The college is the sole provider of post-16 education in the north of Sheffield, following the abolition of traditional sixth-forms in 1988. The college was founded in 1989, following the merger of various colleges. In May 1995, the college was described as being the biggest in Britain. In 2003, the college launched a new 'federal structure', a reorganisation that 'sought to create a greater voice for students and a better organisational structure for its workforce'.
In September 2012, more than 200 taxi drivers completed the first course of its kind designed to train prospective drivers in customer service skills. In October 2012, the college launched an online Human Trafficking Uncovered course, the first of its kind designed for those working in the public, private and voluntary sectors. In December 2014, singer JB Gill was recruited by the college as the public face of a two-year vocational performing arts course. The course was part of a portfolio of courses to help address a skills shortage in the creative industries.
In September 2012, the closure of a press photographers' course raised concerns about the future of regional newspaper staff photography. The course had been running uninterrupted at Norton College since 1979.
In 2010, Sheffield City College underwent a £60 million rebuild programme to create an environmentally-friendly, single-site campus. The site provides vocational subjects including areas such as hair and beauty, catering, business and construction. The building features three roof mounted 15 metre tall wind turbines. Energy from the turbines is fed back into a distribution system for the college's tower block. The college also has solar panels and rainwater recycling facilities.
In June 2001, the college announced plans to replace two of its centres, based at Parson Cross and in Loxley, with a single campus in Hillsborough that would serve 1,800 students across the north of Sheffield. The plans received criticism from some, suggesting that there was 'inequality in education in the city'. In November 2003, construction began on the £27 million campus, with the building completed in 2005. The site includes sports facilities, 14 art and design studios and 12 ICT workshops.
It was proposed that the former Loxley site be replaced with up to 74 homes, but the proposals had encountered difficulty after the college had been unable to convince the local authority that the homes were appropriate for the area. In August 2007, plans for 79 houses and 29 apartments were judged to 'fall short' in terms of design, layout and appearance.
Following the closure of the Norton campus, all courses were relocated to the Hillsborough campus in September 2015. The campus was one of the oldest Sheffield College site, with parts dating back to the 1950s. The courses were relocated to a new £8.8 million centre and the former site was proposed to be redeveloped into a supermarket.
The college has led two projects that have seen the creation of two university technical colleges (UTC) in Sheffield.
The first, opened in September 2013, specialises in technical studies and offers 250 pupils training in the engineering and digital sectors. The scheme had been approved in August 2012 and construction began in September 2012. The project was said to have cost £8.5 million. The college building was nominated for the Royal Institute of British Architects' (RIBA) regional award in April 2015, after the building had been remodeled and refurbished with an aim to retain features of the original structure, which was built in 1902.
A second, produced in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University, saw the unveiling of a £10 million college in September 2016, based on the site of the former Don Valley Stadium. The UTC specialises in sports science, healthcare and well being and had been approved by Sheffield City Council in September 2015. The college employs 56 people and serves 600 pupils aged between 14 and 19. The plan had initially been rejected by the British Government in January 2014 but was eventually approved in August 2014 after the bid was resubmitted.
In August 2009, the college reported a pass rate of 96.9 per cent, with those achieving A to B grades at 34.4 per cent. In August 2016, the college reported a 93 per cent A-Level pass rate, with 23 per cent of grades at A* to B. This was down from the scores of 2015, which were 94 and 23 per cent respectively.
In February 2016, Ofsted marked the college as 'requiring improvement', following an inspection. Inspectors had found failings in leadership, teaching, attainment, personal development and both 16 to 19 and adult education programmes.
The Sheffield College Students' Union (SCSU) reportedly represents around 25,000 students at the college every year. Every student automatically becomes a member of the union upon enrollment.