Santander Council agreed to donate the Magdalena Peninsula to H.M. King Alfonso XIII to build a Royal Palace, in 1908. For 17 years, the Palace was the royal summer residence until second republic was declared in April 1931. The following year, Fernando de los Rios, the Minister for Public Instruction, proposed the decree to create Santander International Summer University, which was approved by the Government. Several courses were delivered in the Palace which included Spanish language and literature for foreign students, from 1933-1936. The Civil War interrupted The International University’s activities. The Government approved a decree to create Menendez Pelayo International University at the instigation of Jose Ibanez Martin, the Minister for National Education in 1945 and began its teaching in 1947. In 1993, building and service areas were renovated and new equipment were introduced to support the teaching staff and to improve the administration. In 1995, official inauguration took place by King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia. The new University Statutes were published in 2002 for providing a better definition of their objectives, governing structure and operation. In 2008, to collaborate in the creation of a master's degree UIMP developed agreements with other institutions and joined with the University of Cantabria in the Cantabria International Campus (CCI), which was declared as "Campus of International Excellence" by the Ministry of Education and Science.
UMIP’s is a public university. The university administrative headquarters are in Madrid and various campuses coming under this university are in Santander, Valencia, Barcelona, Cartagena, Cuenca, Granada, Seville and Tenerife. University conduct classes at the University of Zaragoza (Huesca campus) and Luis Seoane. University provides various Specialization courses such as Interuniversity Master in Contemporary History, Master's Degree in Crystallography and Crystallization, Encounter: Breast Cancer: A curable disease, Encounter: Hyperactive and inattentive children and adolescents. Knowing them well to educate them better, Postgraduate Course in Health Management and Health and Postgraduate Course in Globalization and Governance: good practices in Ibero-American space.
In 2012-13 academic year, 799 national and 89 foreign teachers were teaching to 1,409 students. In June 17, summer program of the University in Santander has completed 132 courses. In all headquarters, for the fifth consecutive year immersion courses are held in English, which will be include 14,000 students and 1,005 teachers. University has collaboration with the International Festival of Santander, which offer foresees 65 events, organized in 14 cycles and that have the presence of personalities at the national and international level. University has scheduled 32 courses for coming year which will give 14% increase over last year.
Sculptor Julio López Hernández has made the Medal of Honor of the Menéndez Pelayo International University. Since 1980, The UIMP pays honor with its medal to personalities and institutions. Literary or scientific communities with humanistic work are given with this award as Menéndez Pelayo International Prize (University's namesake). In 2014, José Manuel Durão Barroso has awarded the university Medal of honor for his work as President of the European Commission and for his academic and teaching experience. Spanish or Portuguese speaking country Citizens are eligible for this award.