 times a year in Russian and Uzbek languages.