First Universities in Nigeria: The Oldest 10


Once in a while, it’s good to take a peek down memory lane just to learn a few things from history.

In this post, we will be learning about the first set of universities that were established in the country. Basically, these universities are divided into two. The first set of universities includes the University of Ibadan and the universities that were established in 1962 while the second set was established in 1975.

first university in nigeria

University of Ibadan

#1 University of Ibadan

The origin of the University of Ibadan can be traced to the Yaba College which was founded in 1932. At some point, this college was transferred to Ibadan after which it evolved to become the University of Ibadan.

Initially, the University of Ibadan was established as a college under the University of London in 1948. It would later become a full-fledged university in 1962 when it cut ties with the University of London. UI as it is popularly called took off with academic programmes in Arts, Science and Medicine.

In September 2016, the University of Ibadan became the first university to make the list of the top 1000 universities in the world based on the Time Higher Education ranking.

The University Library is named after its first Nigerian Vice Chancellor, Kenneth Dike. UI has a total of 13 faculties namely:

  • Agriculture and Forestry
  • Arts
  • Basic Medical Science
  • Clinical Science
  • Dentistry
  • Education
  • Law
  • Pharmacy
  • Public Health
  • Science
  • Technology
  • Social science and
  • Veterinary Medicine

Some of the notable alumni from the first ever university in Nigeria include Chinua Achebe, Grace Alele-Williams, William Kumuyi, Wole Soyinka, J.P Clark, Niyi Osundare and many others.

#2 University of Nigeria, Nsukka

The University of Nigeria, Nsukka was the second university to be established in the country but it was the first full-fledged indigenous and independent university in Nigeria.

Popularly called UNN, the University of Nigeria was established in 1955 in Nsukka in Enugu. The university has four campuses which include Nsukka, Enugu, Ituku-Ozalla and Aba.

The Aba campus currently serves as base for the Institute of Nigerian Languages

The origin of this prestigious university can be traced to when a law was passed to establish a university in the Eastern region. This law was passed on the 18th of May, 1955. The premier of the Eastern region at that time, Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe was a pivotal figure in the enactment of this law.

Eventually, classes began in October 1960 with an initial enrolment of 220 students and 13 members of the academic staff were involved in teaching these students. By 1965, the university had produced two sets of graduates which coincided with the time the University of Ibadan was producing its first set of graduate after the university had cut ties with the University of London.

Some of the notable alumni from UNN include Dora Akunyili, Chris Ngige, Chimaroke Nnamani, Fabian Osuji, Godwin Emefiele, Obi Ezekwesili etc

#3 Obafemi Awolowo University

Founded in 1961, the Obafemi Awolowo University was initially called University of Ife. The university was renamed in 1987 in honour of Chief Obafemi Awolowo, the first Premier of the Western Region of Nigeria.

Popularly called the Great Ife, the decision to establish the university was due to several reasons, one of which was to cover some of the inadequacies of the premier university, the University of Ibadan. At that time, the University of Ibadan had no faculty of Engineering, no law school. Also, UI didn’t have a pharmacy school or a management training school.

As a result, Great Ife was established. The University started the first pharmacy school in the whole of West Africa as well as the first Chemical Engineering and Electrical Engineering departments.

Currently, the university has over 60 academic departments and was once affiliated with the Loma Linda University in the United States of America.

The university performed the feat of being the first to carry out an indigenous renal transplant. This was carried out at the teaching hospital in May 2002.

Over the years, alumni from Ife have gone on to hold faculty positions and full professorship positions in world class universities like John Hopkins, Baylor, Haverford etc.

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Prominent alumni from OAU include Akinwunmi Adeshina, Oluremi Tinubu, Segun Mimiko, Jimi Agbaje, Abike Dabiri, Femi Otedola, Ibukun Awosike aand Jimoh Ibrahim.

#4 Ahmadu Bello University

Founded on the 4th October 1962, the Ahmadu Bello University was initially called the University of Northern Nigeria.

When the university was established, many of the lecturers at that time were British and most of the early appointments were professorial in nature. As a matter of fact, there were only 2 Nigerian lecturers at ABU at that time.

The university has two campuses in Samaru and Kongo. The main campus is at Samaru and this location houses the administrative offices, faculties of; physical sciences, life sciences, social-sciences, arts and languages, education, environmental design, engineering, medical sciences. agricultural sciences and research facilities.

On the other hand, the Kongo campus hosts the faculties of Law and Administration.

The university is named after the first premier of Northern Nigeria, Sir Ahmadu Bello.

The university is reputed to have one of the largest teaching hospitals in the country which the Ahmadu Bello University Teaching Hospital.

When ABU opened in 1962, a total of 462 students were admitted into the 15 departments distributed across 4 faculties.

Some of the notable alumni of ABU include Atiku Abubakar, Jerry Gana, Nuhu Ribada, Ibrahim Shekarau, Dino Melaye and many others.

#5 University of Lagos

The need to create more universities post-independence was what led to the establishment of the University of Lagos in 1962.

This puts the University of Lagos among the first generation universities in the country. With over 57000 enrolled students, the university of Lagos has one of the largest student enrolment in the country.

The school is highly sought after by many high school leavers and has been publicly acclaimed as the university of First Choice.

