September 1, 1953:
The predecessor of HEU, the PLA Military Engineering Institute was established, and Senior General Chen Geng acted as the first president. Chairman Mao gave the instructions for the establishment. According to the types of the services, the Institute was subdivided into five parts: Department of Air Force Engineering, Department of Artillery Engineering, Department of Naval Force Engineering, Department of Armored Forces Engineering, and Department of Corps Engineering.
The PLA Military Engineering Institute was defined as a national key institute.
From 1960 to 1962:
The PLA Military Engineering Institute underwent a major renovation along with construction of separate campuses. The Artillery Engineering Department moved to Wuchang, and merged with the Wuchang Advanced Ordnance Technical School, establishing the Artillery Engineering Academy. Soon the academy changed its site to Nanjing (today's Nanjing University of Science & Technology). The Armored Forces Department of Engineering moved to Xian, and established the College of Armored Forces Engineering. The Engineering Corps Department also moved to Xian but later settled in Beijing, setting up a college of engineering. The Atomic Chemical Protection Department relocated to Changchun, forming the Anti-chemical Defense Corps Engineering College (now the Institute of Chemical Defense for the People's Liberation Army). Two majors, Airport Construction and Weather were handed over to the Air Force Meteorology Institute. The PLA Military Engineering Institute has established Atomic Engineering, the Department of Missile Engineering, the Department of Electrical Engineering, and the Computer Engineering Department.
April, 1966: the Institute changed its name to Harbin Engineering Institute and withdrew from the army.
The State Council and Central Military Commission decided to form the Naval Engineering Department of Harbin Engineering University with the original military relations academicians underthe leadership of six machinery ministries (these later became China's stateship-building corporations), and to establish Harbin Shipbuilding Engineering Institute at the original site. The Department of Electronical Engineering, Missile Engineering, Computer Engineering, and the basic courses on administration and the college authority were transferred to Changsha Institute of Technology(now the National University of Defense Technology).
February, 1978: HSEI was listed as one of the key institutes by the State Council.
April, 1994: HSEI was renamed as Harbin Engineering University (HEU).
HEU was listed as one of the key universities being enhanced by the first batch of the '211 Project'.
The Graduate School of HEU was approved for review by the State Council.
HEU Intelligent Underwater Robot Lab was listed as a National Key Lab. In 2002 theMinistry of Science and Technology and Ministry of Education approved the construction of a national University Science Park within HEU. In December 2002, the Commission of Science Technology and Industry for National Defense and the People's Government of Heilongjiang Province signed an agreement to jointly construct this university.
Following institutional reform of the State Council, which removed the National Defense Science and Technology Committee, oversight of HEU transitioned to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
HEU was listed on the Major course pioneering platform.