Top 10 Oldest Universities in Nigeria – When and How They Where Established

Nigeria had her first university as far back as before independence, and since then, the number of universities has continued to grow in Nigeria. Now its no longer the business of the government alone but also that of private individuals. The motivation has always been to meet up with the ever-growing demands for advanced education in the country. So many people especially, the youngsters who are yet to make choices of higher institutions do not really know which is which. It will be very beneficial if they get to know the first universities that were created in this noble country of ours as it is always believed that they boast the best educational facilities, resources, and reputation, even with age.

Thus, here are the oldest universities in Nigeria:

1. University of Ibadan (UI), Oyo – 1948


The University of Ibadan which was founded in 1984 metamorphosed from the Yaba Higher College. The Yaba high college was founded in 1932 in Yaba, Lagos as the first tertiary educational institution in Nigeria. But in 1948, when the need for a University became pressing, the college staff were transferred to start the University of Ibadan as an external college of the University of London, and the college premises were used for the new Yaba College of Technology. Rt. Hon. Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, first Prime Minister of independent Nigeria was the first Chancellor, while Kenneth Dike was the first Nigerian Vice-chancellor of the university, after whom the University of Ibadan’s library is named. The University’s current Vice-Chancellor is Isaac F. Adewole. Despite being the oldest, the University of Ibadan is ranked with the best Nigerian Universities at the moment.

2. University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State – 1960


It was the quest to establish a University in the Eastern part of Nigeria that gave birth to the University of Nigeria. A law in support of this quest was passed on the 18th of May, 1955, and on 7 October 1960, the University was officially opened. Her Royal Highness, Princess Alexandra of Kent, representing Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II at the Nigerian independence celebrations, performed the opening ceremonies and laid the foundation stone of one of the University’s early buildings. The University’s first Vice-chancellor was Dr George Marion Johnson, while her current VC is now Professor Benjamin Chukwuma Ozumba. The University of Nigeria (UNN) was the first full-fledged indigenous and first autonomous university in Nigeria. It is still one of the best and most sought-after Universities in Nigeria.

3. Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Efe – 1961


Obafemi Awolowo University which was founded in 1962 as the University of Ife was the brainchild of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. It was renamed Obafemi Awolowo University on 12th May 1987. The decision to establish this institution was in response to the agitations of the Westerners on the need for a higher institution that will cater for the education of their numerous secondary school leavers at that time. The cause of the agitation was the plan of the then Ashby Commission to establish additional Universities in the Northern and eastern Nigeria without putting the west into consideration. On 8 June 1961, the Law providing for the establishment of the Provisional Council for the University was passed by the Legislature of the Western Region and on the 26th of the same month, Provisional Council of the University was formally inaugurated under the chairmanship of Chief Rotimi Williams. OAU is also one of the highly recommended Universities in Nigeria.

4. Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria – 1962


The School of Arabic Studies in Kano was the starting point of the Ahmadu Bello University. The school was upgraded by the Northern region to become Ahmadu Bello University for Arabic and Islamic Studies, named after the region’s dominant political leader, Alhaji Sir Ahmadu Bello. This was prior to the implementation of the plans in the Ashby Commission Report, to create additional universities to meet the academic needs of the country. However, the Ashby Commission report recommendations offered better direction, and it was ultimately decided to create a University of Northern Nigeria at Zaria (rather than Kano). The university took over the facilities of the Nigerian College of Arts, Science and Technology at Samaru just outside Zaria, and incorporated the Ahmadu Bello College in Kano, the Agricultural Research Institute at Samaru, the Institute of Administration at Zaria, and the Veterinary Research Institute at Vom on the Jos Plateau. The law establishing the new university was passed by the Northern Region legislature in 1961. It was decided to name the university after Ahmadu Bello.

5. The University Of Lagos, Lagos state – 1962


The establishment of the University of Lagos was done in Nigeria’s bid to invest in the training of a professional workforce which will help her achieve rapid industrialization and development after independence. The indispensable need to create more universities to reach this goal facilitated the establishment of the University of Lagos. The Ashby Commission’s report, titled Investment in Education, recommended the establishment of a new university in Lagos, the then Federal Capital, to provide education for students in Economics, Commerce, Business Administration, and Higher Management Studies. In 1961, UNESCO Advisory Commission was assigned the detailed planning of the new university by the Federal Government, and on 22 October 1962 on the authority of the University of Lagos Act of 1962, the University of Lagos was established.

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6. University of Benin, Edo – 1970


The University of Benin, located in Benin city, Edo state, was founded in 1970. It started as an Institute of Technology and was accorded the status of a full-fledged University by the National Universities Commission (NUC) on 1 July 1971. In his Budget Speech in April 1972, the then Military Governor of Mid-Western State, Col. S. O. Ogbemudia, (then also Visitor to the University) formally announced the change of the name of the Institute of Technology to the University of Benin. On 1 April 1975, the University at the request of the State Government was taken over by the Federal Government and became a Federal University. Today, the University of Benin has one of the best colleges of Medicine in Nigeria.

7. University of Maiduguri, Borno – 1975


The University of Maiduguri was created by the federal government in 1975, as a division of the Third Development Plan which stressed the creation of more universities in the country. It was the government’s intention to make the institution one of the country’s principal higher-education institutions. The University of  Maiduguri is located in the Borno State in Nigeria and now boasts over 34,000 students from around the world. Her current VC is Professor M. M. Daura.

8. The University of Calabar, Cross River – 1975


The University of Calabar is one of Nigeria’s second generation universities. The University was a campus of the University of Nigeria until 1975. The male students are known as Malabites, while the female students are Malabresses. The male hostel is called Malabo. This was as a result of challenges faced by the students at a time which coincided with the suffering experienced in Malabo by Nigerian deportees from Equatorial Guinea (whose capital is Malabo) at the time. The University of Calabar was one of the foremost Nigerian Universities to automate students’ registration processes through the College Portal. The school is located in Calabar city, the capital of Cross River state.

9. University of Jos – 1975


What became the University of Jos was established in November 1971 as a satellite campus of the University of Ibadan. The first students were admitted in January 1972 as pre-degree students with the first Bachelor of Arts degree program beginning in October 1973. In October 1975, the then military government under General Murtala Mohammed established UniJos as a separate institution. The first Vice-Chancellor of UniJos was Professor Gilbert Onuaguluchi. Classes began at the newly reorganized University of Jos in October 1976 with 575 students spread over the existing four faculties of Arts and Social Sciences, Education, Natural Sciences and Medical Sciences. UniJos currently has about 30,000 students with Prof. Hayward B. Mafuyai being the current Vice-chancellor.

10. The University of Ilorin, Kwara State – 1975


The University of Ilorin was initially a University College affiliated to the oldest university in Nigeria in 1975 under the leadership of the then principal, Dr T.N. Tamuno. But in 1975, the military government which was in power passed a decree that saw to the establishment of the University. Subsequently, in October 1977, the institution attained full autonomous status with the appointment of the then Principal, Professor O.O Akinkugbe as first vice-chancellor. The immediate past vice chancellor, Professor Is-haq Oloyede is the first Unilorin alumnus to occupy that position. The staff and student populations now stand at about 3,040 and 20,084 respectively. The institution is one of the universities in Nigeria that top the list of best Nigerian Universities.


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