The University of Papua New Guinea commenced academic programs in 1966 with a Preliminary Year and undergraduate studies in the Faculties of Arts, Education, Law, and Science. Science consisted of the Departments of Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, and Physics. Later, Geology (1973) and Environmental Sciences (1982) were added to the Faculty. Environmental Science and Geography merged in 2004.

At present, the School of Natural and Physical Sciences has the disciplines of Biological Sciences, Chemistry, Environmental Sciences and Geography, Earth Sciences, Mathematics, Statistics and Computer Science, and Physics. Students continue to undertake their first year in the Science Foundation Year before either moving into their second year programs at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences at the Taurama Campus, or continuing their studies within the School.

The Science Foundation Program is also available through the Open College campuses, NCD Open Campus, the Mt Hagen Open Campus, and the Honiara Open Campus in the Solomon Islands, via distance learning. Commencing in the 2015 academic year, the Science Foundation Year was also offered in the Enga University Centre, Enga Province, via distance learning.

The early teaching programs included students in the first two years of Forestry and the first three years of Agriculture, before transferring to the then newly established PNG University of Technology in Lae, Morobe Province. The School also contributed to teacher training via the Education Faculty with a small number of courses until Education was transferred to the University of Goroka when it was established.

The University of Papua New Guinea’s first graduation ceremony was held in 1970 and included four science and two Masters of Science graduates. The first PhD graduate was in 1974 and the first national PhD graduate was in 1983.

Important research centres and facilities include the Motupore Island Marine Sciences Research Centre, the Natural Sciences Resource Centre, the Centre for Biodiversity and Natural Products Research, the National Fish Collection, the Remote Sensing and GIS Centre, the Disaster Reduction Centre, the Geological Collections, a Meteorological site, Chemical analysis facilities, and specialised IT/computer laboratories, as well as the TB5/6 complex and greenhouse. The journal, Science in New Guinea, commenced publication in 1973 and continued until 2010.

The School of Natural and Physical Sciences has developed a wide range of collaborative arrangements with a number of national and international universities.