Founded in 1896, Southwest Jiaotong University (SWJTU) was originally named Imperial Chinese Railway College, and later Tangshan Jiaotong University, Tangshan Railway Institute, and so on. It is one of the earliest universities in China, and is known as "the Cradle for the Chinese Railway Engineers" and "East Cornell". In the first years of the Republic, Sun Zhongshan, on his inspection tour to the university, gave the famous "Army needs equipment and construction for revolution"speech; after the founding of New China, Mao Zedong once wrote the name for the university; Zhou Enlai, Liu Shaoqi, Zhu De, Li Lanqing, Jia Qinglin, and other Party and State leaders respectively have paid visits to SWJTU; Hu Jintao, Jiang Zemin personally met with leaders and professors of the university, which greatly inspired and encouraged teachers and students. For more than a century, the university has taken on the responsibility of revitalization through education, while holding tight to the belief of "imparting cultural heritage to the industry of traffic and transportation", promoting the spirit of “cultivating talents for the rejuvenation of Chinese nation, persevering in the betterment of individual merits", adhering to the tradition of "Conscientious in Studies and Stringent at Qualification", and cultivating more than 200,000 students.
Among the talents cultivated by SWJTU, there are more than 40 CAS and CAE academicians, the recipients of the "Merit Medal for Two Bombs and One Satellite", outstanding academic talents and engineering experts, officials of government, industrial leaders, excellent entrepreneurs, and numerous famous experts, professors and scholars, who have made great contributions to the rejuvenation and flourishment of the country, especially in the development of track transportation. Deng Xiaoping once put a premium on SWJTU’s operation. He said "There are many talents graduated from this university. Lu Xun wrote a poem to mourn for his close friend Yang Xingfo, a SWJTU graduate sacrificed in the revolution. Zhu Kezhen, founder of Phenology, also graduated from SWJTU. Mao Yisheng, another of the university’s graduate, designed and built China’s first modern bridge Qiantangjiang Bridge."
Nowadays, SWJTU has developed into a multiversity with a focus on engineering and with development of multi-disciplinary, covering engineering, science, management, economics, liberal arts, law, and other subject areas. Included in the "211 Project"and the "985 Feature Project", SWJTU is a national key university with a graduate school, and owns a complete Bachelor-Master-Doctor cultivation system with 74 key undergraduate majors (12 of which are national feature majors), 56 doctoral programs, 138 master programs, and 9 post-doctoral stations; the National Key Laboratory of Traction Power with worldwide influence in transportation industry and 27 key laboratories at the provincial and ministerial level. SWJTU has consistently ranked first in the discipline of "Great Jiaotong" in China. After passing the Outstanding Assessment of Undergraduate Teaching conducted by the Ministry of Education and becoming one of the 16 best universities in China in 2000, SWJTU passed the Undergraduate Education Evaluation with excellent performance in 2007. In recent years, SWJTU has paid great attention to international exchanges and cooperation, has established exchange programs with over 80 universities and institutes in 60 countries and regions, and has become one of the cooperation universities of the "4+4" Cooperation Plan between China and France and TAMDEM. The international exchanges and cooperation programs cover all levels of students and degrees.