NCA was originally founded in 1875 as the Mayo School of Industrial Arts and was one of two art colleges created by the British Crown in British India in reaction to the Arts & Crafts Movement. The Mayo School of Industrial Arts was named in honor of the recently assassinated British Viceroy Lord Mayo in 1875. John Lockwood Kipling becoming the school's first principal, who was also appointed the first curator of the Lahore Museum, which opened the same year in an adjacent building. In 1958, the school was renamed to the National College of Arts. Designated the premier art institution in the country, it was transferred to the Department of Education from the Department of Industries in the 1960s. It received a degree-awarding status in 1985 and created its first graduate programs in 1999. In 2006, the school opened a second campus in Rawalpindi and received a university charter in June 2011.