First University (Tertiary) Institution in Nigeria

University of Ibadan

This piece will solely focus on the many ‘first’ related to tertiary institution (post-secondary) in Nigeria. I will talk on how and when each ‘first’ was founded.

Yaba Higher College

In 1932, the Yaba Higher College was established but the doors did not open to prospective students until 1934. The aim of the college was to provide post-secondary training/education to Nigerians in the field of agriculture, teacher training, engineering and so on. The college was housed at the Kings College, Lagos.

Shortly after the Yaba Higher College started operation, they faced extensive criticism by Nigerian Nationalist on basis of the inferior quality of education they accused the college of providing. Their criticism would be deem valid. Yaba Higher College only qualified its graduates for lower level jobs such as junior staff and assistant in the colonial government. Also the degree provided upon graduation was not recognized outside Nigeria.

After endless criticism of the Yaba Higher College and recommendation from two commissions (Asquith and Elliot) in 1943 that favored the establishment of a quality university, a university was born.

University College, Ibadan

In 1948, the 104 students at the Yaba Higher College were transferred to the University College, Ibadan. The University College was tied to London. It broke the tie in 1962, when it upgraded its status to a full-fledged, autonomous university. The name was changed to University of Ibadan. During its days with ties to London, the curriculum was modeled after the British style of education.

The University of Nigeria, Nsukka

Between 1948 and late 195os, it was apparent that Nigeria would need more universities to cater to the many secondary school graduates. In April 1959, the Ashby Commission (The Commission on Post-School Certificate and Higher Education) completed a comprehensive research on the state of education in Nigeria. Several recommendation were provided by the Ashby Commission including the establishment of more universities.

Following recommendation from the Ashby Commission, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka was established in October 1960 a few days after Nigeria gained its independence, making it the first autonomous and full-fledged university in Nigeria. In addition, the University of Nigeria, Nsukka is the first university in Eastern Nigeria.

1962 Onwards: Universities Galore

The first university in the Northern part of Nigeria was founded – Ahmadu Bello University in 1962. In the same year, two more universities were established in Nigeria – the University of Ife, Ife-Ife (now Obafemi Awolowo University) and the University of Lagos, Lagos. Both universities located in the Southwestern region of Nigeria.

Following recommendations from the Third Development Plan, seven more universities were founded in 1975. The seven universities founded in 1975 are University College, Port Harcourt; University College, Ilorin; University College, Kano; University of Calabar; University of Jos; University of Maiduguri and University of Sokoto.

From 1979, state government started establishing State Universities. 1999, the law prohibiting non-federal and state entities from establishing universities was abolished, paving way for the creation of private owned universities. The first private universities to receive licenses are Babcock, Madonna and Igbinedion Universities in 1999.


As of today, there are about 128 universities in Nigeria (includes the Federal, State & Private universities). Most education advocates in Nigeria rallies for more universities, citing that the current number is not sufficient to meet the needs of the Nigerian youth.


Article Credits:

  • Jelifat Opoola. The Five Oldest Universities in Nigeria Web. < http://connectnigeria.com/articles/2016/08/five-oldest-universities-nigeria/> August 30, 2016.
  • The University of Nigeria, Nsukka. About Us. Web. < http://www.unn.edu.ng/>.
  • The University of Ibadan, Ibadan. About Us. Web < http://www.ui.edu.ng/History>

Photo Credits:

  • Esther Mark. University of Ibadan. Web. < http://www.edufrica.com/topic/university-of-ibadan/>. August 8, 2016
  • Jelifat Opoola. The Five Oldest Universities in Nigeria Web. < http://connectnigeria.com/articles/2016/08/five-oldest-universities-nigeria/> August 30, 2016.
  • Know Your University – University of Ibadan. Web. <http://ourcampusconnect.com/2015/10/29/know-your-university-unibadan/>. October, 29, 2015