List of First Generation Universities in Nigeria

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The growth of Nigerian universities into what it is today was non-linear; beginning in 1948, when the first and foremost university in Nigeria was established. That was 15 years before Nigeria became a republic. The universities founded during this period are referred to as the first-generation universities.

The first-generation universities, we can say, laid the track for the development of tertiary education in Nigeria. At the moment, Nigeria has a total of 264 NUC-approved universities owned by federal and state governments as well as private individuals and corporations.

It should be noted that the first-generation universities were all established before the National Universities Commission (NUC) was founded in 1962. As a reminder, the NUC is a body charged with the responsibility of quality assurance, funding, coordination, development, and accreditation of Nigerian universities.

Brief History of Universities in Nigeria

The history of universities in Nigeria can be traced to the Elliot Commission of 1943, that led to the establishment of University College, Ibadan in 1948.

Five of these universities were established between 1948 and 1965, following the recommendation of the Ashby Commission set up by the British Colonial Government to study the necessity of university education for Nigeria. These universities included UI, UNILAG, OAU, ABU and UNN. They are fully funded by the federal government.

List of First Generation Universities in Nigeria

Here’s a compiled list, and brief information on the first five sets of Nigerian universities:

1. University of Ibadan (UI)

University of Ibadan

Founded: 1948.
Rank on Webometrics: #1
Facts: The University of Ibadan is the first university in Nigeria. It was initially affiliated with the University of London until it became fully autonomous in 1962.
Achievements: UI boasts the first Nobel Laureate from Nigeria, Professor Wole Soyinka, and is consistently ranked the top university in the country. It is renowned for its robust programs in medicine, agriculture, and social sciences.
Alumni: Kashim Shettima (Vice President of Nigeria), Professor Wole Soyinka (Nobel Laureate in Literature), Chinua Achebe (Literary giant), Christopher Okigbo (Poet), Funmilayo Ransome-Kuti (Political Campaigner), Godwin Obaseki (Governor of Edo State).

2. University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN)

University of Nigeria

Founded: 1960.
Rank on Webometrics: #4
Facts: First autonomous university in Nigeria. Established in the Eastern Region.
Achievements: UNN is known for its pioneering research in agriculture, engineering, and medicine. It has also produced prominent figures like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, a literary stand-out, and Dora Akunyili, a former minister who championed the fight against counterfeit drugs.
Alumni: Dora Akunyili (Former Minister, Activist against counterfeit drugs), Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (Award-winning author), Nnamdi Azikiwe (Former President of Nigeria), Philip Emeagwali (Brilliant Computer scientist), Chinedu Izundu (Medical doctor, Founder of LifeBank), Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala (Former Director-General of the World Trade Organization).

3. Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU)

Obafemi Awolowo University

Founded: 1961.
Rank on Webometrics: #5
Facts: Originally named the University of Ife. Established in the Western Region.
Achievements: OAU is renowned for its excellence in science and technology, particularly in computer science, engineering, and geology. It has produced numerous distinguished alumni, including former presidents and business leaders.
Alumni: Akinwumi Adesina (President of AFDB), Adejumoke Aderounmu (actress), Kayode Fayemi (Former Ekiti State Governor), Toyin Falola (Historian).

4. Ahmadu Bello University (ABU)

Ahmadu Bello University

Founded: 1962.
Rank on Webometrics: #7
Facts: Established in the Northern Region.
Achievements: ABU is recognized for its contributions to agriculture and veterinary medicine, crucial for Nigeria’s food security. It has also fostered leadership development, with several alumni holding prominent positions in government and private sectors.
Alumni: Umaru Musa Yar’Adua (Former President of Nigeria), Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna State Governor), Tijjani Muhammad-Bande (President of UNGA), Snausi Lamido Sanusi (Former CBN Governor, former Emir of Kano), Adamu Adamu (former Minister of Education).

5. University of Lagos (UNILAG)

University of Lagos

Founded: 1962.
Rank on Webometrics: #2
Facts: Established in the Federal Capital Territory (Lagos).
Achievements: UNILAG is a leader in law, mass communication, and business management education. It has produced notable figures in the creative industry, such as Fela Kuti, a legendary musician, and Yemi Osinbajo, again showcasing the university’s diverse impact.
Notable Alumni: Enoch Adejare Adeboye (General Overseer of RCCG), Genevieve Nnaji (Actress), Yemi Osinbajo (Former Vice President), Funke Akindele-Bello (Filmaker & Actress), Linda Ikeji (Serial Blogger), Tony Elumelu (Economist), Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos State Governor).

The Significance of First-Generation Universities in Nigeria

The first-generation universities in Nigeria still stand as testaments to Nigeria’s unwavering commitment to education. Established during a pivotal period in the country’s history, these institutions played a vital role in shaping Nigeria’s future intellectuals.

Today, these universities have consistently ranked among the top institutions in the country. According to a 2023 ranking by Webometrics, all five (5) first-generation universities are positioned within the top 10 Nigerian universities, with the University of Ibadan holding the prestigious number one spot.

Their growth has been phenomenal. From only a few programs at their inception, these universities now boast a diverse range of academic disciplines. The University of Lagos, for instance, has grown from offering just three faculties in 1962 to boasting over 50 departments and nine faculties today.

The impact of these first-generation universities extends far beyond their campuses. They have produced generations of distinguished alumni who have made significant contributions in various fields, from government and business to science and literature. These universities continue to be hubs for innovation and research, addressing critical national and global challenges.


As Nigeria strives towards a future of better economy and innovation, first-generation universities remain cornerstones of the educational system.

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