The Polytechnic Institute of Cávado and Ave (IPCA) was founded in 1994 by Decree-Law No. 304/94 of 19 December.

The first Installation Committee was constituted by the President, Professor Eduardo Lopes Nunes, the director of the Management School, Professor João Carvalho and the Administrator Manuel Barros.

IPCA began its academic activity in 1996 with 74 students divided by two bachelor courses: Accounting and Public Finances and Accounting, each with 37 students.

In the following year, IPCA began its offer of evening courses with evening classes of Accounting.

Professor Norberto Cunha took office as President in June 2003.

Although created along with the Management School in 1995, the Technology School began its activity in 2004. That was a turning point in IPCA’s history, as it assured its legal nature and autonomy according to the law. The first director of the Technology School was Professor Helena Bártolo.

In 2006, Professor João Carvalho was appointed President by the Minister of Science, Technology and Higher Education.

In the following year, the Research Centre on Accounting and Taxation was created and later (2009) recognized by FCT (the national funding agency for science and research in Portugal).

In 2011, Professor João Carvalho became the first President to be appointed by the General Council, being re-elected four years later.

The third school of IPCA, the Design School, was created in 2015 and began its activity with courses that were previously under the Technology School coordination: Graphic Design and Industrial Design as well as Masters in Illustration and Animation and Product Design and Development. The first director appointed was Professor Paula Tavares.

In October 2014, IPCA became one of the first institutions to offer Professional Higher Education Courses, reaching the highest number of students in this new academic offer. As a result, two more campuses were created: in Braga (2014) and in Guimarães (2015).