When Stellenbosch University first opened its doors in 1866, it was known as the Stellenbosch Gymnasium. Fifteen years later, its name was changed to Stellenbosch College, whereafter it was changed to Victoria College in 1887. In February 1916, a law called "De Universiteit van Stellenbosch-wet" (Law nr 13 of 1916) was published and on 2 April 1918, it came into effect, leading to the institution's final name change to Stellenbosch University.
The Arts Department of the Gymnasium was founded eight years after the Gymnasium was established. By 1879 about 69 students were enrolled for a BA degree at the Gymnasium. The first professor employed in the Arts Department was Prof Archibald MacDonald who lectured Greek, Latin and English literature. He was later joined by Prof Thomas Walker who was appointed as Professor in English and Philosophy in 1878, and in 1879 Prof Nicolaas Mansveldt became a Professor in Modern Languages (Dutch, French and German) and History.
The law which led to the final name change in 1918, also made provision for a Faculty of Arts. After being known as such for many years, in 2007 the Faculty’s name was changed to the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.