RIDA (Rural & Industrial Development Authority) Training Centre was the inspiration of Dato' Onn Ja'afar, the founder and former president of United Malays National Organisation (UMNO). The idea was conceived as a result of a study visit to Ceylon in 1951 (now Sri Lanka) to look into its rural development programme in 1951. A resulting working paper outlined the establishment of RIDA (Rural and Industrial Development Authority) and its objectives of rebuilding the rural society, as well as improving rural the community's economy.There were two centres under the auspices of RIDA : Taman Asuhan RIDA (Kuala Lumpur) and Dewan Latehan RIDA (Petaling Jaya). Dewan Latehan RIDA began operations in November 1956 under its first principal, Tuan Syed Alwi bin Syed Sheikh Alhadi. It was officially opened by Dr Ismail bin Dato' Abdul Rahman, the Minister for Trade and Industry on 14 February 1957.
Dewan Latehan RIDA conducted several external professional courses offered by established international bodies, such as the London Chamber of Commerce, the Australian Chartered Secretaryship, the Australian Society of Accountants and the British Institute of Management.
In 1964, Dewan Latehan RIDA held its first convocation and 50 graduates were awarded certificates by Tun Abdul Razak, the then Deputy Prime Minister of Malaysia.
Dewan Latehan RIDA became known as Maktab MARA or MARA College, in June 1965.The name change also meant that the college no longer operated under RIDA, instead became the most important unit of the MARA Training Division.
MARA, which stands for "Majlis Amanah Rakyat" or the Council of Trust for the Indigenous People took over and strengthened the role and responsibilities of RIDA. In 1966, when the British Institute of Management ceased conducting external examinations, MARA College began running its own Diploma in Business Studies. International recognition for the course came from Ealing Technical College of London, which also became its external examiner. This linkage with an internationally established institution proved to be the first of many future linkages, a tradition that started in 1956 with Dewan Latehan RIDA, and still continues until today in UiTM.