Senior College grew out of a committee (the Senior Scholars committee) comprising members of the now disbanded Retired Academics and Librarians of the University of Toronto to (RALUT) who wished to remain active in the pursuit of their intellectual interests. After investigating arrangements in place at several universities in the United States the group decided to establish what they called Senior College in 2010. They envisioned a voluntary community of retired academics and librarians which would work to preserve ties to the university, promote continued research and facilitate the exchange of intellectual capital.

In 2005 the University of Toronto and the University of Toronto Faculty Association negotiated an agreement ending mandatory retirement. As part of that agreement the University committed to establish an “Academic Retirement Centre” which it did by providing office space and administrative support. Senior College began its activities as a program of this Centre. Following a five-year Provostial review of the Centre’s operations an advisory committee recommended that the Academic Retiree Centre be renamed the Senior College Centre and its activities merged with those of Senior College. It also recommended that all academic retirees and librarians should become Members of Senior College with the option of becoming Fellows upon payment of the prescribed dues. These recommendations were accepted by the Vice-President and Provost of the University of Toronto and implemented in 2015.