The university has two campuses with the main campus located in Akoka and the medical campus located in the Idi-Araba.

University of Lagos has a total of 13 faculties and currently offers undergraduate programs, post graduate and Distance Learning Institute programs to its students. The Post Graduate Program has both full time and part time options.

Some of the notable alumni include Chike Obi, Lazarus Ekwueme, Wale Adenuga, Wole Olanipekun, Funke Akindele, Omowunmi Akinnifesi, Tony Momoh, Joke Silva and Akinwunmi Ambode.

#6 University of Benin

The University of Benin is popularly called UNIBEN and it was founded in 1970. Initially, the school started out as an Institute of Technology before evolving into a full-scale university in 1971.

The university is the first in Nigeria to appoint a female vice Chancellor in the person of Professor Grace Alele-Williams. She held this position for over 6 years.

The university is highly sought after in the country with a total student enrolment of over 40 000 students.

Currently, the University of Benin has 13 faculties. The faculty of Pharmacy is the only pharmacy school in the country that prepares its student for the Doctor of Pharmacy degree (Pharm.D). The university also has a College of Petroleum and Gas Engineering which was approved by Federal Government in 2006.

The College of medicine at the University of Benin comprises the School of Medicine, School of Dentistry and the School of Basic Medical Science.

The popular actor, Richard Mofe Damijo is an alumnus of the University of Benin. Other notable alumni include Babatunde Fashola, Bright Okpoch (Basketmouth) and James Ibori.

#7 University of Maiduguri

The University of Maiduguri was established in 1975. The university consists of a college of medicine and 11 faculties which include faculties of agriculture, arts, pharmacy, law, engineering, social science, management science, science, veterinary medicine, education and dentistry.

Currently, the university is one of the Federal Government owned universities that is focused on agricultural research and conflict resolution.

The current Chief of Army Staff, Lt-Gen Tukur Yusuf Buratai is an alumnus of this prestigious institution.

In recent times, the university has suffered bomb attacks due to the insurgence of the Boko Haram sect. In January 2017, there was a bomb attack the University mosque which led to the death of 4 people including a professor at the university. Also, there were a couple of suicide bomb attacks in June 2017.

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This has led to over 70 lecturers resigning from the university due to the fears of insecurity. Also, the admission figure has been on the low since 2012 when the Boko Haram insurgency became rampant.

However, the state government has been making efforts to safeguard the lives of students and staff of the university. Currently, the governor has approved the construction of a 10.3km perimeter fence which is ongoing.

#8 University of Calabar

The University of Calabar is a second generation federal university and was established in 1975.

The university has an interesting history. The male students are called Malabites while the female students are called Malabresses. This comes from the name Malabo which is the capital of Equatorial Guinea. The history of this name is linked to the challenges the students of UNICAL were suffering which coincided with that of the Nigerian deportees in Malabo.

The University of Calabar has 14 faculties which have been listed below

  • Faculties of Management Sciences
  • Faculty of Agriculture
  • Faculty of Arts
  • Faculty of Biological Sciences
  • Faculty of Education
  • Faculty of Engineering
  • Faculty of Law
  • Faculty of Physical Sciences
  • Faculty of Social Sciences
  • Graduate School
  • Institute of Oceanography
  • Institute of Public Policy and Administration
  • The college of Medical Sciences
  • University of Calabar Consultancy Services

The university scores a first has been one of the first in the country to automate the process of student registration through the College’s portal. The school has taken this a step further by also automating its transcript application and processing.

The university has produced prominent figures like Godswill Akpabio, Reuben Abati, Kate Henshaw, Uche Jumbo and Stephanie Okereke.

#9 University of Jos

The University of Jos was initially the satellite campus of the University of Ibadan in 1972. However, it became a full fledged university in 1975 and can be said to belong the second generation of universities in the country.

There were 575 students when the University of Jos began classes in 1975. And these students were spread across the 4 faculties of the University which were the faculties of Arts and Social Sciences, Education, Natural Sciences and Medical Sciences.

By 1977, the university had taken it a step further by including the post graduate program and by 1977; the faculty of Law had been established while the faculty of Arts was separated from the faculty of Social Sciences.

In 2003, the Carnegie Corporation of New York signed an agreement with the university in which UNIJOS was given $2 million grant in order to establish its own fundraising department

Over the years, the University of Jos has made breakthrough findings in the areas of malaria and snake venom research.

The pharmacy and the law programs at the University of Jos are rated one of the best in the country.

#10 University of Ilorin

This is another second generation university. Established in 1975 in the ancient city of Ilorin, the University of Ilorin isn’t just one of the first set of universities to be established but one of the best too.

The university is one of the top selections among secondary school leavers due to their fast academic calendar.

UNILORIN as it is popularly called is also one of the largest in the country in terms of land mass covering approximately 5000 hectares.

When the university was established, it started with 200 students. These students were admitted into the 3 available faculties at that time namely the faculties of Arts, Science and Education.

Currently, UNILORIN has over 30000 enrolled students as well as over 3000 staffs employed by the university. Also, the university has 15 faculties with over 60 academic departments.

Some of the notable alumni of this university include Femi Adebayo, Nkem Owoh, Aize Obayan and Charles Ayo.

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