The idea of establishing a Staff College to serve the United Nations system was a direct response to long-standing perceptions on the need to strengthen the effectiveness of the international civil service.

The feasibility of creating a Staff College began to be explored in 1969. In 1971, the United Nations General Assembly approved in principle the creation of the United Nations System Staff College. However, the Staff College was put on hold until financial resources could be identified.

In 1993, the Secretary-General requested a joint UN/ILO team to develop a more concrete Staff College proposal. The proposal was accepted in 1995. The College began operations in 1996 as a project entrusted to the ITC/ILO. In August 2000, the College was evaluated by an independent team which recommended that a full-fledged United Nations System Staff College be established and a Statute be drawn up.

In July 2001, the General Assembly approved the Statute of the United Nations System Staff College. On 1 January 2002 the College began its operations as a distinct institution within the United Nations system.

"The Staff College shall serve as a distinct, system-wide, knowledge management and learning institution… providing strategic leadership and management development…, strengthening inter-agency collaboration…, increasing operational effectiveness; enhancing cooperation with stakeholders inside and outside the UN system, and developing a more cohesive, system-wide, management culture." - UNSSC Statute -