Yogyakarta City and its peri urban areas have experienced a rapid land cover change in the last two decades from non-urban to urban areas. Understanding the driving factors and their level of influence will facilitate well-informed decisions in planning sustainable urbanization. This study formulated a hypothesis that the area hosting a university is most likely to have higher urban area and urbanization rate and verified it by using a land change model (LCM). The LCM which implemented a multi-layer perceptron algorithm using LANDSAT 5 TM in 1999 and 2005 successfully produced a robust land change model with accuracy rate of 81.24% and model’s skill measure 0.6248, and predicted the urban area in 2030, 2040, and 2050. The urban area between LCM and Statistics Indonesia showed strong positive correlation with R2 values of 0.73 and 0.83 in 2005 and 2010 to validate the model. The model showed that urbanization in Yogyakarta city was prominently triggered by the density of universities. Furthermore, a quantitative analysis on urban area percentage, urbanization rate and number of universities in each district corroborated the presence of universities has boosted the urbanization rate in the host and neighboring districts. The findings have guided local government not only to implement policies into actions pertain to educational area development strategies but also to address the potential sustainability issues affected by those implementations.