The idea of establishing a Catholic Higher Education Foundation began in World War I around 1914-1919. At that time, many Hogere Burger School (HBS) graduates could not continue their tertiary education to the Netherlands, because of the circumstances and obstacles to transportation to Europe. Then in the 1950s it was known as the “Catholic Higher Education Revival Era”. In 1958, after the establishment of several Catholic universities in cities in Indonesia, Mgr. J. Klooster, CM as Bishop of Surabaya founded the Widya Mandala Foundation.

Widya Mandala comes from the ancient Javanese language; Mandala means building or place in the sense that not only physical and Widya means scholars. So Widya Mandala can be interpreted as a place of education for wise and successful people (scholars). Some people also express the meaning of Widya Mandala as a place or container of knowledge.

Widya Mandala Surabaya Foundation aims to participate in educating the lives of the Indonesian people by organizing, maintaining, and developing universities so that Indonesian people are moral and educated and highly educated. The date September 20, 1960 was designated as the anniversary of Widya Mandala Catholic University Surabaya (WMCUS). When it was established, WMCUS only had one faculty and was located on Jalan Dr. Soetomo, Surabaya. There are now ten faculties, postgraduate programs (S2 and S3), and Secretarial Academies (D3). The activities of Widya Mandala Catholic University in Surabaya are outlined in the form of Tri Dharma Perguruan Tinggi which consists of Education and Teaching, Research, and Community Service. As one of the oldest private universities in Surabaya, WMCUS  has four campus buildings to support the teaching and learning process. The main campus is located at Jalan Dinoyo 42, where it is the location for the Faculty of Business, Faculty of Communication Sciences, and Faculty of Agricultural Technology. The second campus is located on Jalan Kalijudan 38, where the Faculty of Engineering and the Faculty of Teacher Training & Education reside. The third campus is located on Jalan Dinoyo 48, specifically now for the Graduate School only. The newest campus building,  inaugurated in 2013, is the Integrated and Comprehensive Health Sciences Campus and located on Jalan Raya Kalisari Selatan 1 at the Pakuwon City complex. Carrying out the task of integrating learning methods across health science, there are four Faculties reside in this campus, which are the Faculty of Pharmacy, the Faculty of Psychology, the Faculty of Nursing, the Faculty of Philosophy, and the Faculty of Medicine.