The IATS was formally created in 1979 on the occasion of a conference of Tibetan Studies that was organised at the University of Oxford by the late Michael Aris. The purpose of the Association, as stated in the statutes that were drawn up at this meeting, is primarily to promote the study of Tibet from all disciplinary perspectives such as history, religion, linguistics and art, to cite just four prominent examples, by providing a forum at which both established and aspiring scholars can present original academic research. As an association, the IATS has no political interest or affiliation. Altogether fifteen seminars of the IATS have been held in a number of countries, the last of these being France, where the Fifteenth Seminar was hosted by Inalco in 2019. The other countries are the UK (1979, 2003), the USA (1982, 1998), Germany (1985, 2006), Japan (1989), Austria (1995), the Netherlands (2000), Norway (1992, 2016), Canada (2009), Mongolia (2013).

The 16th seminar will be held in Prague and the convenor will be Daniel Berounsky (Charles University).