University of Ibadan, established in 1948, is Nigeria’s premier University. Courses in Sciences, Arts, Engineering, Social Sciences, Pharmacy, Medicine and Law are offered, and degrees are awarded. The first set of Graduate students were awarded Post Graduate degrees in 1952, in affiliation with the University of London, and the school, after attaining its independent status, a decade later, continue to be a hotbed of research work. Admissions into the University for undergraduate study is supervised by the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board, JAMB, set up by the Federal Government of Nigeria. Some of the powers of JAMB had been usurped however, when UI, like most Nigerian Universities, started conducting further test for successful candidates of JAMB before granting admission, a practise that was innovated in 2005. This development is frequently justified by the disappointing performance of some JAMB’ conquerors’. Another innovation in admission process, the Pre-degree program was introduced in 2008, the school coming though as a latecomer.
In 1952, the native chiefs of Ibadan leased a piece of land, for 999 years, to the new University College that had been operating for four years at the site of a military General Hospital at Eleyele area of Ibadan. This institution of higher learning, at this time, suffered criticism from many informed voices for being a mere preparatory institute, reckoned as being different only in its residential status from what is experienced by private students who wish to study abroad. The University College, as it is then called, was an independent external college of the University of London.
Nigerians had had experience of a University before the Ibadan experiment. The rich have been sending their children abroad for University education some decades earlier, and neither the Yaba College that was established in 1932 to provide some post-secondary school training, nor the University College that was formed essentially from the Yaba school in 1948 was convincing to many of them. This conviction, one may agree, came in the years after Nigeria gained Independence from British rule. The University College had transformed into a full university on its own right. Before we expound on the lessons of this history, we should make mention of the facts of this foundation story. The Second World War was raging, and the British, after some self discovery, had finally decided to look into the possibility of having a degree awarding institution in their colony in West Africa. Two committees were set up in 1943 to determine the wisdom in this; The Asquith and Elliot Commissions. The two committees both decided that the creation of a University was in order, and Ibadan was recommended as the site. Of course it was very natural for them to add that this University should be affiliated with the University of London.
This history, as proud as it is, appears to be missing the real spark that should be expected of a creation of such magnificence, and because it happened for Nigeria’s first University, the activism, the joy of wonder, that one expects should greet the birth of University education in Nigeria, like the angels heralded the birth of Christ, was missing. University was, even before its availability in Nigerian soil, seen by some as a status symbol. Families having no representation in one abroad were considered less fortunate. The real essence of the University, as was the case for the world’s first Universities, was mitigated. This is not at all peculiar to Nigeria, but the entire world. This seed of weak idealism was not entirely a result of the people’s disposition, but the times. The Nigerian nation had emerged in a time in history when University had started to be seen as a place to take the meal ticket of life, not as a place of solutions, hope for humanity, restless wonder, and spiritual romance with the Universe, the word from which ‘University’ was, in the first place, coined. This observation, however, is not to say there was no glow or some excitement in the birth of UI, as the University at Ibadan is been called.
The Nigerian government had, in the years preceding Independence, made provisions for the construction of an impressive University Hospital for training Medical students. The first medical doctors were turned out in the year of Independence. Many other facilities were added in quick succession, and this was always followed by increase in student admission.