History Ph.D. Dissertations


The Policies and Politics of Massification of University Education in Nigeria, 1952-2000

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)



First Advisor

Apollos Nwauwa


This study constitutes a history of the policies and politics surrounding the massification of university education in Nigeria between 1952 and 2000. The concept of massification as used in this study refers to a program of expansion of facilities and mass access to university education in post-independent Nigeria. In 1948, the British colonial administration in Nigeria established the first university, the University College of Ibadan (UCI). However, from 1948 through 1959, the British consistently ignored the growing demand for more access to university education. To address this problem, the Nigerian government set up the Ashby Commission to study the country's higher education needs on the eve of independence. Following the report of the Commission, the Nigerian government realigned university education policies and vigorously embarked on policies of massification. This study shows that the policies and politics of massification were embarked upon largely in response to the critical needs for human resources, economic development, and national integration. Furthermore, it examines how the divergent and, sometimes, inconsistent interests of the pluralistic society of Nigeria, the politics of oil revenue and state creation, the ideologies of civilian/military governments and international forces shaped policy initiatives, shifts, and outcomes of massification. Between 1960 and 1983, successive civilian and military regimes controlled not only university development but also policies of expansion of facilities and access to university education for all Nigerians regardless of class, gender, ethnicity, and creed. However, the economic decline of 1983, the intervention of the military in governance, and the implementation of the IMF/World Bank-induced Structural Adjustment Program adversely affected the funding of universities. Consequently, universities facilities deteriorated as the establishment of private universities in the 1980s and 1990s became a welcome innovation. From 1959 to 2000, the number of universities increased from 1 to 45 while student enrolment concomitantly rose from 939 to 526,780. This study is not merely a history of how universities were founded in post-independence Nigeria but it is about how the formulation and implementation of official policies on human resource development, economic advancement, and national integration are linked to the politics and drama of massification of university education.