UHI Millennium Institute has become the University of the Highlands and Islands.
Following confirmation from the Privy Council, the milestone is being marked by celebrations at UHI locations throughout the Highlands and Islands.
UHI comprises thirteen colleges, specialist institutions and research centres across the Highlands and Islands of Scotland.
It uses information technology to link together students and staff to bring access to higher education to dispersed communities.
The achievement of university title is the realisation of a long-held ambition for the region to have its own university, a vital tool to support economic development and to help sustain rural and island communities.
Highlands and Islands Enterprise Chief Executive Alex Paterson was among the first to offer congratulations.
"This announcement is the culmination of two decades of sustained effort, and great news for the Highlands and Islands," said Mr Paterson.
"As a proud supporter of UHI from day one, HIE congratulates the UK's newest university on its achievement today.
"Establishing a University of the Highlands and Islands is an essential step towards improving the region's ability to build a globally-competitive economy.
"A successful university will offer good quality jobs, attract people to the region, and create innovative businesses based on knowledge and research.
"Helping UHI develop its role as a driver of regional economic growth will continue to be a priority for HIE in the coming years."
Announcing the achievement, Professor Matthew MacIver CBE, chair of the UHI Court, said: "This is a defining moment in the history of the Highlands and Islands. For centuries we have been exporting intellectual talent to all corners of the globe.
"We are now at a point where that flow can be reversed. The new University of the Highlands and Islands will be a powerhouse for the economic, social and cultural development of the region."
Michael Russell, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning in the Scottish Government, said, "Today marks a fantastic achievement not only for all staff, students, and supporters but also for the Highlands and Islands.
"However, university title does not mark the end of the road for UHI. Rather it heralds the start of a process which will see this innovative model for delivering higher education developing further.
"I look forward to seeing all stakeholders working with the new university and playing their fullest part in taking UHI to the next level, so that it may serve the people and the economy of the Highlands and Islands."
Principal and vice-chancellor, James Fraser, added: "I must pay tribute to all of our students, staff and supporters who have contributed to this marvellous achievement.
"Granting university status is an irrevocable act and therefore not done lightly and hastily. A great debt is owed to those who had the vision to set off on this journey and to our many supporters who have stayed the distance with us.
"UHI is a leading institution in widening access to higher education and in lifelong learning. Our new status as a university will assist us also in attracting more young people to UHI and in recruiting students from beyond the region.
"In research, too, the Highlands and Islands provides a unique physical and cultural laboratory that is helping us to carve a distinctive national and international niche.
"By building the new university on the bedrock of the college and research infrastructure in region, UHI is helping to enhance and sustain this existing provision whilst making sure that the benefits of the new university reach all parts of the Highlands and Islands."
Nathan Shields, University of the Highlands and Islands Students' Association president, said, "This is a landmark day for the Highlands and Islands; especially for our young people who no longer have to leave the region if they want to go to university. They now have a choice. UHI has been providing university-level education for many years and it is the most fantastic news that we now have full university status."